Inbox: Is this lineup Crew's best ever vs. RHP?
Beat reporter Adam McCalvy fields offseason questions from fans
Will next season be the Brewers' best lineup yet versus right-handed pitchers? Interestingly, outside of the Cubs' rotation, it seems as though the starting pitching in the NL Central is predominantly RHPs.
-- @CreamCityPro on Twitter
Pretty good question in the wake of the addition of switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, who does most of his damage batting lefty against right-handers. His arrival comes after left-handed-hitting Christian Yelich rode a huge uptick in offensive production to the National League MVP Award in 2018, Eric Thames hit 31 home runs in his return to MLB in '17, and Travis Shaw delivered back-to-back seasons of 30-plus homers after coming to Miller Park from Boston. The Brewers love acquiring lefty bats, and with Grandal in the fold, there could be days next season when all of them are in the lineup against a right-hander. And we have yet to see what the Brewers will do at second base.
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The most potent season of offensive production in franchise history vs. right-handers surprised me, because it wasn't from the Miller Park era. It was 1996, when the Brewers posted an .803 OPS against righties. In fact, the top seven OPS totals in club history against righties were produced at County Stadium before the 2010 club showed up to break the streak:
If we're just talking home runs, however, Miller Park (which opened in 2001) rules. Here are the figures for team homers against right-handers:
The 1996 team was next on the homers list, hitting 141 against right-handed pitching. So who were those murderers of "northpaws?" By plate appearances that season, it was Jeff Cirillo, John Jaha, Jose Valentin, Fernando Vina, Kevin Seitzer, Dave Nilsson, Greg Vaughn and Matt Mieske. Switch-hitter Chuckie Carr did notable damage against right-handers that year, and left-handed slugger Jeromy Burnitz came over in a midseason trade from Cleveland. But Nilsson led the way, posting a 1.035 OPS against right-handed pitching.
Anyway, the answer to the original question -- Could this be the Brewers' best lineup yet against right-handed pitching? -- is yes. Look at those power numbers the past two years and then add Grandal.
Wade Miley still on the Brewers' radar?
-- @SillyA on Twitter
Yes. Miley really liked Milwaukee, his agent Tom O'Connell said at the Winter Meetings, and Milwaukee loved Miley's work when he was healthy. The question, however, is cost. The Brewers picked up Miley on a Minor League deal that only paid if he performed. Now, after posting a 2.36 ERA in 95 1/3 innings including the postseason, he's looking for a multiyear deal that would guarantee every dollar. The Brewers already have a deep pool of starting-pitcher candidates (you'll find the names on the Brewers depth chart, including pitchers like Junior Guerra and Adrian Houser who are listed in the bullpen but could also start), so it's logical that general manager David Stearns would only invest in additional arms if he perceives good value.
We'll see. For a while, Miley was waiting for some of the left-handers ahead of him to sign. Some did, including Patrick Corbin (Nationals), Yusei Kikuchi (Mariners) and J.A. Happ (Yankees). But the big name still out there is Dallas Keuchel. Once Keuchel signs, the market should crystalize for Miley.
Is Jhoulys Chacin the best bet to be the Opening Day starter?
-- @thenilesriver on Twitter
Yes, if the Brewers make that choice the traditional way. Chacin was far and away their most reliable starting pitcher last season, giving him two straight years of a well-above-average adjusted ERA. He looks like a no-brainer choice to take the ball against the Cardinals on March 28 at Miller Park.
But perhaps the Brewers will try something different this year in an effort to change their luck. It's been a running joke that the first question on the first day of Spring Training is, "Who's going to be your Opening Day starter?" -- even though I know full well that manager Craig Counsell isn't going to answer until much deeper into the spring. It was funny, until those Opening Day starters began to endure lousy years. Wily Peralta in 2016. Guerra in 2017. Chase Anderson in 2018.
"It's almost like you've cursed our Opening Day starter," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings. "That's where I feel like we're at because we're on this running joke for three years. And you have cursed the Opening Day starter. We'll name this curse in Spring Training. It will be a central part of our morning interviews; the Adam McCalvy curse will be discussed."
Will Matt Albers have an ERA under 9.00 next year?
-- @BLightell on Twitter
Wow, tough crowd. Albers was awful last year after his right shoulder started barking in June. There's no other way to say that. But for the first two months of the season, he was as effective as any pitcher on the team -- a 1.08 ERA, .198 opponents' average in his first 21 appearances spanning 25 innings. He signed a two-year deal, so it is in the Brewers' interests to see if Albers can bounce back in 2019.
"Look, I think people [forget]. Matt had two drastic seasons last season," Counsell said last week. "We shouldn't forget about the first half of last season Matt had, where he was a very, very valuable piece. Look, relievers' seasons can be pretty volatile. Matt has a pretty good track record. I'm very optimistic and I'm very open to Matt making the same contribution he made in the first half of last year."
Give the man a chance. If he's good, think about how deep that bullpen can be.