Adversity on and off the field will test the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers and reveal whether the team will sink or swim against the tide of competition.
Adversity in its multiple forms has dawned on the Milwaukee Brewers‘ 2018 season and how the team handles those difficulties will tell the story of this year’s ball club and shape its fortunes for potential postseason opportunities to come.
ERIK KRATZ (AND THE BREWERS) HAVE DROPPED THE BALL
Recent things first: the Brewers have lost eight of 10 games and six straight. They not only bumbled and fumbled down the stretch to the All-Star break. They simply looked lost, particularly in Pittsburgh, unable to kick-start their offensive potential and unable to hold leads when they had them.
Milwaukee was playing a brutal stretch of 21 games in 20 days, but had the players acquitted themselves just a little bit better on the recent road trip, things wouldn’t look so grim. An area of frequent praise for the 2018 Brewers has been its ability to bounce back from adversity on the field. Tough losses were followed by rebounds, walk-offs or brilliant performances.
But on the swing through Miami and Pittsburgh toward the All-Star break, the bottom fell out and the Brewers started gathering clouds as if this was the 2014 club barreling into September. The team has been saying the right things about bouncing back, but baseball has a tendency to swallow teams whole just when confidence appears to be a virtue.
It doesn’t help that the Brewers have set very little historical precedent, whether real or mythical, for coming through when baseball’s gravity presses on them.
THINGS WILL ONLY GET HARDER
If the team struggled against the Marlins and Pirates, how can it compete against the NL’s heavier hitters? Immediately the heat will be turned up as Manny Machado and the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town. Then it’s three against the formidable Washington Nationals, followed by a trip to San Francisco, where the Brew Crew seldom plays well. Then the Dodgers again!
As the standings sit entering play Friday, the Brewers won’t see a losing ballclub until August 7 against San Diego. The Padres will be the only semi-lame duck on the schedule for the Brewers through the end of the season until the last series against the Detroit Tigers. There are many tough series ahead against the upper crust of the NL, including the Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies and Nationals, against which the Brewers could be fighting for a Wild Card spot.
An astonishing 32 games remain against division foes, which is 50 percent of the rest of the season schedule. This slate includes 14 against either the Cubs or Cardinals and nine against the Pirates, against whom the Brewers are a miserable 2-8.
Talk about adversity. If the Brewers can survive in the lead for the division or a Wild Card spot going into September, fans will know Milwaukee has a truly well-rounded, resilient team to watch for years to come. However, if this harsh road crushes the Brewers, general manager David Stearns could make significant changes heading into 2019. It will be very interesting to see how the club handles this important challenge.
INJURIES AND OTHER TEAMS’ IMPROVEMENTS
The Brewers have the prospect capital to make trades to improve their chances at a postseason spot. However, they must act wisely and not sell the farm for marginal improvements. The Dodgers have already grabbed Machado, who was viewed as the biggest potential difference-maker available at a position of need for Milwaukee. Brian Dozier is not terribly exciting. GM David Stearns has his work cut out for him.
In addition, the Brewers need to fight physical adversity and find a way to stay healthier. Manny Pina, Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies, Matt Albers, Jonathan Villar–injuries have disrupted the flow of the team’s roster even though manager Craig Counsell, the coaching staff and Stearns have done a remarkable Band-Aid job to fill the gaps.
Just imagine what a boost a healthy and productive Braun could be to the Brewers offense.
MENTAL TOUGHNESS AND TEAM CHEMISTRY
Finally, the Brewers must survive the mental adversity of the long baseball season and the ups and downs it brings. The recent controversy regarding Josh Hader doesn’t help matters. Conversely, it could be a distraction the team doesn’t need at all right now.
More from Milwaukee Brewers
- Milwaukee Brewers are making a bold bet with Jackson Chourio
- 5 Pitchers Milwaukee Brewers Should Trade For
- Milwaukee Brewers: 3 trade packages the New York Mets could make for Corbin Burnes
- This former player will eventually manage the Milwaukee Brewers
- Milwaukee Brewers: 3 trade packages the Baltimore Orioles could offer for Corbin Burnes
The Brewers roster has some guys who’ve been around the block and had success, like Lorenzo Cain, but it’s mostly composed of players who have yet to reach the promised land. As much of a grizzled veteran as Braun is, he’s only experienced the postseason twice since his debut in 2007.
Jesus Aguilar, Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Chase Anderson–in truth most of these players are green when it comes to the playoffs and could easily be rolled by more experienced clubs in September and October.
ADVERSITY WILL SHOW US WHO THE BREWERS REALLY ARE
Despite the ominous mood surrounding the Brew Crew at the moment, the harsh reality of the tough stretch they face just to arrive at September with a playoff chance will show us a lot of things that need to be discovered about the Milwaukee Brewers.
Is the team as constituted truly competitive? Are major upgrades to the pitching staff, shortstop and second base required to make a true impact in the NL Central race, or to make a dent in the postseason? How much more must be invested to get the Brewers to the next step on the NL’s power ladder?
The next six weeks could be frightful and stressful for the Milwaukee Brewers. It will be a hard slog for the players and fans alike. But it won’t be boring.