You may not have needed another reminder that summer goes by too fast, but the Milwaukee Brewers have nonetheless provided one: Their Thursday night game against the Mets was their 81st of the year, meaning their regular season is halfway over.
It’s been an up-and-down first half for the Brewers, who have already experienced a six-game winning streak and two six-game losing streaks on their way to a 43-38 record. They’re tied for first place in a weak NL Central despite ranking 15th out of 15 National League teams in many offensive categories and needing to use nine different starting pitchers in a span of 81 games. They’ve stayed in the postseason picture at least in part due to one of the game’s best defenses, highlighted by the emergence of Joey Wiemer as one of the sport’s elite performers on that side of the ball.
What would it look like, though, if the Brewers played this way for a full season? It’s easier than ever to figure that out today. The midpoint of the season means you can get “on pace for” numbers just by multiplying by two, so let’s dust off our calculators and see where things are headed.
The good news for the Brewers is the fact that their 43-38 first half is good for a tie for first place in the National League Central, a division where no one has consistently played well so far. The bad news is that, barring a hot stretch, winning the Central might be the only path to the postseason. The Brewers are on pace for 86 wins, and six teams from the East and West divisions are ahead of them. 86 wins would match their total from last season, when they missed the postseason by one game. It would have been the National League’s sixth best total in 2021, but only five NL teams went to the postseason that year.
His performances may always be overshadowed by his 2018 and 2019 MVP-caliber seasons and the big contract that followed, but Yelich is quietly having his best season since signing that big deal. His .273 batting average, .369 on-base and .429 slugging are all his best since 2019, and he’s been better defensively than at any point since his years with the Marlins.
As for his counting stats, Yelich is on pace to score 108 runs, which would be the second-most of his career, while also collecting 178 hits (also the second most), drawing 82 walks (second most) and stealing 36 bases (which would be a new career high). He’s only on pace for 18 home runs, a stark reminder that he produces value in different ways than he used to, but his performance is back at an All Star level for the first time in several years.
Elsewhere in good news for the 2023 Brewers, their biggest addition of the offseason is performing about as well as they could have hoped. Contreras has caught 53 of the first 81 games (and served as the designated hitter for ten more) and his offensive numbers, while down a little from his All Star season in 2022, have been more than serviceable for his position.
No Brewer caught 100 games last season, a number Contreras is on pace to pass. He’s also on pace to collect 112 hits, becoming just the second Brewers catcher in the last decade to accomplish that (Yasmani Grandal had 126 in 2019). His eight home runs leave him a little behind pace to match last year’s 20, but he’s still significantly outproducing last year’s Brewers backstops and his contemporaries around the league.
One of the Brewers’ biggest sources of power from last season, however, has fallen off the pace in 2023. Tellez has never hit for a high batting average (his .216 this year is down from just .233 for his career) or on-base percentage (.292, compared to .304 career), but he finished fifth in the National League with 35 home runs last season and will have a lot of work to do in the second half to get back to that level.
After Thursday’s game Tellez had not hit a home run in any of his last 116 plate appearances, which is easily the longest streak of his MLB career. He’s still on pace to go deep 24 times this season, but his overall performance has put the Brewers in a position where they may look to move on from him before he can reach that number.
Like Tellez, Willy Adames’ “all or nothing” approach at the plate has netted “nothing” this season more often than in recent years. Adames also carried a low batting average but traded contact for power last season, batting .238 but setting a Brewers shortstop record by hitting 31 home runs. This season he’s making even less contact, batting just .198 with a .287 on-base percentage. Adames and Tellez are a big part of the reason the Brewers rank 29th among MLB teams in production from both the #2 and #3 spots in their batting order.
Like Tellez, Adames is on pace to take a step back and finish with 24 home runs this season, which would still be the third most of his career and a pretty high number for a shortstop. He’s also a very good defender at that position, which means he’s still a net positive contributor for the Brewers overall. His .652 OPS, however, is below average even among players at that premium defensive spot and has made him a poor candidate to bat high in a lineup.
The 2021 Cy Young Award winner has been a workhorse for the 2023 Brewers, as both the team’s leader in innings pitched and the only member of the Brewers’ Opening Day staff to make 16 starts in their first 80 games. His performance, however, has been far from his Cy Young levels: Burnes’ 4.10 ERA is only slightly better than the MLB average and 11 points worse than the Brewers as a team (3.99).
After leading the National League with 243 strikeouts and pitching 202 innings last season, Burnes is on pace for just 178 and 188 2/3, respectively. His peripheral numbers suggest he’s experienced some bad luck, but the data on his arsenal also suggests he’s not getting the normal results from his oft-discussed cutter. Finding a way to get 2021-22 Corbin Burnes back for the stretch run might be the biggest acquisition the Brewers could make in July.
The Brewers’ new closer has done pretty much everything they could have hoped he would in his first full season in the role. Williams is a likely All Star after posting a 1.57 ERA in his first 29 appearances and striking out 12 batters per nine innings. The biggest drag on Williams’ numbers has been the Brewers’ sporadic need for him: He pitched in just 10 save opportunities in the Brewers’ first 66 games before being asked to take the mound eight times in the 15 games to close out the first half.
It’s not his fault the Brewers haven’t always needed him, but Williams is on pace to record just 32 saves this season. For comparison purposes, Josh Hader had 29 by the end of July in 2022. The Brewers need to find ways to get him more leads to protect, but Williams has demonstrated the capacity to be one of the game’s elite in this role.
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