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View from the Other Side: Brewers Questions for Harrison Freuck of Brew Crew Ball

San Francisco Giants v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Jays start a three-game weekend series with the Brewers tonight. If you missed it, Minor Leaguer has a Travel Guide to Milwaukee for any who are heading there for the series.

The Brewers are tied at the top of the NL Central at 40-32 (while the Jays at 39-30 are 12 games back of first, baseball isn’t fair).

They are 10th in the NL in runs per game at 4.35 (Jays are third in the AL at 4.68). And 6th in the NL in runs allowed per game at 4.14 (Jays are 9th in the AL at 4.30).

I sent some questions to Harrison Freuck manager of Brew Crew Ball, SB Nation’s Milwaukee Brewers blog and he was kind enough to answer them.

I have to ask about Rowdy Tellez, he was a favourite of mine. Has he become a fan favourite there? How is he doing?

Tellez has been a great player overall! The Brewers had two big-man first basemen last year (Rowdy and Daniel Vogelbach) but they opted for the former heading into this year, letting Vogey walk to the Pirates in free agency. Rowdy has had some amazing moments this year (NL Player of the Week and tying the franchise record with 8 RBIs in one game) and he’s definitely one of the more exciting players to watch on this team.

I see that Jonathan Davis is on the Brewers too. What is his role? Is he talking Lorenzo Cain’s role on the team?

It’s been less than a week since Lorenzo Cain was released, so it’s still unclear if Jonathan Davis is “taking the spot” of Cain. I’d say he’s definitely a solid fill in so far, but he’s not a long-term solution. The Brewers have Yelich locked up for a long time, but beyond that they have limited control of Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Renfroe and Tyrone Taylor so it’s unclear who will be the long-term player in center. It could very well be Taylor but it could also be one of the team’s top three prospects (Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer and Garrett Mitchell) all of who are nearing the majors.

Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers we are likely to see?

As of this writing, these are the Brewers’ projected starters:

- Friday: Adrian Houser (4-7, 4.24 ERA): He was a solid fourth starter for the Crew last year (10-6, 3.22 ERA) but he’s regressed a bit this year. He’s still had his moments, but he’s giving up more hits (9.0/9 innings vs 7.5/9 innings last year). After a really strong April (2-2, 2.53 ERA), he’s struggled a bit more but he’s still a strong starter that relies on inducing ground balls.

- Saturday: Corbin Burnes (5-4, 2.31 ERA): The reigning NL Cy Young has picked up right where he left off last year. Besides two blow-up starts (four earned runs against the Braves in May and five earned runs against the Padres in early June), he’s been solid in just about every start. Between his last two starts, he’s given up two runs over 13 innings in two victories, and he’s averaging nearly eight strikeouts per start. The one area where Burnes has needed more help is run support, as Burnes is 3-4 when the team scores fewer than five runs but 2-0 when the Crew scores over six runs, despite a worse ERA and K/9 in the latter category.

- Sunday: Unknown: This could really be anybody at this point, as the Brewers have been racking up injuries throughout the season. It won’t be Eric Lauer, who started on Wednesday, and it won’t be Jason Alexander, who started on Thursday. Assuming Brandon Woodruff remains on the IL, it could be either Chi Chi Gonzalez, who made his first start with the Brewers on Tuesday (four innings, three earned runs in a loss), a minor-league call-up (Ethan Small or Josh Lindblom), or a different spot starter. Hard to say at this point though.

The Brewers somehow end up leading late in the game, what pitchers are we likely to see? Do you have faith in their ability to hold on to a lead?

If the Brewers are leading, the conventional bullpen lineup is Brad Boxberger in the 7th, Devin Williams in the 8th and Josh Hader in the 9th. I’d say most Brewers fans (including myself) are more confident in those three than any other arms in the bullpen. Boxberger has proven to be a strong arm (2.39 ERA this season), while Williams (2.33 ERA) and Hader (0.87 ERA and 20/21 in save opportunities) are arguably the best 1-2 closing combo in baseball. Hader has only given up two runs all season, both of which came in a single appearance in early June, while Williams has dominated since the start of May (no runs over the last 18 appearances). Hader has a nasty slider and Williams has a nasty changeup, so they both rack up the strikeouts as well.

Christian Yelich isn’t having a very Christian Yelich-type season, what’s going on with him? Has he just become old?

I wouldn’t say he’s become old. He has his ups and downs, like most players, but he’s been a different player ever since injuring his knee at the end of 2019. He struggled in 2020 and 2021, but this season he’s had a few flashes of his old self, including a recent surge in June (.250/.321/.342 with two homers), specifically since moving to the leadoff spot about two weeks ago. It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against a lot of new pitchers, but I’d expect him to stay hot at home.

The Brewers are just a game behind the Cardinals at the top of the NL Central. Do you think they can pass them and finish first?

They’ve since tied them atop the standings again. The Cardinals and Brewers are the only true competitors in the NL Central at this point, and I’d expect it to stay that way with the Pirates, Cubs and Reds trailing behind. The Brewers are strong top to bottom with pitching while the Cardinals are strong top to bottom offensively, but the Brewers have really struggled with injuries over the past five weeks or so. I’d expect it to stay close as the season moves on, but it really will depend on who capitalizes down the stretch and who picks up some key players before the trade deadline.

Who is your favourite Brewer to watch?

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Willy Adames is my favorite Brewer to watch. Even though he might not be the best player on the field at all times, he’s definitely got a whole lot of energy and he’s a team player through and through. He emulates a lot of the energy Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan brought to the Brewers in the early 2010s, and that’s something the Brewers have needed a lot over the last year or so, especially as Cain has declined and eventually was released. On the pitching side, the aforementioned Burnes and Hader are both solid choices, as their stuff is truly filthy against opponents, no matter who’s batting.

Anything else we should know about the Brewers?

Not much else to add, except for maybe the injuries which I mentioned above. The Brewers have had players going on and off the IL since early May. Currently, they’re missing three key starters (Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Aaron Ashby), several relievers (Jake Cousins, Trevor Gott, Jandel Gustave and Luis Perdomo) and several key offensive players/utilitymen (Mike Brosseau and Kolten Wong). If the Brewers could stay healthy, I’d honestly say they’re one of the better teams in the NL, if not the MLB, but that’s been a major struggle after a relatively healthy April.

Thanks, Harrison.