With MLB's postseason still knocking teams off, Bally Sports is reviewing the performance of each club with a look at what happened in 2021 and what could happen next season.
Our next Exit Interview is with the Milwaukee Brewers.
What went right
• The Brewers won 95 games and the National League Central without much resistance, making the MLB playoffs for the fourth straight season under manager Craig Counsell. They finished third in team ERA, behind the Dodgers and Giants, and were second in strikeout percentage and gave up the fifth-fewest home runs.
• Right-hander Corbin Burnes is a strong possibility for the NL Cy Young award after posting the best ERA (2.43), and strikeout percentage (35.6) in the league among qualifying pitchers, along with the best fWAR (7.5) and fourth-lowest walk percentage. He set a fun record for most strikeouts without issuing a walk to start the season, and was the starting pitcher when the Brewers threw a combined no-hitter.
• Right-hander Brandon Woodruff finished fourth in ERA (2.56), sixth in strikeout percentage (29.8), and ninth in fWAR. Among pitchers who threw at least 140 innings, right-hander Freddy Peralta was seventh in ERA (2.81) and third in K percentage (33.6). Left-hander Eric Lauer was terrific in the second half, too, as was right-hander Adrian Houser.
• The trade for shortstop Willy Adames worked out great. For the Brewers, he batted .285/.366/.521 with 20 home runs, 26 doubles and 47 walks in 99 games after coming from the Rays for pitchers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen in July. Adames came in with a great reputation on defense and his rankings appeared to slip there, but we’ll know more after he plays more at Miller Park.
What went wrong
• The Brewers failed to advance beyond the NL Division Series, falling to the Braves in Game 4 after a tie-breaking home run by Freddie Freeman off closer Josh Hader in the bottom of the eighth inning.
• A so-so offense during the regular season was mostly dominated by Atlanta, which allowed the Brewers just six runs in four games. If Rowdy Tellez doesn’t connect for a two-run homer in Game 1, they likely would have been swept. Tellez also came through with a two-run homer in Game 4, but overall, Milwaukee batted .192/.263/.264 with 48 strikeouts and nine walks in 125 collective at-bats. Avisaíl García, Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich went a combined 6-for-45 (.133) with three walks and 21 strikeouts.
• It’s possible the Brewers could have sneaked through the first round of playoffs, but the bullpen was vulnerable during the NLDS, posting a 4.40 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. They lost two of their best relievers just before the playoffs with injuries to Devin Williams and Brent Suter. Williams’ broken hand was done … by his own hand. Houser could not keep the Braves off the scoreboard (or in the ballpark) in either of his postseason appearances.
Burnes should get some MVP consideration in addition to Cy Young votes.
• Outfielder Tyrone Taylor provided a lot of great moments as a part-time player, batting .247/.321/.457 with 12 homers, three triples and six stolen bases.
• Left-hander Aaron Ashby might be a bigger contributor going forward after posting a 29.3 K percentage.
Reasons for optimism
• The Brewers played great defense overall, particularly in the outfield, at second base and behind the plate. Luis Urías was much better at third than short, and he showed what he can do in the playoffs, making great play after great play at the hot corner. He also was one of the team’s better hitters.
• Adames is just 26 and is not eligible for free agency until 2025.
• Tellez’s left-handed swing does not seem to be bothered by left-handed pitching, and he could break through in 2022 if given a shot to play every day. He slugged .500 in the second half.
What needs work
• The club surely is worried about Yelich, who was among the two or three best hitters from 2018 to 2019, but cratered to being no better than an average MLB hitter in 2021. Over the past two seasons, he’s batting .234/.360/.392 with 21 homers in 175 games. He’s got a bad back and missed about 40 games while on the injured list this past season. He’s under contract through at least 2028, owed $26 million in each season. It’s not all Yelich’s fault that the Brewers offense is middle of the road, but he ain’t helping.
• Not feeling able to use Burnes on short rest in the playoffs was a huge handicap. The team's biggest strength was pitching and likely will be again, but figuring out a way to get more innings from their best pitchers once the playoffs start, but without endangering their health, should be a key topic of conversation this offseason. Burnes went just under six innings per start in the regular season, as did Woodruff. Peralta was about 5 1/3 innings per start. Hader had his best season, no question, but he pitched less than one inning per appearance.
Watch for more MLB Exit Interviews as the dominoes fall in the playoffs. Check out our earlier MLB Exit Interviews below.