Check out Matthew Sussman’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the Milwaukee Brewers here.
Image: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
2022 Record: 86-76 (.531 win%, 2nd in NL Central)
2022 Payroll: $142,770,182 (19th)
1. LF Christian Yelich, .252 AVG/.355 OBP/.383 SLG, 2.3 fWAR
2. SS Willy Adames, .238 AVG/.298 OBP/.458 SLG, 4.7 fWAR
3. 1B Rowdy Tellez, .219 AVG/.306 OBP/.461 SLG, 0.8 fWAR
4. RF Hunter Renfroe, .255 AVG/.315 OBP/.492 SLG, 2.5 fWAR
5. 2B Kolten Wong, .251 AVG/.339 OBP/.430 SLG, 2.5 fWAR
6. DH Andrew McCutchen, .237 AVG/.316 OBP/.384 SLG, 0.3 fWAR
7. 3B Jace Peterson, .236 AVG/.316 OBP/.382 SLG, 2.2 fWAR
8. C Victor Caratini, .199 AVG/.300 OBP/.342 SLG, 1.2 fWAR
9. CF Tyrone Taylor, .233 AVG/.286 OBP/.442 SLG, 2.1 fWAR
10. UTL Luis Urias .239 AVG/.335 OBP/.404 SLG, 2.3 fWAR
1. Corbin Burnes, 202.0 IP/2.94 ERA/0.965 WHIP, 4.6 fWAR
2. Eric Lauer, 158.2 IP/3.69 ERA/1.223 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR
3. Brandon Woodruff, 153.1 IP/3.05 ERA/1.070 WHIP, 3.5 fWAR
4. Adrian Houser, 102.2 IP/4.73 ERA/1.461 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR
5. Aaron Ashby, 107.1 IP/4.44 ERA/1.425 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
2022 Top 4 Relievers:
1. CL Josh Hader (with MIL), 34.0 IP/4.24 ERA/1.118 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR
2. Devin Williams, 60.2 IP/1.93 ERA/1.005 WHIP, 2.2 fWAR
3. Brad Boxberger, 64.0 IP/2.95 ERA/1.234 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR
4. Hoby Milner, 64.2 IP/3.76 ERA/1.175 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR
Regular Season Recap
The Brewers entered the 2022 season with World Series ambitions, and in the first two months, they lived up to the hype, with the best 50-game start in franchise history at a 32-18 record. They stayed afloat, outside of an 8-game losing streak in June, and entered August four games up on the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, Josh Hader was traded to San Diego, and coincidentally or not, the wheels seemed to fall off at that point.
In August and September, the team failed to maintain any form of consistency, be it in the hitting, pitching, and/or the bullpen. Milwaukee managed to hang in the Wild Card hunt for a while, but ultimately could never take advantage of their opportunities, and they finished 86-76, one game out of the playoffs, which was a big disappointment given their expectations at the beginning of the year. There are many reasons one can point to for Milwaukee’s demise, being the hitting, the worse defense, the bullpen, or the infamous Josh Hader trade. Realistically, the answer is all of the above.
The offense, which was the main factor in their 2021 NLDS loss to Atlanta, actually did improve, being 3rd in MLB in home runs and 10th in slugging and OPS. The Brewers main home run power came from Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames, with both players eclipsing 30 home runs. Hunter Renfroe was additionally excellent with the highest OPS and AVG of the regular starters on offense.
However, it seemed as though the rest of the lineup was hovering around league average, and none of the 3 hitters above were able to take the lineup and carry it to greater heights when the moment called. That role used to belong to Chrisitan Yelich, who did improve from his lackluster 2021 season and excelled in the leadoff spot. However, he is still far away from his MVP seasons in 2018 and 2019.
The Brewer’s rotation was fantastic in 2021 and was once again expected to be the main contributor to a potential playoff and World Series run. However, a lot of the starters regressed and/or faced significant injuries. Corbin Burnes, while not quite as dominant as his Cy Young season, was still excellent. However, he was the only starter to avoid any IL time. Brandon Woodruff struggled early on in the season, then was sent to the IL in June with a sprained ankle. However, he returned in late June and was dominant, arguably better than Burnes at moments.
Freddy Peralta missed the majority of the season with a shoulder injury, and while he was able to come back, he was never able to get his full abilities back and kept battling injuries for the remainder of the year. Eric Lauer did as well as one could hope for and looks to be a staple of Milwaukee’s future rotation.
On the other hand, Adrian Houser had an extremely rough 2022, with several poor starts and injuries lifting his ERA close to 5. Aaron Ashby suffered from injuries, similar to the rest of the rotation, and also some very poor run support. He signed an extension through 2027, so expect him to rebound. Given all of the injuries suffered by the rotation, the Brewers were forced to call on Jason Alexander, who did alright given the circumstances, however, he additionally struggled and was sent back to AAA near the end of the season.
The bullpen will be highlighted by one move. Trading Josh Hader. Hader had an excellent start to 2022, by not giving up an earned run until June. However he started to show cracks, and towards the All-star break, he looked very shaky, most notably with a 6-run blow-up against San Francisco in July that culminated in a walk-off grand slam. Milwaukee traded him to San Diego, mainly because of his rising cost, and received Taylor Rogers, Dinelson Lamet (who was immediately DFA’d), and a pair of prospects.
Rogers did not live up to Josh Hader at all, or even look remotely good, with a 5.48 ERA and 6 home runs given up. Devin Williams was forced to take over the 9th-inning role, but he excelled and stayed elite. Meanwhile, guys like Brad Boxberger, Hoby Milner, Matt Bush, who was acquired at the trade deadline, and Trevor Gott all did a good job in the bullpen, but towards the end of the season, all showed some cracks and this ultimately would cause Milwaukee to slump in August and September.
Much of the ire of the Brewers fan base points to the trade deadline, with the aforementioned Josh Hader trade. However, along with this, Milwaukee acquired Matt Bush from the Texas Rangers and traded a pair of prospects to do so. Bush was alright, but not as solid as the Brewers would have liked, especially down the stretch. Additionally, the Brewers acquired Trevor Rosenthal, who never ended up pitching a game for them due to injury. Not acquiring a hitter (other than prospect Esteury Ruiz) led to much anger from the fanbase, and the effect on the clubhouse played a factor in the Brewers missing the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.
M-SABR Predicted Record (96-66) vs. Actual (86-76)
Matthew predicted that the Brewers would run away with the relatively weak NL Central, as three teams would not be competitive, by racking up wins within the division. While St. Louis did end up being their main competition, Milwaukee failed to capitalize on wins against worse opponents, finishing only 33-24 against the Cubs, Pirates, and Reds, and this was not good enough.
Matthew also predicted that the Brewers were a team that would be carried by their elite rotation and bullpen, and that is indeed how the Brewers were built and intended to win. However, the rotation suffered several injuries with Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, and Aaron Ashby all having multiple trips to the IL. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, while still excellent, regressed from their fantastic 2021 seasons. The bullpen was rock solid in the first half, but after the Josh Hader trade, regressed wildly and blew 16 saves after the trade deadline, the most in MLB.
In conclusion, Matthew’s prediction was reasonable and initially looked spot-on, but the Brewers ended up not having the consistency to meet this prediction.
Surprise of the Season: The Josh Hader Trade
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Brewers trading Josh Hader while 4 games up in the NL Central was not what most people had on their bingo cards. Hader was an upcoming UFA in a few years and was becoming very expensive, deservedly so as he was arguably the best closer in MLB for several years.
The Brewers thought they could get the most value in return for him this season, though. At the moment the trade looks like a loss, with Taylor Rogers not living up to expectations and Dinelson Lamet immediately being DFA’d after being acquired. However, the prospects received from San Diego (OF Esteury Ruiz and LHP Robert Gasser) look promising, and Hader pitched poorly as a Padre, so time will tell on this one.
Players We Watched
Christian Yelich was indeed more healthy and improved upon his dismal 2021. While still lengths away from his MVP form, he improved with a good on-base percentage and gained patience upon moving to the leadoff spot in the lineup. His power is still mostly gone, but he was very high on the Brewers in terms of AVG, although that’s not saying much given the Brewers mediocre offense.
Aaron Ashby did not play as well as the Brewers may have hoped for this season, however, he dealt with many injuries this season. His ERA was high, but pitching 107 innings in only his second season would have been a difficult task. He signed a long-term extension in July, so the predicted breakout season may have to wait until next season. But there is no need to be overly concerned with him.
After the departure of Lorenzo Cain, Taylor became the everyday center fielder. He was able to slug 17 homers but did not excel in many other facets, often in the 8 or 9 spots in the Brewers lineup. Given the emergence of Garrett Mitchell late this season, it is unclear what the future holds for Taylor, being with Milwaukee or not. It all depends on how the Brewers address the center field position this offseason.
It is very unlikely that Milwaukee will spend top money on a big-time free agent, as is their modus operandi. However, there isn’t a clear position in desperate need of an upgrade, other than center field (No, they will not sign Aaron Judge). Even then with prospects such as Garrett Mitchell and Sal Frelick, the Brewers may choose to keep Tyrone Taylor and run a center field by committee in 2023.
They will be looking for a catcher, as Omar Narvaez is a free agent, unless they are confident in Mario Feliciano backing up Victor Caratini. Additionally, they have to find a solution on how to use Keston Hiura. But one should expect a variety of low-cost, high-ceiling, versatile infield signings.
On the pitching side, the Brewers will most likely try to add to their bullpen depth, as this was one of their Achilles heels that ultimately led to them missing the playoffs. Taylor Rogers may be re-signed, or Milwaukee will look elsewhere for help in the pitching depth.
Realistically, the Brewers have a roster that can make the postseason, so a teardown is very very unlikely. They will most likely reload the depth at all positions, attempt another run in 2023, and hope for better injury luck.
Something to Watch
Will Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff be traded? Both are unrestricted free agents after 2024, both will be demanding big pay raises, and it is unlikely that Milwaukee will sign both to long-term extensions. Given the Brewers lack of a superstar on offense, they may use these pitchers as trade chips to acquire a big-name bat.
Categories: 2022 Season Review, Articles, Post-COVID
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