In recent weeks, the best team in baseball hasn’t been the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs — oddly enough it’s been the Milwaukee Brewers. But the Brewers’ journey to greatness began long before their September and October hot streak.
On Jan. 25, 2018 Milwaukee knocked out two birds with one stone, acquiring outfielders Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins and Lorenzo Cain from the Kansas City Royals. For Yelich, the trade rumors surrounding him all offseason finally subsided when the Brewers traded four prospects, headlined by Lewis Brinson, to fill their outfield with a solid two-way contributor. But for Cain, who signed as a free agent, suiting up in Milwaukee meant a long-awaited return for the outfielder who began his career with the Brewers back in 2010.
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Thus, the Brewers rebuild was officially completed, and their first true attempt at contention since 2015 had begun. Before going in-depth on the Brewers 2018 season, let’s look back on what it took to get here, beginning with an acquisition breakdown organized chronologically.
Ryan Braun: Drafted 5th overall, 2005 MLB Draft.
Orlando Arcia: Signed as International Free Agent in October 2010.
Corey Knebel: Traded from Texas Rangers for Yovani Gallardo in January 2015.
Josh Hader: Traded by Houston Astros for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers in July 2015.
Travis Shaw: Traded by Boston Red Sox for Tyler Thornburg in December 2016.
Jesus Aguilar: Claimed off waivers from Cleveland Indians in February 2017.
Jeremy Jeffress: Traded by Texas Rangers for prospect in July 2017.
Jhoulys Chacin: Signed a 2-year, $15.5 million contract in December 2017.
Christian Yelich: Traded by Miami Marlins for four prospects in January 2018.
Lorenzo Cain: Signed a 5-year, $80 million contract in January 2018.
Erik Kratz: Traded by New York Yankees for ‘player to be named later’ in May 2018.
Mike Moustakas: Traded by Kansas City Royals for two prospects in July 2018.
Jonathan Schoop: Traded by Baltimore Orioles for Jonathan Villar in July 2018.
Virtually every player that has had a major impact this season was acquired during the rebuilding stage of 2016-17 with the exceptions of Ryan Braun and Orlando Arcia. The hiring of manager Craig Counsell and general manager David Stearns, who helped the Astros build their World Series team as assistant GM in Houston, have also played a major role in the team’s turnaround as they went from 73-89 in 2016 to an NL-best 96-67 this season.
While the Brewers were never more than five games ahead or six games behind in the NL Central division, their season could best be described as streaky. From April to September, their month-by-month winning percentages ranged from as low as .480 in June to as high as .731 in Sept. — they maintained a .589 percentage on the year. Keeping this in mind, it’s fair to say 2018 was very much a roller coaster season for the Crew.
The team finished their 162nd game on an eight-game win streak tied with the Cubs, which erased what was a six-game deficit on August. This meant there would be a 163rd game Oct. 1 at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Brewers. The winner would not only earn bragging rights, but also the NL Central Division title and the No.1 seed in the playoffs, avoiding the wild card play-in game.
Headed into the tiebreaker, the Brewers knew they would have to beat the Cubs who boasted both a high-powered offense and strong, start-to-finish pitching rotation. The Brewers had ace Jhoulys Chacín take the mound with the star-studded bullpen of Knebel, Jeffress and Hader there to close things out.
MVP candidate Christian Yelich’s attempt at earning the NL Triple Crown was also on the line — he trailed Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado by one home run and Cubs’ shortstop Javier Báez by two RBIs after an amazing second half of the season.
Christian Yelich was so good, in fact, he was given the “Barry Bonds treatment” against the Cardinals on Sept. 26, when pitchers walked him in all five plate appearances after he had eight RBIs in the first two games of the series. He also led the NL in most major batting categories, including slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage, batting average and wins above replacement.
After a hard fought battle, the Brewers took the tiebreaker, 3–1, led by Christian Yelich who finished 3-4 with three singles, falling two RBIs and a home run short of the league lead.
Now that they’ve defeated the Colorado Rockies in the Division Series Milwaukee will host the Dodgers for the National League pennant. This means the Brewers are one step closer to the goal that has never been achieved in the franchise’s 49-year history — a World Series title.