Experts predicting Brewers will take a step back in 2018

Despite lucrative signings, Brewers could struggle
Experts predicting Brewers will take a step back in 2018
Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:51:50-04

Despite the Brewers trading for Christian Yelich, signing Lorenzo Cain and retaining most of the roster that finished 86-76, second place in the NL Central in 2017, most MLB metrics and pundits have little faith in the 2018 Brewers repeating that success. 

But that isn't news for most Brewers fans, they're used to their team being lowballed. 

Heading into 2017, predicted the Brewers to go 62-100, 73-89, and USAToday 72-90. 

Even after proving the predictions wrong last season, this year's aren't much more favorable. 

Baseball Prospectus predicts 84-78, 3rd place in the division behind the Cubs and Cardinals, ESPNpredicts 83.5 wins, 3rd in the NL Central, BleacherReport says 85-77, 3rd place in the division, and says they'll finish a woeful 78-84, just three games ahead of the fourth-place Pirates. 

The reason boils down to pitching. 

Baseball Prospectus predicts Chase Anderson's 2.74 ERA from last year to rise to 4.29 and Zach Davies 3.92 to rise to 4.15. 

Pair that with Jimmy Nelson being out until potentially the All-Star break, most don't believe the Brewers rotation will be able to hold up.

Last year, the Brewers allowed 4.3 runs per game, 8th best in MLB. Fangraphs, is projecting a massive spike to 4.88 runs per game in 2018. That would've ranked 20th in MLB last year. 

However, sometimes in baseball, offense can be the best defense. 

In 2017, the Brewers were first in the National League with 224 home runs and 128 stolen bases--a deadly mix of both power and speed. Strikeouts were a clear issue, they set the all-time MLB record last year with 1571--but they got enough runs across to win ball games, and the Brewers front office doesn't believe strikeouts are necessarily worse than groundouts, flyouts, or any other kind of out. 

In 2018, they are returning all of the talent that made last year's offense possible, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Eric Thames and others, plus, they've added two more weapons, Cain and Yelich, who both provide a mix of contact and speed. 

Yelich hit .282 with a .807 On-Base Plus Slugging last season and only struck out on 19.7 percent of his plate appearances, 3 percent below league average.

More impressive, Cain hit .300 with a .803 OPS and only struck out on 15 percent of his plate appearances. 

Outside of offense, Cain and Yelich can help the Brewers staff on the defensive end as well. 

Cain has been a positive defender throughout his entire career, accumulating an 11.4 Defensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR)throughout his eight seasons, andYelich has a 0.7 defensive WAR in his five seasons.

Though there should be concern regarding Cain's age, the speedy outfielder turns 32 this April, he should be able to hold up defensively throughout 2018.