As the calendar flipped to August, the Milwaukee Brewers were 12 games over .500 at 57-45. The Brewers had won seven of nine games following the All-Star break and were about to hit the trade deadline before headed to Pittsburgh to play the last-place Pirates.
Milwaukee’s largest need was a competent outfield bat. The Brewers have a glaring offensive hole in center field. Andrew McCutchen, Christian Yelich and Hunter Renfroe have done well in both the corner outfield positions and as the designated hitter this season.
The three have combined to put the Brewers into the top six in slugging percentage (SLG), top 10 in on-base percentage (OBP), top 13 in on-base plus slugging (OPS) and top eight in wins above replacement (WAR) at the corner outfield and designated hitter positions.
Milwaukee has had a revolving door in centerfield this season. Tyrone Taylor, Jonathan Davis and Lorenzo Cain (who is not longer on the team) have made up the majority of the plate appearances in centerfield. The three have combined for a league rank of 26th in SLG%, OBP and OPS, while ranking 24th in WAR.
Capable outfield bats were available at the deadline. Andrew Benintendi, Brett Philips, Darin Ruf, Brandon Marsh, Robbie Grossman, Tommy Pham, Tyler Naquin and David Peralta were all outfielders that were traded this week. Any of those players would have provided the Brewers with a much-needed upgrade.
Personally, I believe either Benintendi or Peralta would have fit perfectly in Milwaukee’s outfield. Benintendi is hitting .278 and slashing .387/.398/.785 with a 2.6 WAR. Peralta is hitting .249 and slashing .315/.453/.768 with a 1.1 WAR.
Instead of strengthening the outfield, or adding a piece to the bullpen, the Brewers traded away its all-star closer Josh Hader. The four-time all-star is coming off a 2021 season where he tossed his way to a 1.23 ERA. Hader brings a powerful left-handed arm with deceptive breaking pitches and the ability to be unhittable for long stretches of time on the hill. The former closer had not allowed a run in 2022 until June 7th. Hader had two bad outings in mid-July where he allowed nine earned runs over 0.1 of an inning. His 4.11 ERA is extremely misleading.
The Brewers decided to ship Hader, a locker room and team leader, to San Diego in exchange for left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers, pitcher Danielson Lamet (who Milwaukee designated for assignment the next day), and prospects Robert Gasser (LHP) and Esteruy Ruiz (OF). Rogers had been lights-out, besides a late May hiccup, early in the season before beginning a slow decline in his performance starting around July 3rd.
The team now had to respond to its front office selling its best reliever at the deadline, not adding an effective outfield bat and a complete reworking of an already good bullpen. Milwaukee dropped game one in Pittsburgh after blowing a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning.
The Brewers jumped out in game two taking an early 4-0 lead. The Pirates would come back to win with a Bryan Reynolds walk-off home run allowed by Devin Williams. This would have been a spot Hader probably would have pitched in as three lefties were due up in the next four hitters. Milwaukee then dropped the final game of the series in extra innings, getting swept by Pittsburgh.
The Brewers bullpen allowed nine runs in the series, while Milwaukee centerfielders went a combined 3-for-11 with a costly ninth-inning double play. Both Yelich and manager Craig Counsell were ejected from yesterday’s game. In a postgame interview, Yelich talked about Hader’s departure, “You’d be lying if you said it didn’t have an effect, but at the same time it’s like, we’re pros,” said Yelich.
This quote from Yelich tells me a few things. First, Yelich’s ejection was out of pure frustration of three things: his day at the plate, the ball and strike calls throughout the game and the team’s current state. Second, the departure of Hader had a large negative effect on Milwaukee’s clubhouse. Third, the Brewers need multiple players to step up to fill the holes the front office refused to fill.
As of this morning, the St. Louis Cardinals have tied the Brewers atop the NL Central. The Cardinals undoubtedly got better at the deadline. With the tie atop the Central, Milwaukee is also now tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for the final NL Wild Card spot. The Phillies also got better at the deadline.
The Brewers still have the talent and ability to not only make the Postseason but win its division and contend for a title. Milwaukee hosts the Reds for three games before entering a brutal stretch. The Brewers take on Tampa Bay and St. Louis before facing the Los Angeles Dodgers seven times in ten days. It feels like this could be the make or break stretch for the 2022 Brewers.