The Brewers just finished their first year of what will most likely be a 3-5 year rebuild. They played better than many experts predicted, finishing 73-89. That was a 5 game improvement over last season. So let’s take a look at their final report card of 2016.
Starting Pitching: D
Brewer starters finished the season with a 50-64 record, giving them the 3rd most losses by starting pitchers in the National League. Only the Dodgers finished with fewer Quality Starts (60) than the Brewers (62) in the National League.
Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson were expected to be the top starters this year, but that did not happen. Instead, Zach Davies and Junior Guerra took over. Davies led the Brewers with 11 wins while Guerra led the team with a .750 winning percentage and a 2.81 ERA.
The Brewer starting rotation started the season as one of the weaker components of this team, but they improved as the season went on. They will need to improve on their 5.5 innings pitched per start, but with Davies and Guerra improving and a host of talent ready to make the leap to the big leagues, the Brewers could have the makings of a solid rotation in 2017.
Relief Pitching: B-
Only 4 teams in the National League blew more saves than the 22 saves that the Brewers blew. The Brewers also tied for the second worst percentage of inherited runners allowed to score. They did manage to get 88 holds, good for 7th in the National League.
Those numbers don’t tell the story, though. The Brewer bullpen was actually a strength through most of the season. Jeremy Jeffress converted 27 out of 28 save opportunities, and Tyler Thornburg went 4-1 with 11 saves with a 1.85 ERA when he took over after Jeffress was traded.
The Brewers have a number of arms that will help them in the next few years. The bullpen was called on early and often and the wear and tear took its toll. If the starters can go deeper into games next year, the bullpen will show just how good they can be.
Overall Pitching: C
The Brewers had the 8th best ERA in the National League. But they were last in the league in strikeouts. Their ERA+, which takes the ballpark factors into account, was 105, good for 6th in the league. The pitching staff did not have a good season, but they did finish strong, giving up just 3.7 runs per game in September and October.
Power Hitting: C
The Brewers had 194 home runs, 6th in the National League. However, they had the 5th worst OPS+, which takes the fact that they hit in a hitter friendly park into account. The Brewers did not hit for much power this season.
Individually, there were some Brewers that had great power years. Chris Carter tied for the league lead with 41 home runs. Ryan Braun finished tied for 11th with 30 home runs and was in the top 10 in OPS and Slugging Percentage. Jonathan Villar came within 1 home run of becoming just the 4th 20-home run/60-stolen base guy.
Hitting for Average: C
The Brewers had a hard time getting base hits this season, but they were able to get on base. They finished 13th in the National League with a .244 average, but 8th with a .322 OBP. This had a lot to do with their 599 walks, second to the Cubs.
Braun led the team with a .305 average and Villar led with a .369 OBP and 79 walks. Scooter Gennett showed much more patience, generating a career high 38 walks.
Overall Hitting: C
They were a very patient team, taking a lot of pitches. That is what led to the walks, but it also led to strikeouts. The Brewers set a record with 1,543 strikeouts this year, led by Carter with 206.
Base Running: B-
The Brewers led all of baseball by a long shot with 181 stolen bases. The Reds were second with 139. The Brewers had the 2nd most outs on the basepaths in the National League, including a league worst 27 at home. They were aggressive, which helped them score some more runs, but they ran into outs too many times.
Villar led all of baseball with 62 stolen bases and Hernan Perez finished 4th in the league with 34 stolen bases despite only starting in 96 games this year.
The Brewers had the most errors in all of baseball with 136, which naturally led to a Major League worst .978 fielding percentage. There were times, especially early in the season where they looked like the Bad News Bears, throwing the ball all over the place.
Villar led the way with 29 errors, mostly at shortstop. This was his first year as a starter, and he will probably move to either second or third next year, so that might not be an issue. Gennett was next with 14 errors, though he had some decision making that was questionable.
Brewer catchers led the National League by throwing out 39% of would-be base stealers, and they led all of baseball by throwing out 59 runners.
The Brewers are ahead of schedule, and the overall grade for the rebuild process would be an A. However, they are being graded as a Major League Baseball team, and their record alone points to average. There is a lot of promise to this team, and I expect that they will have a better grade next year. For now, I’m going to be happy to have a team that was expected to get a D or worse and ended up with a C.