Milwaukee Brewers: Leading NL Central Standings Due To Depth
Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns animated his vision of a deep roster for manager Craig Counsell to mold into a winning 2018 team.
Milwaukee Brewers fans, experts and media clamored for name-value starting pitching help after a surprisingly good 2017 season. Stearns did not make a big splash in the pitching market.
Instead, Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns acquired a deep group of talent for Counsell to mold into a good team. This strategy has worked brilliantly thus far.
Players such as Wade Miley and Junior Guerra showed their worth while competing for roster spots during 2018 Spring Training. Under the radar free agent signee Jhoulys Chacin has pitched very well for Milwaukee through May. Jesus Aguilar‘s bat has made an impact in the middle of the lineup.
As of the end of May 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers have the best record in the NL Central Standings.
The greatest evidence of this depth, however, is reflected in Milwaukee’s bullpen.
The revolving-door bullpen
Stearns acquired a plethora of talented pitchers for Counsell to mold into a great pen. The Milwaukee Brewers headed into 2018 Spring Training with many more players than roster spots.
Stearns did not sign one of the big names on the relief pitcher market. He avoided names such as Wade Davis, Brandon Morrow, or Greg Holland. Instead, Stearns shrewdly collected a slew of veterans to join the organization’s homegrown talent.
Of the new signees, Matt Albers has consistently helped the Brewers stay atop the 2018 NL Central Standings through May. On the other hand, reliever Ernesto Frieri seems like a distant memory.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Jeffress has pitched better than anyone expected. His ERA and WHIP are both under 1.00. Only breakout superstar Josh Hader and his 18 K/9 can compare to Jeffress’ numbers through May.
The Brewers lost closer Corey Knebel to the DL for a while in 2018, but the team’s place in the NL Central Standings did not falter.
Counsell had the depth to use a closer-by-committee strategy during which four other players earned at least one save. The phrase “closer-by-committee” barely came up. I guess that strategy only gets attention when a team loses with that strategy.
Starting rotation and lineup flexibility
The Milwaukee Brewers have also used a revolving door policy to keep the relief corps and starters relatively fresh despite injuries.
Counsell and Stearns have the option to use flamethrower Tyler Williams and Jacob Barnes to help late in games.
They can also use players such as Brent Suter, Brandon Woodruff, and Jorge Lopez to come in and out of Milwaukee’s pen like a revolving door depending on when they are needed.
These special players have shown their use by being able to start, come on in relief, and even help the Minor League teams when the Major League pitching staff is healthy.
When the 2018 season began, the Brewers had Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Jesus Aguilar, and Ji-Man Choi to compete for at-bats at first-base.
Four names for one position sounds like too much, but it worked out well in Milwaukee. Thames suffered an injury, and Aguilar stepped up so nicely, he made some think of future-Hall-of-Famer David Ortiz.
Meanwhile, Counsell uses Braun in the outfield and first base like intended at the beginning of the season. Choi is also useful when the Brewers need a DH.
Roster depth will continue to be their calling card
Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips could play for some Major League teams, but Thames’ injury shows how important depth is to an organization. What if it was Christian Yelich that went down for extended time instead of Thames?
Phillips and Broxton have not yet dramatically affected the 2018 roster, but they likely will play a role at some point in 2018. Even if by being a trade chip.
Roster depth is the calling card of the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers through May. This is why they lead the NL Central at the end of the month, and it will be the primary reason they win the division if that happens.