With the Brewers coming to town the Diamondbacks will meet a team that is in quite a similar franchise situation. The Brewers also have their own financial quarrel with their stadium situation and are hampered in their ambitions by their own cost savvy owner: Mark Attanasio. His lyrics are similar to KK’s although he is singing a lot more than Arizona’s strong man. Recently he was vocal about his own team’s budget, comparing the Brewers to the Phillies’ budget now and 20 years ago, and so flagellating himself with the small market argument we have heard so often from cheap owners in recent years.
That small market tune was painfully obvious last year when they moved struggling closer Josh Hader and his 1.5 years of control to the San Diego Padres, which seemed like a ludicrous move at the moment, and now even more. It was obviously a cost-based move since Hader was projected to earn much more in 2023 than the $10MM he was getting in 2022. The Brewers got a struggling Rogers, who was in his final year of control, Dinelson Lamet and two prospects in return. Lamet would be DFAd just a few days later after the Brewers signed the injured Trevor Rosenthal who didn’t even make a single appearance that season. On top of that, the team, with a struggling bullpen and a cold offence, fell from the first place in the NL Central to missing out on a Wild Card.
The baseball world called the Brewers crazy and the backlash from their own fans and players was pretty wild too. Maybe it didn’t cost David Stearns his job as President of Baseball Operations, but perhaps the coincidence of the young executive deciding to take a step back and moving into an advisory role (probably setting himself up to leave for a role somewhere else - the Mets are supposedly very interested) wasn’t that much of a coincidence.
The new man who makes the decisions in Milwaukee now is former VP and GM Matt Arnold. With Attanasio singing the small budget melody it was obvious the Brewers weren’t going to spend big this off-season and in some aspects faced a similar track as the Diamondbacks: a slew offence and some soft-tossing relievers that had faltered. The biggest challenge for Arnold though were the 18 players eligible for arbitration.
He also had to deal with the departure of free agents Taylor Rogers, Andrew McCutchen, Omar Narvaez, Jace Peterson, Trevor Rosenthal, Trevor Gott and Brad Boxberger (option not lifted).
And what did they sign in return? Not much, in all honesty. Only Diamondback Wade Miley, injured reliever Justin Wilson and non-tendered and former Marlin Brian Anderson were picked up as notable signings.
In the trade market they were a bit more active, moving around some salary in swapping Kolten Wong for Jesse Winker with Seattle and dumping Hunter Renfroe in Anaheim. A bit more interesting though was their involvement in a 3-team trade with Oakland and Atlanta that got them Braves’ All-Star DH Contreras, who is slated to be the Brewers’ everyday offensive-minded catcher. In that trade former Diamondback Joel Payamps was a toss-in. The piece the Brewers moved was prospect Esteury Ruiz, who was acquired from the Padres in the Ill-fated Josh Hader trade. That at least freed up the pressure of finding an everyday catcher after the departure of Omar Narvaez and to get something decent back from the Josh Hader trade, although indirectly. However, Contreras isn’t exactly known for good defence.
In the end, the Brewers play this season with a payroll that is $25MM lower than in 2022.
Good start to the season.
So, at first sight, it doesn’t really look like the Brewers did much to improve from their disappointing 2022. Indeed, most outlets had the Cardinals as the NL Central’s best team. So how come are the Milwaukee Brewers at 7-2 and leading their division?
Well, my best shot at explaining it is that they are just on a good streak with some great early performances from their rookie batters Wiemer, Turang and Mitchell, to whom the Brewers’ world refers to as “the freshmen”. Mitchell made his debut last season and still qualifies as rookie, Turang made the opening day roster this season while Wiemer entered the 26-men roster when 3B Luis Frias hit the IL. Another rookie, Rule 5 draft pick Gus Varland, a reliever who was taken from the Dodgers, has also performed well thus far.
It didn’t look like it was going to be like that at the beginning of the season, when the Brewers couldn’t get a run in in their first 16 innings of the season in the opening series at Wrigley, but after scoring that first run Milwaukee ran away from their opponents and never looked back until last Saturday when they saw their 6-win running streak being broken in the second game of their series against the Cardinals.
Their early results have been impressive: after winning the opening series against the Cubs at Wrigley, the Brewers swept the Mets at home and shut them out twice, slugging on Scherzer along the way. They fought and won a tough series with the Cardinals this weekend and now aim to continue their hot streak and what Craig Counsell refers to as “group team speed” (I understand what he refers to, but I don’t believe that actually exists) in Arizona. Based on their recent results and the way their rotation has performed, it’s clear the Brewers are the favourite in this series, but don’t underestimate the clutchiness of our hitters and the rather strong bullpen performance of the Snakes. If our starters are finally able to pitch deep and keep the runs limited…we could take this series.
The Brewers starting rotation and bullpen enter this contest as the best pitching corps in the National League and Top 3 in the entire MLB, unlike the Diamondbacks. They hardly walk a guy, but that is fine because the Diamondbacks hardly take a walk anyhow. The Brewers’ relievers have given up just 3 runs, so the goal is quite clear: get to their starters.
On the hitting side, beside the production from their rookies, they have been getting great production from almost their entire lineup. Each one of them save 1B Rowdy Tellez sports good to great OBP percentages, but especially SS Willy Adames, 3B Brian Anderson and CF Garrett Mitchell have been doing particularly well. They won’t keep up that pace the entire season, of course, but the question is whether Arizona can stop their hot streak and that cheesy celebration of them when they hit a homerun.
Game #1 Mon 04/10 6:40 PM MST, Wade Miley (MIL) vs Zac Gallen (ARI)
- Wade Miley. 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 1 W-0 L, 0.00 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 0.83 WHIP, 3-0 K/BB.
- Zac Gallen. 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 0 W-1 L, 7.59 ERA, 5.02 FIP, 1.59 WHIP, 10-4 K/BB.
Zac Gallen might have been a bit unlucky in his outings. The K-BB doesn’t look that bad, so maybe it is just a question of time before Gallen gets into his groove again and who says he won’t do exactly that against the Brewers.
Wade Miley has been that solid back-of-the-rotation starter for years now, with a few negative exceptions here and there. He will try to replicate his big 2018 success in a second stint with the Brewers and started that quite well in his latest outing when he shutout the New York Mets on 80 pitches and 6 innings, allowing just 5 hits.
It will be an interesting matchup where Zac Gallen’s performance will probably be decisive for a win or a loss.
Game #2 Tue 04/11 6:40 PM MST, Corbin Burnes (MIL) vs Merrill Kelly (ARI)
- Corbin Burnes. 2 GS, 9.1 IP, 0 W-1 L, 9.64 ERA, 7.09 FIP, 1.71 WHIP, 6-5 K/BB.
- Merrill Kelly. 2 GS, 9.1 IP, 0 W-1 L, 3.86 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.82 WHIP, 8-8K/BB.
Corbin Burnes has been Burnes-unlike this season, making this matchup also one that could tilt towards the Diamondbacks, despite Merrill Kelly not impressing thus far.
Burnes was the Opening Day starter for the Brewers in Chicago and didn’t pitch well, although he faced an unprecedented Marcus Stroman start, who blanked the Brewers. But the second outing of Burnes was disastrous, allowing 6 runs to the Mets in 4.1 innings of work, where Burnes struggled with his command and lost velocity on his pitches. If that trend continues the Diamondbacks should be able to take advantage of it.
Game #3 Wed 04/12 12:40 PM MST, Brandon Woodruff (MIL) vs Madison Bumgarner (ARI)
- Brandon Woodruff. 2 GS, 11.1 IP, 1 W-0 L, 0.79 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 0.88 WHIP, 12-3 K/BB.
- Madison Bumgarner. 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 0 W-1 L, 7.27 ERA, 10.03 FIP, 2.19 WHIP, 7-10 K/BB.
Bumgarner is not confirmed but projected to be the starter in the third game. If that is so, I think we can be short on this matchup. If the Diamondbacks are able to pull off a win in a Bumgarner start then either miracles exist or the other pitcher is just as terrible. That seems hard to imagine with Brandon Woodruff who has been solid throughout his career with two All-Star selections and a top 4 Cy Young finish two years ago.
What’s your take on this series?
This poll is closed
An unfortunate loss.
We get swept.