The Milwaukee Brewers failed to reach the postseason in 2017, yet it's hard to call the past year anything but a success. Thought by many to be a rebuilding year -- the "experts" tabbed the Brewers to finish below-.500 -- led some key veteran additions, some young prospects coming of age, a resurgent starting staff and good bullpen, Milwaukee was in the playoff hunt until the next-to-last day of the season. FOX Sports Wisconsin looks back at the past season by handing out some awards to this year's edition of the Brewers.
MVP - Travis Shaw
Safe to say the Brewers won the trade with the Boston Red Sox which brought Shaw, along with three other prospects to Milwaukee for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who didn't pitch at all in 2017. Even if Thornburg did pitch, Shaw more than held up his end of the deal. He hit 31 home runs, nearly double his previous best (16 in 2016), and also set career highs in batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (.513), runs (84), RBI (101) and steals (10, while tying his mark in doubles (34). Batting from the fourth spot for all but a handful of games, Shaw provided a level of consistency and production all season for the Brewers, making him our choice for MVP.
Benny SieuBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Cy Young - Chase Anderson
Unfortunately, Anderson missed all of July and much of August due to an oblique injury suffered while batting, but his performance over his 25 starts was too much to overlook despite some other quality candidates. Anderson finished with a 12-4 record and led all starters with a 2.74 ERA and 1.090 WHIP while also striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings. Upon his return from injury, in the throes of a pennant race, Anderson went 6-3 in nine starts with a 2.47 ERA and .213 opponent batting average including big starts in September at Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis in which he allowed just one run over 18 1/3 innings.
Best moment: Eric Thames walk-off home run
Milwaukee was off to a good start and was in first place in mid-June. But the Brewers didn't have a seminal moment. That all changed June 16 at Miller Park. Things looked dim at the start, as San Diego scored four times in the first inning. The Brewers managed to tie the score by the fourth inning thanks to homers by Travis Shaw and Keon Broxton and after allowing a run in the top of the eighth they tied it right back up on a Manny Pina dinger. The game went extra-innings and ended as Eric Thames' deep fly ball to left-center field went off the top of the wall and over the fence for just the team's second walk-off win of the season and first by a home run. Thames was pumped rounding the bases and when he got to home plate, had buckets water and Gatorade dumped on him by his overjoyed teammates, with his jersey eventually being ripped while the crowd at Miller Park roared.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
Best win: 15-2 over Cubs on Sept. 9
Coming down the stretch, Milwaukee had its eye not just on a wild-card spot but also the NL Central Division title. Having to play three games in Chicago, especially after losing three straight in Cincinnati, didn't bode well for the Brewers. But after winning the (somewhat controversial) Friday night opener, 2-0, Milwaukee came out guns-a-blazin' on Saturday, chasing starter Mike Montgomery in the third inning and scoring eight runs overall. At one point Milwaukee led 14-0, completely silencing the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The 15 runs, aided amazingly by only one home run, a two-run shot by Hernan Perez, were the most the Brewers scored in a game all season -- by four.
Associated PressMorry Gash
Top rookie - player: Manny Pina
Believe it or not, Pina, who turned 30 in June, never lost his rookie status, having just 98 plate appearances entering this season. While injuries to Andrew Susac and Jett Bandy no doubt helped Pina get more playing time, he earned his 359 plate appearances with a solid bat and defense. Pina had hit .279 with a .424 slugging percentage to go with his 21 doubles and nine home runs. Behind the plate he threw out 36 percent of attempted basestealers (league average was 27 percent) and had a dWAR of 1.9.
Associated PressMorry Gash
Top rookie - pitcher: Josh Hader
A starting pitcher in the minors, the left-handed Hader bolstered the Brewers' bullpen upon his recall in early June. As the season went on, manager Craig Counsell started using Hader in higher-leveraged situations and the rookie didn't back down. Hader finished with a 2.08 ERA, 0.986 WHIP -- allowing just 4.7 hits per nine innings -- with 68 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
USA TODAY SportsNoah K. Murray
Comeback player: Jimmy Nelson
In 2016, Nelson led the league with 16 losses and posted career worsts in ERA (4.62) and WHIP (1.517). In 2017, one could make an argument that he was Milwaukee's best starting pitcher. In 29 starts, Nelson went 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.249 WHIP and 199 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. He also cut his walks nearly in half (4.3/9 to 2.5/9) and allowed nine fewer home runs compared to last season. Unfortunately, Nelson injured his shoulder late in the season and will now miss part of the 2018 season.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mr. Unexpected - player: Jesus Aguilar
With the Brewers having signed Eric Thames to play in the offseason, Aguilar, who was claimed off waivers in February, seemed an unlikely player to make the 25-man roster since his sole position he plays was the same as Thames. But Aguilar, who turned 27 in June and had just 64 plate appearances in the majors, hit his way onto the roster and never let up during the regular season. Aguilar got 311 plate appearances in 207, hitting .265 with a .505 slugging percentage with 16 home runs and 52 RBI.
Mr. Unexpected - pitcher: Corey Knebel
Expecting Knebel to develop into a dominant closer for Milwaukee in 2017 would have seemed like pure folly this past offseason. After all, he was coming off a year in which he split time between Triple-A and the majors and had a 4.68 ERA and 1.469 WHIP in 32 2/3 innings with the Brewers. Plus, Milwaukee had signed Neftali Feliz in the offseason and made him the closer. But it was apparent quickly that Feliz wasn't the man for the job and Knebel stepped in and flourished -- which is an understatement. Knebel finished with a 1.78 ERA, 1.158 WHIP (allowing just 5.7 hits per 9 innings) with 39 saves and 126 strikeouts in 76 innings, his rate of 14.9 K/9 the best in Brewers franchise history.
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Underappreciated - hitter: Domingo Santana
Eric Thames got off to a hot start, Travis Shaw had numerous clutch hits and drove in over 100 runs, Ryan Braun is the big name and Milwaukee had a number of young players fascinate fans' minds. Through it all, Santana had a quietly productive season, batting .278/.371/.505 with a career-high 30 home runs, a team-leading 88 runs, 85 RBI and 15 steals.
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Underappreciated - pitcher: Brent Suter
When Chase Anderson -- and later, Jimmy Nelson -- suffered injuries, Suter, who began the year in the bullpen answered the call. The Brewers won the final six games that Suter started. Overall in 14 starts, Suter had a 3.45 ERA and 1.223 WHIP -- a more-than-adequate fill-in. In addition, lefties hit just .192/.259/.282 against Suter.
Gold Glove: Orlando Arcia
If you watched any games this season, chances are you saw Arcia make a highlight-reel play. The Brewers shortstop should be up for a Gold Glove in the National League, much less on the team. Arcia led the NL in such advanced fielding statistics as Total Zone Runs, Range Factor per 9 innings and Range Factor Per game as well as double plays. Having just turned 23 in August, we have a feeling Arcia should clear out some space in his trophy case.
Associated PressDanny Karnik
Can't wait until next year: Brett Phillips
Lewis Brinson might have gotten a lot of the prospect love, but it was Phillips who made an impact with the Brewers. The beloved minor-leaguer with a viral laugh quickly morphed into a legitimate big-league outfielder with a deadly arm. Phillips needed to play in just 37 games to boost his WAR to 1.4, enough to tie Eric Thames for sixth on the Brewers. He hit .308/.390/.462 in the final month as manager Craig Counsell didn't hesitate to put the rookie in the lineup during a playoff chase. Phillips also showed off his rocket of an arm, recording four assists from center field. Brewers fans can’t wait to see what’s in store for Phillips … and opposing baserunners are staying as close to first base as possible.