Welcome to Tuesdays with Bernie, my new Brewers-themed baseball blog series. My plan is to do one a week for the duration of the 2019 season, at least.
Starting a weekly blog series about the Brewers the last week of the season in which they did not participate in the World Series might seem a little strange, and it probably is, but it was such a great season, and set us up so well for 2019 to be a truly spectacular year, that I thought it would be fun to track the entire thing a week at a time.
I’m also planning to do some posts during the off season about baseball and the Brewers in general, and what they’ve meant to me at various points in my life, so I’m actually looking forward to there being a couple slow news weeks during hte off season. I’ll talk about the various roster moves and stuff the team makes leading up to the 2019 season as well.
First things first, let’s talk about the Brewers postseason highlights from this year:
The Brewers went from 6 games back from the Cubs on August 28, to forcing a tie-breaker game 163, which they won by utilizing five different pitchers, a common theme for the season. With the game 163 victory, the regular season record was finalized at 96-67, tieing the franchise record for most wins in a season.
Sweeping the NLDS
All of Fox’s pregame show hosts (Kevin Burkhardt, A-Rod, Frank Thomas, etc) picked the Rockies to win the series, except for David “Big Papi” Ortiz. Ortiz’ pick of the Brewers was immediately followed by a prepared video package showing all of his incorrect picks in the past and the other hosts made fun of him for making bad predictions.
The Brewers then went on to sweep the best-of-five series, scoring 13 runs and allowing just 2 over the course of 28 innings.
NLCS and Game 7
The Brewers forced a game 7 in the NLCS against the Dodgers, by beating Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in Milwaukee, and Walker Buehler in Los Angeles. To me, the crux of the series was the 13 inning marathon in LA, in which the Brewers offense only came up with 1 run despite the defense keeping the Dodgers off the board for 11 consecutive innings.
Brewers needed to win that game, which would’ve put the them up 3-1 on the series with only one road game remaining. As it stood, they came back to Milwaukee trailing 2-3, and needed to win out in order to take the series. They were able to force a game seven due to an offensive bust-out in game six after being mostly silent the previous two road games, but came up short in game 7.
The common theme in my mind of the NLCS games the Brewers lost wasn’t Jeffress’ struggles or not having enough starters go 7 complete innings, it’s that in the 3 of the 4 games they lost, they only scored 1 or 2 runs. You just can’t realistically expect to win a championship series with a bunch of 1-0 games.
The Road Ahead
The frustrating, traditionalist confirmation-bias story of this series is that the Brewers simply didn’t have the pitching staff to compete with the Dodgers because they relied on bullpen days and multi-pitcher innings and stuff (including the unprecidented 1-batter “psych-out” appearance by Wade Miley in Game 4 of the NLCS). The truth is that these things are essentially required in order for one of the smallest market teams in the league to compete at a championship level, and made for fascinating chess-match baseball.
Let us not forget that the Brewers had the 22nd highest payroll in the league (out of 30), and yet managed to be among the last 3 teams to face elimination. You can’t do that by playing by the old rules. You need small-ball, you need bullpen games, you need production from the 7-8-9 hitters to do that. You need a little bit of luck. That’s what makes rooting for a small market, underdog team fun and exciting.
The Brewers are not going to snap up every big-name free agent who winds up on the block*. They’re not going to stock their starting rotation with all the high dollar guys who had a great season last year. David Stearns and Craig Counsell understand this, and I believe they did a phenominal job of managing the team that the Brewers are, and not pretending that they can win by doing the same things that the Red Sox or the Dodgers or Yankees would do in a given situation.
* In hindsight, thank Uecker the Brewers didn’t sign Machado, both from an offensive production perspective (or near-total lack thereof), as well as the fact that he’s obviously a preening jackass who is clubhouse poison.
I’m excited for next year. The Brewers have got a lot of their core guys coming back. Cain, Yelich, Aguilar, Jeffress, Braun, Hader, Woodruff, Burnes, and more will all be back for sure. News should start coming out over the next few weeks of who else of the arbitration-eligible guys are getting resigned or not.
It’s a great time to be a Brewers fan!
Next week we’ll look at the various awards the 2018 team won, which we should know definitively by then, along with a look at how the various players up for free agency panned out.