Sorry, Milwaukee Brewers, your World Series trophy is in another castle. One they might want to visit in four or five years.
The Brewers are in rebuilding mode, meaning many of their valuable players have been traded away by now — either at the trade deadline or before the season. What followed was a season lingering around the cellar of the NL Central (only the Reds were worse). But at least we know Hank the Dog is really Hank the Dog, right?
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Brewers, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Brewers weren’t built to contend, that’s just a simple fact. In the same division as the Cubs and Cardinals, it just wasn’t going to happen. So the things that led to losses weren’t exactly surprises. They didn’t do particularly well on offense (25th in runs scored, 28th in batting average, 29th in hits) and their pitchers weren’t great with strikeouts (28th). But a team like theirs, with no true ace, and a lineup gutted of its value by trades, wasn’t going to beat the world. Better days might be ahead for the Brewers — wunderkind GM David Stearns has at least been aggressive in remaking the roster — but they didn’t happen this season. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ryan Braun is having his best season since 2012 (no comment), hitting .305/.368/.546 with 30 homers. The best thing to come out of Braun’s great year might be his attractiveness as a trade chip, since the Brewers are in the throes of a rebuild. And while starting pitcher Junior Guerra surprised everyone with his 2.81 ERA, the biggest surprise of the season was Hernan Perez. The former Detroit Tiger was barely given a chance by his old organization, and he’s absolutely blossomed since the Brewers picked him up. He’s hit .272/.298/.433 with 31 stolen bases and 13 home runs. That’s 12 more than he’d ever hit in the majors before. Not just in a season, but total since his 2012 debut. But his greatest asset might be his flexibility: he’s played seven positions over the course of the season, so he’s done everything but catch and pitch. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
September baseball can still be exciting even if a team isn’t headed to the postseason. Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton made that clear on Sept. 7. Milwaukee led the Cubs 2-1 in the ninth when Anthony Rizzo sent a ball high in the air to center field. It was about to drop behind the wall, but Broxton lept and made a sensational grab to rob Rizzo of a home run as the Brewers hung on for the win. For a player like Broxton trying to establish himself in the big leagues, every game counts, even if the stakes aren’t high. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
The Brewers are yet another franchise in the process of rebuilding. That direction will not change this winter. What should finally change though is Ryan Braun’s address. Milwaukee keeps holding on and holding on, but would be wise to trade him while the trading is good. Quite honestly, there won’t be a better time than this winter considering the weak free agent class. With the exception of losing prospects, acquiring Braun would be like signing him for the four years and $76M left on his contract. Somebody will make the deal, so Milwaukee must be willing too. (Mark Townsend)
WARP TO THE FUTURE
Outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was acquired in the Jonathan Lucroy deal, has a good chance to compete for the centerfield job in camp next season. His numbers in Double-A were less than ideal, but his bat took off after he moved the notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark in Colorado Springs.
Josh Hader is tall, throws hard, is left-handed and has a funky delivery. As such, people want to throw a Chris Sale comp on him all the time. It also means that some have questioned his ability to hold up as a starter in the majors. Those concerns should be put to the test next year, as there’s not much holding Hader back at this point. Pitching in Colorado Springs is a nightmare, so he could open the year as part of the club’s 2017 rotation. If not, he should join them shortly. (Chris Cwik)
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