The Milwaukee Brewers had a legitimate path to the World Series. A starting staff featuring two Cy Young candidates and Freddy Peralta should have been enough to stymie any offense. It was enough to keep Atlanta off the board for the most part. In four games, the Brewers only gave up 12 runs and never more than five in a game. Asking any offense for three or four runs shouldn’t be a problem, but it was for Milwaukee.
Between Rowdy Tellez’s two-run shot in the seventh inning of Game 1 and Omar Narváez’s RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 4, the Brewers failed to scrape a single run across the plate. In 125 at-bats, Milwaukee hitters had 24 hits, and only five of them went for extra bases.
Credit is due to Atlanta’s staff, of course. Taking on Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Charlie Morton is a tough assignment, and the Brewers' offense wasn’t up to it. In the regular season, Brewers hitters ranked 14th in OBP, 19th in wOBA, 21st in xwOBA, 23rd in wRC+, and 23rd in SLG. Elite starting pitching only gets a team so far when great starting pitching quiets the bats.
Entering the offseason, the top priority is clear: get more offense. Willy Adames and Kolten Wong are solid in the middle infield even if Wong never eclipses his 109 wRC+. Christian Yelich probably isn’t this bad, so left field is taken care of. Omar Narváez’s improved defense behind the plate makes up for his decreased offense, and it’s unlikely there’s a better option on the market.
Those are the areas requiring the least attention, and then there are some question marks. Avisaíl García has a mutual option for 2022, so if he returns, he shores up right field. If we buy Luis Urías’s 111 wRC+ is for real, that covers third.
That might sound like the Brewers’ situation isn’t as bad as their numbers indicate, but only two of the above hitters had a 115 wRC+ or better and one of them might not come back.
Centerfield and first base are the two glaring holes, but the Brewers will need to decide what to do with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Lorenzo Cain. Cain will be 36 next year, so he’s at the age where his bat doesn’t need to recover. Bradley is coming off an abysmal year, and he’s never been a great hitter. A super-utility player like Kris Bryant or Chris Taylor would give Cain or JBJ opportunities to rebound and insurance if they don't while deepening the infield.
Neither Rowdy Tellez nor Daniel Vogelbach have proven they deserve a starting role. Even if the designated hitter comes to the National League in 2022, having both on the roster seems a bit redundant. If Freddie Freeman and/or Brandon Belt are allowed to walk, either would be a major upgrade. Anthony Rizzo hasn’t been great since 2019, but left-handed power hitters who draw walks tend to do well in Milwaukee. Those three are going to be in high demand, and the options beyond them aren’t much better than sticking with Tellez or Vogelbach or hoping Keston Hiura figures it out.
The Brewers will compete again in 2022. Their pitching and defense will see to that. Whether they hit enough to make it farther than they did this year is up to how the winter goes.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.