America’s Pastime is back and it’s so refreshing to see Brewers fans in the stands. Eerily empty stadiums and the lack of nervous excitement buzzing through the stadium during close games made the game hardly feel like baseball. But it’s back and we are creeping closer and closer to normalcy.
What are some things we didn’t see coming to start the Brewers 2021 campaign?
1. Struggles Of Some Reliable Bullpen Arms
If you would have told me that Drew Rasmussen, Eric Yardley and Devin Williams would be the three pitchers struggling the most entering the fourth series of the ‘21 season last year I would’ve called you crazy.
In 58 combined appearances last year, their collective ERA was 2.58. Slice it however you want, small sample size, newer arms that hitters had never seen… they were very good pitchers last year. Now in 12 games in 2021, those three have a combined 11.55 ERA.
There is a bright side to these struggles though. The first positive that arose from their struggles is the emergence of J.P. Feyereisen and Brad Boxberger. Feyereisen and Boxberger have yet to allow a run in 11 combined appearances and they seem to be finding their roles on a staff they both weren’t apart of at the start of last year. Even Angel Perdomo has the chance to be a force in the bullpen as he looked sharp in his first game out of the ‘pen in 2021.
The other positive in regards to those guys’ early troubles is that it’s very early in the year. There are two sides of the coin when you show stuff like these guys did a year ago: excitement and praise for their work and then expectations to be as good if not better the following year.
Yardley has already been sent down to the alternate training site to try to work out some kinks and Craig Counsell had this to say about the eventual return of Yardley to the big league roster, “He’ll get on track. He’s going to be back soon, I would guess. We’re going to count on Eric as we counted on him last year, but we are going to actively manage our bullpen this year.”
2. The Trade of Orlando Arcia
It wasn’t necessarily the nature of the trade that people were shocked by but rather the timing of the trade. It was only six days into season but Arcia was still scuffling mightily at the plate going 1-11 with three strikeouts after a less than encouraging spring where he hit .191.
Orlando Arcia was like a little kid when playing the game of baseball. From the ear-to-ear smiles to messing around with teammates whenever he got the chance, he was a joy to watch. But it was time for the two sides to split. The Brewers weren’t getting the production they’d hoped for from him at the plate and while his defense was his strong suit, it wasn’t really elite like maybe once considered with three errors in 57 games and the lowest range factor of his career at 3.65 in 2020.
Now the shortstop position is all Urias’ and it will be interesting to see how he performs as the number one option. So far he’s among the best on the team at getting on base thanks to his abnormally high walk rate (27.9%) but a few more hits would do his confidence well.
We wish the best of luck to Orlando Arcia wherever he goes and thank him for all he’s done for the franchise.
3. Mosquito-Like Injury Bug Bites
When you get bit by a mosquito, it’s more annoying than painful and that’s sort of how I would describe the injuries that the Crew have dealt with so far. Other than Bobby Wahl and Justin Topa (who were hurt prior to the season), there haven’t been any long-term injuries since the beginning of the regular season.
But there have been plenty of irritating and shorter-lasting ones. Kolten Wong and Lorenzo Cain have both made themselves familiar with the 10-Day IL while Christian Yelich’s back has been keeping him out of games also.
The good news is that David Stearns takes depth very seriously on his rosters and assembles them strategically if things like this do occur. The Brewers have found ways to win with these key players watching from the dugout but I’m sure the Brewer faithful would be happy to see this team stay as healthy as possible moving forward.
One thing that these injuries have done is give other players the chance to step up and get more game action but some haven’t taken advantage as much as others. Billy McKinney (.400/.438/.533) has definitely proved his worth as a fifth outfielder while Daniel Robertson and Jace Peterson haven’t really shown much offensively or defensively.
It is frustrating to see some of the key players out of the lineup so often but it’s part of the game. And being a 162 game season this year lessens the impact more than it would if there were only 60 games like last year. Hopefully Yelich, Wong, and Cain can come back strong and the Brewers players apply some mosquito repellent to avoid these nagging injury bug bites.
Of course there have been plenty of other surprises to start the season, but these are three major ones with big implications for the near and distant future. With a game that’s been around as long as baseball, you’d think you know what you’re going to get for the most part but the surprises are part of what makes the game great.