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2021 NLDS Preview: What Brewers lack in pop, they make up for with their collective glove

Pictured here is Willy Adames, caught in the act of run prevention.

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Yesterday we took a look at Milwaukee’s formidable pitching staff ahead of their NLDS showdown with our Braves. Now it’s time to examine what the Brewers have in store when it comes to their lineups. Generally speaking, this isn’t exactly a super imposing group but I’m sure that if you’ve clicked on this article then you’d like to know a little bit more about what the Brewers have to offer. Go ahead and settle in, because I’m about to break this down for y’all.

As a team, the Brewers haven’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball here in 2021. Milwaukee as a team averaged 91 wRC+ over the course of the regular season. To put that in perspective, they finished tied with the Baltimore Orioles. They also tied with the Orioles in Isolated Power, as both of these teams finished with a team ISO of .163. Their team wOBA looks a little bit better since they finished with .310 in that department, but that’s still not great. Either way, it’s not particularly great that this lineup has more in common with a team that won 52 games than your usual playoff contenders, but hey, that’s the power of pitching and defense.

Yeah, let’s talk about fielding on the internet, which is totally not a contentious and controversial thing to discuss in online baseball circles. Anyways, FanGraphs has the Brewers rated as the top defensive team in all of baseball. It was something that the Brewers’ front office targeted as a place for improvement in the offseason and as it turns out, they succeeded wildly in that department. FanGraphs has them with a team DRS of 57, while Fielding Bible gave them credit for 62 Defensive Runs Saved. Either way, it’s one of the best marks in all of the National League and a decidedly huge improvement over what it was in recent years. If this team starts booting it around the place during this series, it’ll be a shock.

Going back to their batting, the clear danger man in this lineup is Willy Adames. Adames went from basically just floating around earlier this season with the Rays to breaking out with the Brewers the second he touched down in Wisconsin. He’s hit .285/.366/.521 in Milwaukee, with 135 wRC+, .349 wOBA and .236 ISO. Adames has hit 25 dingers this year, and 20 of them came after he joined the Brewers. The change of scenery did wonders for the big-swinging shortstop and he’s been Milwaukee’s best hitter since they traded for him.

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

After Adames, there’s just a lot of decent-but-not dangerous hitters that Milwaukee could deploy in their lineup. Avisail Garcia is the next-best power hitter on their team, as he’s clubbed 29 homers this season while carrying around a .228 ISO along with 115 wRC+. Kolten Wong and Luis Urias have been perfectly fine at the plate as well, as both of them have been hovering around 110 wRC+ for most of the season. Tyrone Taylor has also got some pop in his bat and could be one of those lightly-regarded guys who comes up big in the Postseason if things go Milwaukee’s way.

That’s now five guys who I’ve talked about before getting to 2018 MVP Christian Yelich. Yes, Yelich is still a regular in the Brewers lineup but this is not the same guy who tormented the National League for his first two seasons in Milwaukee. He didn’t have a great season in 2020 and found himself in the same position in 2021. He’s no longer hitting for serious power (he only had nine homers this year and his Isolated Power was a paltry .125) and he’s hitting just well enough to stay afloat with a 101 wRC+ and .325 wOBA. He’s still someone to be wary of because athletes have a knack to suddenly wake up in the blink of the eye but let’s just say that the Braves pitchers will have bigger fish to fry in this series.

Their catching situation basically sums up why this Brewers team is so good. Omar Narvaez is their primary catcher and while his stats at the plate are nothing to write home about, he’s one of the best defensive catchers in baseball today. When it comes to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric, Narvaez finished with an FRAA of 10.5 — trailing only J.T. Realmuto (14.8) in that department. Manny Pina is a similar story: He’s bang-on average at the plate but at the same time, he’s very good behind the plate and can be counted on if they need to put him in.

St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Lorenzo Cain is still running around and absolutely can counted on if they need him for some incredibly reliable defense. Daniel Vogelbach has been a decent enough hitter in limited playing time for Milwaukee this season and old friend Jace Peterson has been living up to that “On Base” nickname that he got when he played for the Braves before things started going south for him here. Jackie Bradley Jr. is basically just here to roam the outfield and maybe get a hit every now and then.

In summation, this is not a scary team when it comes to what they can do at the plate. They have a couple of real big boppers in the lineup but other than that, there’s nothing that strikes fear into your heart. The Braves have seen some fearsome lineups in their recent playoff history and this particular Brew Crew is not one of those lineups. With that being said, they absolutely need to be respected because they’re one of the best teams in baseball when it comes to defense.

While Milwaukee’s rotation has been receiving plenty of praise this season, it also helps that the guys behind those pitchers have been playing lights-out when it comes to fielding the ball. Awesome pitching and great defense can take you a long way in the Postseason, and that is what makes the Brewers a very dangerous team heading into October.

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