Milwaukee Brewers 2019 season awards

The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2019 season ended too early in a 4-3 loss to Washington in the National League wild-card game. Now that the dust has settled on that heartbreaker, we’ve decided to move on and reflect on what undeniably was another memorable season at Miller Park. FOX Sports Wisconsin heads to the podium to hand out some annual awards to the 2019 Brewers. (Imagine the backdrop of this article to be an end-of-year banquet at Miller Park’s new “Restaurant to be Named Later.”)

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Most Valuable Player: Christian Yelich

Duh. Yelich was in the running to take home a second straight NL MVP award, much less the top player honor from his own team. Before a shattered kneecap ended his season Sept. 10, Yelich had put together a .329/.429/.671 slash line — all three of those numbers topped the NL, by the way — along with a career-best 33 home runs and 97 RBI. What more needs to be said? This guy is special. Now, where can we send our healthy knees to help out the MVP?

Cy Young award: Brandon Woodruff

Despite missing the entire month of August and most of September, Woodruff was Milwaukee’s most consistent pitcher. After posting an 11-3 record, 3.62 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 22 regular-season starts, Woodruff returned for the wild-card game and held Washington to one run in four innings of work. The 26-year-old looks like he’ll be contributing to Milwaukee’s staff for years to come. We considered reliever Josh Hader for this award (he won it last year), but decided against it due to the seven blown saves and 1.8 homers allowed per nine innings. Disclaimer: Hader is still very, very good.

Rookie of the Year: Keston Hiura

Hiura was Milwaukee’s most coveted prospect since he was selected ninth overall in 2017. Less than two years later, the slugging infielder made his presence known with a two-hit performance in his big-league debut May 14. Much to the dismay of Brewers fans, Hiura was optioned to Triple-A in early June, but called back up a few weeks later after Milwaukee realized it needed his bat in its lineup. Among rookies with 300+ at-bats, Hiura ranked fourth with a .368 on-base percentage and .570 slugging percentage as well as seventh in batting average (.303). Hiura also tallied 19 homers, 49 RBI and nine stolen bases in 84 games. Although his glove needs work, Hiura established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the batter’s box and will enter the 2020 season as Milwaukee’s starting second baseman. Imagine what this kid can do over a full season.

Top newcomer: Yasmani Grandal

A few months after his Los Angeles Dodgers defeated Milwaukee in the NLCS, Grandal signed a one-year free-agent deal worth $18.25 million with the Brewers. What a debut season it was. Grandal found a home at Miller Park, registering a .246/.380/.468 slash line with a career-best 28 homers and 77 RBI. He led all catchers with 137 games behind the dish (and played in 153 games overall). Grandal is likely to decline the mutual option with Milwaukee for 2020 in search of a bigger paycheck, but the Brewers are expected to give “Yaz” a fair offer. They certainly hope he’s back in Milwaukee next season.

Comeback kid: Eric Thames

Thames’ M.O. over his first two seasons in Milwaukee was putting up big numbers for a month and disappearing the rest of the way — like when he smashed 11 homers in March/April of 2017 and managed to hit “just” 20 the rest of the season. Entering 2019, Milwaukee looked set at first base with Jesus Aguilar manning the corner. However, Aguilar struggled to a .225 batting average and was traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline. That left first base to Thames — an opportunity for him to prove he’s capable of putting up consistent numbers. He did just that. Thames gave the Brewers solid defense at first base and smacked 25 home runs while logging a .274/.371/.563 slash line at home. He also led the team in postgame interview enthusiasm, a *very official* stat we take seriously at FOX Sports Wisconsin.

Mr. Unexpected: Jordan Lyles

The date was July 29, 2019. General manager David Stearns sent a minor-league pitcher to Pittsburgh for Lyles, who had allowed 39 runs over his final nine starts (36 2/3 innings) with the Pirates, adding up to a 9.57 ERA. Yawn. That’s what most people thought at the time, anyway. The change of scenery did wonders for Lyles. He went on to notch a 7-1 record, 2.45 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 11 starts, becoming Milwaukee’s most dependable pitcher over the final two months of the season while Woodruff rehabbed from injury. The Brewers won 10 of 11 games Lyles started, the only defeat coming in a 1-0 loss to Texas in which the right-hander yielded just one earned run across seven frames. Anyway, this type of dominance couldn’t have been in even Stearns’ wildest deadline dreams. And for that, Lyles is our 2019 Mr. Unexpected.

Can’t wait ‘til next year: Brent Suter

It was fun watching Suter cheer on his team with a bulky brace in the Brewers dugout last season, but it was even better witnessing his comeback. Suter underwent Tommy John surgery in late July 2018. Thirteen months later, he made his return to the big-league mound, but as a reliever instead of in the rotation. In his first inning back, Suter allowed a solo home run to Houston’s Yordan Alvarez, the second hitter he faced. The “Raptor” didn’t yield another run the rest of the season. Suter posted a 4-0 record, 0.49 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings not to mention a scoreless frame in the wild-card game. He thrives in the long reliever role (seven of his appearances were 2+ innings), but those 10 outings in 2019 could position Suter to compete for a spot in the Brewers’ starting rotation next season.

Best moment: Ryan Braun’s grand slam vs. Cardinals (Sept. 15)

On Sept. 5, the Brewers lost 10-5 to Chicago to fall five games out of a playoff spot. Milwaukee then rattled off seven straight wins to inch their way back into the conversation. But on Sept. 15, the Brewers’ unexpected push for the postseason “got real,” as the kids would say. On a Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, the Brewers trailed St. Louis 4-3 heading into the ninth. Three walks loaded up the bases for Braun. On a 3-2 count with two outs and the Brewers’ playoff hopes still hanging by a thread, Braun connected on an 83-mph slider from the Cards’ Junior Fernandez and sent it over the center-field wall. Grand slam. The Brewers hung on for a 7-6 win, closing the gap to one game behind Chicago for the second wild-card spot. Braun’s home run also marked the Brewers’ 232nd homer of the season, shattering the franchise’s single-season dinger record set in 2007.