Observations from first week of Brewers 2020 season

Major League Baseball is finally back! We’re one week into the season, which normally isn’t that much, but in this shortened year the first six games for the Milwaukee Brewers accounts for 10% of their schedule.

That being said, here’s some observations from the first week of the Brewers’ 2020 season:

 

WOODRUFF IS AN ACE

In case you had any doubt. Woodruff was simply dominant at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, allowing just one hit in 6 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out 10. He’s just one of 15 pitchers who toiled more than six innings in a start in baseball’s first week. Overall, he’s pitched 11 1/3 innings allowing only two runs on five hits with two walks and 15 strikeouts.

 

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SOGARD HAS HIS SPOT

One of a number of infielders added this offseason by Milwaukee, it’s Sogard who has found a regular role – at third base, a position he had appeared at in only 38 games in his previous nine MLB seasons. The Brewers have faced four right-handed starting pitchers thus far and in each Sogard was batting leadoff. He’s only 3-for-16 but has walked seven times (with only one strikeout), giving him a .435 on-base percentage. Just what you’re looking for at the top of the lineup.

 

COUNSELL HAS HIS PLATOON LINEUPS

Subject to change of course, but manager Craig Counsell has, for the most part, used similar lineups based on the opposing starting pitcher. Against right-handers, he’s mainly used Sogard at third and Omar Navarez at catcher along with the regulars. Against lefties, Jedd Gyorko and Manny Pina enter the lineup. In fact, Counsell used the exact same nine against both righties the Brewers faced – Lorenzo Cain leading off followed by Keston Hiura, Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Gyorko, Avisail Garcia, Justin Smoak, Pina and Orlando Arcia. Counsell has surprisingly rested Braun against three southpaws (in 2019 he slashed .297/.351/.558 vs. left-handed starters).

 

THE OFFENSE HAS NOT BEEN GOOD

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Brewers in 2020. The Brewers are hitting just .198/.312/.330 in six games – the batting average is tied for third worst in MLB, the slugging percentage and OPS are sixth worst. Only three players are hitting over .250 – Arcia (.357), Cain (.333) and Hiura (.261). Another indication we haven’t seen the true Milwaukee offense – the team has just one stolen base in two attempts. In 2019, the Brewers were second in the NL with 101 steals (with just 25 times caught). It’s a tremendously small sample size (and somehow the team is averaging four runs per game), but maybe it gives hope that there’s no where to go but up.


WHAT’S UP WITH CHRISTIAN YELICH?

Speaking of bad offense … we have no idea what’s going on with Yelich other than he’s in a massive slump, which is amplified both by the fact this is the opening week and it’s a short season. He’s just 1-for-27 with 12 strikeouts. He’s striking out 42.9% of the time (his career average is around 20.0%). You’d expect the guy who led the NL in average, slugging and OPS each of the last two seasons to come around. The waiting is the hardest part.

 

THE PITCHING HAS BEEN MOSTLY GOOD

Of course, there have been bumps in the road, but the pitching, and especially the bullpen, have done well. The Brewers are tied for third in MLB in hits per nine innings (6.1), fourth in K/9 (11.0), sixth in WHIP (1.075) and 12th in ERA (3.91; MLB average is 4.20). One bugaboo: Too many home runs allowed – 1.5 per nine innings, which is tied for 10th worst. Newcomers Eric Lauer, David Phelps and Eric Yardley have all looked sharp early on.

 

HADER … DO WE NEED MORE HADER?

Josh Hader didn’t make his first appearance of the season until Monday, pitching one scoreless inning. He got the save, again with one scoreless, hitless inning of work, Wednesday. The more the Brewers win, presumably the more we’ll see Hader. Yes, we’d like to see more of him, but last season he appeared in 37.6% of Milwaukee’s games. He’s been in two of six so far in 2020, so close to his pace. (Still, we do enjoy it when Hader takes the mound.)

 

DESPITE THE NEGATIVES, THE BREWERS ARE IN A GOOD PLACE

Even in a 60-game season, things should turn around for Milwaukee and get back to the usual norm. With the early struggles – especially at the plate – the Brewers are still 3-3 and in second place in the NL Central, just one game in back of Chicago. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis all have losing records heading into Thursday’s games, so it could be worse. Also, keep in mind that eight teams in each league will make the playoffs this year, including the top two in each division. Yes, it’s a shortened season, but also there’s a long way to go. No reason to be pushing the panic button.