What’s Wrong with the Brewers?

In 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers, fueled by a 19-7 run in September and the efforts of eventual National League MVP Christian Yelich, surged past the Chicago Cubs to win the Central Division thanks to a victory in a Game 163 tiebreaker, going on to lose the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. This year, Yelich is still an MVP contender, but the Brewers are stuck 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs despite the Cubs’ 19-19 stretch from June 1-July 14.

Despite benefiting suspiciously well from home cooking with home splits of .262/.339/.470 vs. road splits of .234/.317/.425 as of July 13 with a park factor of only 102, the Brewers are just 48-46 with a -24 run differential, going 16-20 from June 1-July 14.

While the Cubs’ troubles can be explained by fewer scoring chances, holes in the bench and inconsistent starting pitching, the Brewers appear to be regressing from their 2018 performance, when several key offensive contributors were producing at career-high levels for the Crew. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant cases.

Jesús Aguilar, INF

2018

Slash Line: .274/.352/.539
OPS: .890 (135 OPS+)
HR: 35 in 149 G
RBI: 108 in 149 G
wRC+: 134
bWAR: 3.2

2019

Slash Line: .237/.335/.397
OPS: .732 (89 OPS+)
HR: 8 in 81 G
RBI: 33 in 81 G
wRC+: 92
bWAR: 0

In 2018, Aguilar slugged his way to the starting 1B job following injuries to Eric Thames and had a 30/100 year for the Crew. This year, Aguilar has regressed to production similar to his 2017 numbers (16 HR and 52 RBI in 133 G) and has been a replacement-level player.

Lorenzo Cain, OF

2018

Slash Line: .308/.395/.417
OPS: .813 (119 OPS+)
R: 90 in 141 G
wRC+: 124
BB%: 11.5 K%: 15.2
bWAR: 6.9

2019

Slash Line: .250/.310/.355
OPS: .665 (OPS+ 72)
R: 48 in 85 G
wRC+: 74
BB%: 7.2 K%: 17.3
bWAR: 0.7

Cain had the second-best season of his career in 2018, making his second career All-Star Team, and was highly productive from the leadoff spot. However, Cain is performing over 25% below MLB average both in terms of OPS and run production in 2019, which means he has been on base ahead of the slugging Yelich much less often. I am surprised Brewers manager Craig Counsell has not considered moving him down in the order until he begins to improve.

Travis Shaw, INF

2018

Slash Line: .241/.345/.480
OPS: .825 (119 OPS+)
HR: 32
RBI: 86
wRC+: 120
BB%: 13.3 K%: 18.4
bWAR: 4.1

2019

Slash Line: .164/.278/.290
OPS: .568 (OPS+ 48)
HR: 6
RBI: 13
wRC+: 49
BB%: 12.7 K%: 32.5
bWAR: -0.8

Shaw followed up his 30/100 2017 with 32 homers and 86 RBI in 2018, a significant contribution to the Crew offense. He has had an awful 2019, mainly due to the fact he has been striking out nearly twice as often. Unlike their rivals to the south, who are stubbornly clinging to veteran FA acquisition Daniel Descalso and the disgraceful Addison Russell, Milwaukee had the sense to replace this black hole in their lineup with an up-and-comer, rookie INF Keston Hiura. Shaw has been cooling his heels with AAA San Antonio since June 28.

Milwaukee is looking to gain ground on the first-place Cubs, but the going will be tough this week, with a three-game set against first-place Atlanta starting this evening followed by four games in Arizona before heading home to face the Reds and Cubs. Tonight’s game will kick off at 8:10 PM ET at Miller Park. Matchup: Max Fried (9-4, 4.29 ERA) vs. Adrian Houser (2-3, 4.01 ERA). Support the site by purchasing your tickets from SeatGeek!

Featured Image: Keith Homan / Shutterstock.com