Milwaukee laid waste to Atlanta in a 13-1 rout Tuesday, but the Brewers entered the game amid a terrible stretch that could help prevent them from earning their second straight playoff berth. The reigning NL Central champion Brewers have led the division for a large portion of the year, but they’ve won just 11 of 30 since sitting a season-best 10 games over .500 on June 9. They’re now a mediocre 49-47 and looking up at the Cubs in their division. Despite their recent downturn, all hope isn’t lost for the Brewers, who are still 2 1/2 games behind Chicago and only a half-game back of a wild-card spot.
With the July 31 trade deadline coming up, Brewers general manager David Stearns discussed his plans for the next couple weeks with Adam McCalvy of MLB.com and other reporters Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, Stearns revealed it’s “our preference” to acquire outside help and suggested it’s likely to happen. But Stearns didn’t fully commit to bolstering his roster, noting Milwaukee’s current players will decide whether it happens with how they perform on the field. The Brewers “have not played good baseball” of late, stated Stearns, who admitted the club’s “fortunate” to be within striking distance of a playoff spot despite its lengthy stretch of poor play.
If the Brewers do persuade Stearns into making any aggressive moves this month, their pitching staff seems likely to be a major area of focus. The club has been connected to a few of the best potentially on-the-move starters – the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler (links here) and the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (link) – as well as Giants closer and ex-Brewer Will Smith in the rumor mill. It stands to reason some of the majors’ other prominent trade candidates have also landed on the Brewers’ radar.
Milwaukee’s rotation entered Tuesday 19th in ERA and a similarly uninspiring 17th in FIP, owing to subpar performances from an array of starters. Jhoulys Chacin has fallen flat after a strong 2018, while Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Jimmy Nelson couldn’t stick in the Brewers’ rotation after offering disappointing numbers earlier in the season. The struggles of Peralta, Burnes and Nelson have opened the door for Adrian Houser, who had been working as a reliever. Houser’s three starts this month haven’t gone well, as he has allowed 12 earned runs on 21 hits with a 10:5 K:BB ratio in 15 innings.
In more encouraging news, Zach Davies has managed a 2.89 ERA – albeit with less-than-dazzling peripherals – while the 26-year-old Brandon Woodruff looks as if he’s breaking out. Chase Anderson has pitched fine in 13 starts (4.23 ERA/4.10 FIP), though he hasn’t even averaged five frames per outing. Gio Gonzalez notched a 3.19 ERA/3.24 FIP in a six-start, 31-inning span from his late-April signing through the end of May. However, Gonzalez hasn’t taken the mound for the Brewers since then because of a dead arm. Gonzalez recently began a rehab assignment, though, perhaps giving the Brewers hope that the long-competent lefty could help stabilize their rotation down the stretch.
The Brewers’ bullpen, meanwhile, isn’t quite the force it was a year ago. Josh Hader has been outstanding again, as was Houser before the Brewers shifted him to their rotation. Peralta has recorded much better production in relief than he did as a starter. Meanwhile, unlike last year, Jeremy Jeffress has been more decent than dominant in 2019. That group aside, the Brewers haven’t received particularly impressive numbers from any other relievers they’ve used extensively this year. Losing Corey Knebel to Tommy John surgery in late March was a brutal blow to take just as the season was getting underway. His lack of availability is one of the reasons the Brewers may be in the market for late-game help this month.