Willy or Will he? Week in Rebrew, May 17-23

Hey, Erik, yeah, hey, how’s it going? Dave Stearns here. Good, good, yeah, no problem. Thanks for taking my call. Listen, we need to talk. Got a sec? Cool. Thanks.

Week in Rebrew is a look back at the week that was for the Milwaukee Brewers. Sometimes.

Record: 23-23

Last seven days: 2-3, swept by Royals, won Reds series 2-1

Next seven days: Versus Padres (four), at Nationals (three)

Yeah, so–what’s that? Yeah, I’m calling about Adames again. Yeah, I’m still interested. Here’s the thing: We gave you Ji-Man Choi three years ago for nothing. OK, you’re right: we got Brad Miller and some cash in return. Yeah, I know Choi’s played roughly the equivalent of one full season since you picked him up, but Brad played 27 games total for us while providing a -3 Rbat and striking out 31 times. The cash was nice, though. 

Here’s the other thing: We gave you Jesus Aguilar for nothing a year later–oh, that’s right, you gave up Jake Faria for him. Faria appeared in nine games, fewer than nine innings and sported an 11.42 ERA (40 adjusted…yes, Erik, 40. Four-zero) and a WHIP north of 2.6. Whatever dark magic you cooked into Jesus made believers out of Jeter and the Marlins and he’s killed us this season. 

Long story short: 4.4 bWAR traded for -0.7. Plus, you already know how Arcia turned out and, Urias? He’s not what we thought he was. Good kid, takes his walks, but–yeah, we’re glad for the netting, too.

I’m not going to say you owe us, but I’m not not going to say that. Listen, we’ll give you Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen for him. Plus, you’ve got Taylor Walls AND Wander Franco waiting in the wings. We’ll deal from our strength, you deal from yours. 

What’s that? We’ve got a deal? Thanks, Erik. I’ll be sure to send you a case of Secret Stadium Sauce for  your trouble. Buh-bye.

*click*

*furiously pumps fist* I still got it! David Stearns is back, baby!

Is this how I think the call went? No. Is this the rationale I think David Stearns and Matt Arnold had trying to land former top prospect Adames? No, at least not entirely. Is it fun to just kinda make things up? Sure is!

But a message needed to be sent to the clubhouse and fanbase alike: This Brewers club was and might still be floundering at the plate, even with the return of core components Christian Yelich and Omar Narvaez. They dropped two games to a plucky but beatable Royals team, after generally laying a series-long steamer at home to the Braves (which was tangentially addressed in this space a week ago.) Ticket sales are in low demand. The best option in the bottom third of the order is Adrian Houser, while 7 and 8 hitters are slashing .182/.276/.322, have grounded into four double plays, amassed a .213 combined BAbip and an adjusted OPS against league average well below the mean.

Entering play Saturday, the Brewers had gone 4-13, which called to mind another dark chapter in mid-season Brewers history: 

Brewers Team X: 4-13, 53 runs, 91 runs against, 6.5 game swing in standings 

Brewers Team Y: 4-13, 52 runs, 88 runs against, 5 game swing in standings

Team Y is the 2021 Brewers from May 2 through May 21. Team X is the Brewers from August 24-September 10, 2014. That former slide was the implosion that spelled the beginning of the end for Ron Roenicke and Doug Melvin. It is not unrealistic or unreasonable to imagine that the latter was prelude to a similar potential catastrophe. No, I don’t believe Stearns’ or Counsell’s job might be in jeopardy — though underwhelming teams in a tailspin tend to fire coaches or managers to send some semblance of a messsage — but remember how good it felt to be a Brewers fan in July 2014? Or how fun it was to be rooting for a first place club a month ago?

We have short memories, and sometimes that ability to exist in the moment is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it forces a team to make a bold move which may or may not be a Hail Mary play.

Enter Willy Adames.

On the face of it, Adames doesn’t look like a solution to the Brewers’ problems. His strikeout numbers thus far have been eye-popping. He hasn’t hit major league pitching at a level anyone would call impactful, regressing dramatically this season over 2019 and the COVID-abbreviated 2020. His defense has always been well-regarded, but so was Orlando Arcia‘s and Luis Urias‘. 

Of course, when the Brewers signed Jackie Bradley Jr., the public wondered why the Brewers needed another outfielder. When the Brewers traded for Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain, they asked the same thing. Predictably, they asked why Stearns and Matt Arnold traded for a shortstop after trading Arcia and commiting to Urias for about two-dozen games.

There’s a reason why we don’t work in the Brewers front office and they do.

Others have noted the extreme home-road splits that would merit a stronger second look at Adames. He’s still 25 and has shown more offense at the major league level than Urias has. The ISO is certainly another consideration, to the tune of .222 to go along with a .388 BABIP in 2020 and a healthy hard hit percentage with a profile that suggests a willingness to take what pitchers give him rather than trying to yank the ball to left.

The Brewers’ organizational approach has seemingly sold out to trying to drive the ball, and the league has also seemingly figured that out, adjusting with a healthy diet of offspeed pitches. To hit the ball hard doesn’t necessarily mean that the ball needs to be hit out. Better rallies and more robust offense come from stringing together hits and getting on base punctuated with power, not the other way around. For reference, Sunday’s series-clinching victory over the Reds.

So the Brewers are taking a calculated chance on Adames, and there’s no small part of me that thinks they’re trying to catch lightning in a bottle with him the same way they landed Yelich at the right time. What will be telling is how Adames adapts, whether he emerges following those established road splits to a much more hitter-friendly division and home ballpark, or whether his slash stays put and he continues to strikeout at a rate befitting a team toward the bottom of league rankings.

Willy Adames thus isn’t just shaking up the Brewers organization by simply being here; he’s become an unwitting bellwether for organizational viability in the wake of the advanced analytics revolution and the subsequent minor revolutions currently taking place.

No pressure. [icon name=”baseball-ball” style=”solid” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

At bat: Kolten Wong has cooled a bit since returning from the IL with Wonderboy in hand, but he remains a vital cog to a lineup that needs its key players doing what they do best.

On deck: I believe in Adrian Houser, and keep rooting for him to put it all together, which looks not unlike hoping against hope. Meanwhile, I have no faith in Freddy Peralta, and he’s clearly approaching another level. This still has all the makings of the best starting rotation in franchise history.

In the hole: Daniel Vogelbach is a designated hitter masquerading as a two-way player. While Keston Hiura has been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A Nashville, are we seeing a hitter returning to expected, projected form, or the emergence of a Four-A player?

We’ll likely start to get the answer to that question later today.

Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville. Stats courtesy Baseball Reference and MLB.com.

Author: Brent Sirvio

Brent Sirvio is.

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