Hello all! Welcome to the beginning of a new series, DoU Mailbag! Every so often, we’ll take questions from our followers on social media (Facebook and Twitter), and give our thoughts from a variety of authors! With that being said, me and Jake will take care of the inaugural piece. Let’s get started!
1) Are there no better options than Jacob Barnes and Carlos Torres? (Benjamin Weber, Facebook)
Gabe: We all know how problematic the Brewers bullpen has been this season. It’s been arguably the biggest problem of this team, and has prevented the Crew from obtaining a handful of extra wins. Some of the most frustrating arms from the pen have been Barnes and Torres, as they seem to allow damage at the most unfortunate times. However, the question of whether or not there are better options is a tight line to walk. One of the best things about baseball are the matchups that make the games so strategic. With those matchups comes a number of ways of how to approach the situation, and sometimes, as crazy as it seems, Barnes and Torres might be the best options. In the month of August, Torres has allowed two earned runs and Barnes just three. If a ground ball situation is at hand, you’d likely see Hughes enter the ball game. And it’s not as simple as overworking Josh Hader. Remember, Counsell is simply working with what he has. David Stearns elected not to go on a full-out trade frenzy at the deadline, so while they might not seem like the best options at times, we’ll take what we can get.
Jake: The Brewers have addressed the bullpen with a trio of low-end additions (LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Anthony Swarzak, and RHP Jeremy Jeffress), and it has given the squad a couple more solid late-inning options to try out. In recent outings, Torres has only given up two runs in the last 13.2 innings pitched, while Barnes is still working out a few command kinks. But while Torres and Barnes have both struggled more than many had expected overall, it is important to note just a couple of bad outings can really inflate relief numbers (Torres with 6 multi-run outings, Barnes has 8). In all honesty, both are still good back-end options in a bullpen – though many expected better production. In terms of better options, I don’t really think there are any obvious upgrades that the Crew could make in terms of call-ups before September that are better than those two. One name could be Junior Guerra, as a fastball-splitter combination could be dangerous in shorter stints.
2) Looking ahead to next year, who’s going to be the man at second base? (Ben Wald, Facebook)
Gabe: Second base will definitely be a situation to watch as next year unfolds. After declining an approximately $20 million contract offer from the Brewers, Villar hasn’t produced the flashy near 20-60 numbers he put forth last year. Does he likely regret not accepting that deal? It’s safe to say he probably does. Neil Walker and Eric Sogard are also set to be free agents, with Walker likely demanding a heftier price. There could definitely be an “odd man out” scenario that forms, where the Crew brings two of these players back to serve as backup roles. A one or two year deal for any of those three definitely make sense, as who knows, Isan Diaz or Mauricio Dubon could move up the ranks to the MLB roster, with Dubon likely getting to Milwaukee sooner. However, from where we stand right now, I see Villar earning the position on 2018’s Opening Day. Some might not like the answer, but that’s what my gut says.
Jake: While second base has been a sore spot for the squad all season, I think the Crew have a ton of versatile options going into next season. Down on the farm, infielder Mauricio Dubon could become the next long-term solution as Arcia’s infield partner. Acquired in the Tyler Thornburg trade, Dubon has a great acumen as an offensive and defensive threat. With a quick, efficient bat (.275/.331/.378 line between Double-A and Triple-A) and strong glove, he is expected to have a high-floor as a major leaguer. On the major league squad, I still think Villar can be a viable option at second base so long as his offensive production returns. His month of August has been promising thus far, as he’s hit .302/.333/.419 in 45 plate appearances. It’s highly unlikely the Crew will give up on him, so I would expect him to get some time there next season. Hernan Perez could also get reps there, though the offensive ceiling is more consistent, but below-average (87 OPS+ since 2016). Neil Walker could also be an option if the Crew were willing to splurge a bit in free agency. His .274/.325/.445 in 425 plate appearances in Miller Park are solid. A free agent signing is also not out of the question, though I would expect it to be a short-term deal with the most likely candidate for the long-term waiting in Triple-A.
3) Who poses the biggest problem for the Brew Crew as they fight for the playoffs? (Tomas Carrasco, Twitter)
Gabe: Looking at the races and the remaining schedule, I think you have to say the Cubs. As I type this, Milwaukee is just 2.5 games out of first and could be up 1.5 by day’s end. Meanwhile, they’re currently four behind Colorado for the second Wild Card spot. I say the Cubs for a couple of reasons. First, the Crew face them seven more times. Those games are going to end up being massive. A division title could very well be on the line, and with the Brewers keeping up their strong play as of late, the chances of that becoming a real possibility are gaining steam. The second reason? It’s not just the Rockies the Brewers are chasing. You have to look behind you as well in a playoff race, and while the Cardinals are behind Milwaukee in the Central, I oddly feel more comfortable holding them off than the surging Marlins. But in a nutshell, the schedule is the biggest reason why I say the Cubs.
Jake: The best chance to take a playoff spot will be in taking the division – something that will be incredibly tough to do. After the Dodger series, the Crew have 22 more games against potential playoff teams – seven against the Cubs, six against the Pirates, five against St. Louis, and four in Washington. It will be one of the most stressful and exciting schedules out of any National League squad vying for the playoffs (16 for Arizona, 14 for Colorado, 18 for St. Louis). But the most important schedule aside from their own will be with Chicago, who have 23 games remaining that have playoff implications. Fourteen of their games will be played between Milwaukee and St. Louis. This trio of NL Central teams will be the absolute key: Milwaukee will need to take control of its own destiny with 12 games directly against these opponents and the Cubs will have to remain strong.
That wraps up the inaugural DoU Mailbag! Stay tuned to our social media accounts for the next edition and make sure to fire off a question, we might just answer it!