The history of the Brewers is a little complicated. Top-level pro Baseball began in Milwaukee way back in 1901 when the original Milwaukee Brewers were one of the charter members of the newly formed American League. That only lasted a single season before they moved to St. Louis and is actually the origin of the modern-day Baltimore Orioles franchise. The next major league baseball experiment in Milwaukee was in 1953 when the Boston Braves relocated. They remained in the city for 13 years and won a World Series, for more information on this stretch see the Franchise Greats: Atlanta Braves article. They moved on to Atlanta after the ‘65 season and Milwaukee was devoid of major league ball once again. In ‘69, the American League expanded adding two franchises, the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots were doomed from the start. They were in an outdated AAA stadium while the Kingdome was being built, also they had been required to pay the Pacific Coast League a cool million upfront because they were removing the Rainiers, and they had dubious management at the top. It didn’t help that they finished the season 64-98 in last place by a good bunch leaving the franchise deep in the red financially.
Enterprising Milwaukee businessman and minority owner of the recently moved Milwaukee Braves Bud Selig smelled blood. He purchased the Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee and named the new team the Brewers in honor of the 1901 team. The Brewers were in the AL until 1998 when they were flipped over to the NL. As part of the ‘98 expansion, they were placed in the NL Central so that there would be an even number of teams in each league. Later the Astros were moved to the AL because with the expanded playoffs having an odd number of teams in each league was a palatable arrangement. So, as a result of all that, the Brewers are as of yet the only team to play in four different divisions in major league history.
They’ve had minimal success in their 51-year history, having made the playoffs only five times, secured only three division titles, and hang a single pennant from 1982. They lost the ‘82 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. The last few years have been some of the best in franchise history with back-to-back playoff appearances in ‘18 and ‘19. The future is bright for Milwaukee, but we’ll be mostly focusing on the past as we select the best 26-man roster in Milwaukee Brewers’ history.
The Catchers who made the biggest impact on the Milwaukee Brewers were Jonathan Lucroy, Charlie Moore, Dave Nilsson, Darrell Porter, and BJ Surhoff.
Neither Darrell Porter nor Charlie Moore managed to accumulate 10 fWAR while in Milwaukee. Moore leads the franchise in Plate Appearances for a Catcher with 4358 but didn’t do much with them, Porter managed more value in about half the PAs but it wasn’t enough to crack the top 3.
Dave Nilsson played his entire eight-year MLB career with the Brewers. Debuting in ‘92, he played in 100 games six times and was a proficient offensive player. He slashed a well-above-average .309/.400/.554 over 404 PAs in his final and best season before retiring unexpectedly at just 29 years old. The native Aussie had big dreams. He led the Australian National Team in international competitions and purchased the Australian Baseball League to save it from financial ruin. He played internationally in Italy and Australia after turning the league back over to the Australian Sports Commission in ‘02, retired from playing in ‘06, and has managed since. He’s been with his current team, the Brisbane Bandits, since 2014. He was the first native Australian to play in the MLB All-Star game and his 10.0 fWAR is 3rd in Brewers’ franchise history among Catchers.
In 1987, B.J. Surhoff began his career in Milwaukee splitting time behind the plate with veterans Bill Schroeder and Charlie O’Brien. Surhoff quickly took over the regular job and was a top-tier defensive Catcher. In ‘93, the aforementioned Nilsson took over the starting job, and Surhoff showed off his flexibility starting 121 games at 3B. He left the Brewers and went to Baltimore after the ‘95 season. He transitioned to LF with the Orioles and finished his career with them, stretching from ‘95-05 with a three-year hiatus with the Braves from ‘00-02. Most of his value was with the glove but in his last year with the Brewers his bat came alive, and he slashed .320/.378/.492 a 122 wRC+ with 13.4 Off, easily his best season in Milwaukee.
Luuuuuuuuuuucroy, as the locals would chant as he came to bat, broke into the majors in 2010 and was a big part of the 2011 NL Central Division Title team. From ‘11-14 he was one of the most valuable players in all of baseball before injuries held him to 103 games in ‘15. After his second All-Star appearance in 2016, he was traded to the Rangers with Jeremy Jeffress as part of a four-player deal in which Ryan Cordell, Lewis Brinson, and Luis Ortiz came back to the Brewers. Since then, he’s worn Rangers, Athletics, Rockies, Cubs, Angels, and Red Sox jerseys and is hopeful 2020 with Boston will be a turnaround season for him. His 27.1 fWAR from ‘11-14 was 4th in baseball behind Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Miguel Cabrera. He led all players in Def (defensive runs above average) by a significant margin while placing in the top-10 in every major offensive category among Catchers. An argument could be made that he deserved the MVP in 2014 with 8.2 fWAR, a .301/.373/.465 and wRC+ 133 worth 22.3 Off, and 33.1 Def. He finished 4th behind McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and winner Clayton Kershaw. His 208.1 Def, 111 wRC+, and 35.3 fWAR are all franchise leading marks.
Lucroy is the starter going away, the question is who backs him up. Surhoff piled up a little more fWAR and was a better defensive player but Nilsson’s bat was exponentially more productive despite less games and PAs.
C – Jonathan Lucroy and Dave Nilsson
The All-time Brewers’ contenders at 1B are Prince Fielder, John Jaha, George Scott, Kevin Seitzer, and Richie Sexson.
Kevin Seitzer hit .300 over 2292 PAs as a Brewer and has turned that skill into a career as a respected Hitting Coach. John Jaha put it all together for a huge year in 1996 but wasn’t able to sustain it. Neither complied 10 fWAR as a Brewer.
Standing 6’ 8” with seemingly 6-inch sideburns, Sexson was immediately recognizable over his 12-year career. When healthy, he brought real power and above-average on-base skills. After a few cups of coffee with the Indians, he became the starter in ‘99. In July of ‘00, the Brewers acquired him as part of a six-player deal. He proceeded to absolutely mash for the next three seasons before being traded to Arizona as part of an eight-player deal which brought current Brewers manager Craig Counsell to Milwaukee. While only a Brewer for 534 games, he launched 133 HRs and accumulated 11.4 fWAR. All of his value was on the offensive side of the ball, he had 45 HRs and 125 RBIs in ‘01, 29/102 in ‘02, and 45/124 in ‘03. He went to the ‘02 and ‘03 All-Star games and got some MVP votes in ‘03. Defensively, he was a total liability, and the balance held down his value some.
One of the reasons the Brewers were keen to trade Sexson was because Fielder was on his way. The son of Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, Prince had the same earth-shattering power his dad did. He laid waste to NL pitching from ‘06-11 before heading to Detroit in Free Agency. The Tigers traded him to Texas for Ian Kinsler straight up two years later and then sadly in ‘16 a neck injury ended his career prematurely at just 32-years old. Prince launched 230 HRs in his Brewers career, from ‘05-11, 6th among 1B. His best season was ‘09 when he slashed .299/.412/.602 a 161 wRC+ worth 48.5 Off and 5.9 fWAR. He also launched 50 homers in ‘07 becoming just the 25th player to ever reach that mark. His father is also on the list. His 141 wRC+ as a Brewer was 5th among 1B and is the franchise lead among Brewers with 1000+ PAs. Fielder accumulated 20.0 fWAR which was good enough for 2nd in franchise history.
The franchise fWAR leader at 1B is George Scott. He debuted in ‘66 with the Red Sox, immediately a full-time player and impact bat. Six years later they packaged him with five other players for a four-player return from the Brewers. After five years with the Brew Crew, they traded him back to the Red Sox for a player who will be mentioned later. In between, he was a very solid offensive player. He slashed .283/.342/.456 with a 129 wRC+ worth 105.0 Off as a Brewer. His 21.9 fWAR was second only to HOFer Willie Stargell over that stretch (‘71-76).
Sexson crushed offensively but so did Fielder only better. George Scott is the franchise fWAR leader, but his advantage over Prince is by less than 2 wins and Fielder’s 141 wRC+ is much stronger than Scott’s 129.
1B – Prince Fielder
The 2B position has a pair well above the others. The top-5 are Jim Gantner, Scooter Gennett, Jonathan Villar, Fernando Vina, and Rickie Weeks.
Vina, Gennett, and Villar all had memorable moments with the Brewers. However, they ultimately were merely blips on the radar as none of them accumulated even 6 fWAR in Milwaukee.
Rickie Weeks was the 2B for the Brewers when healthy from ‘03-14 before finishing his career with three consecutive different teams, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Rays to wrap things up in 2017. Between injuries and replacement level play he didn’t produce much value except for one massive season. In 2010, he set career highs in games, PAs, HRs, Rs, RBIs, wRC+, Off, Def, and fWAR. He slashed .269/.366/.464 a 127 wRC+ with 29 HRs and 82 RBIs. Only Robinson Cano was more valuable from the 2B position that year and his success carried over into his only All-Star selection a year later. He leads all Brewers 2B in HRs (148), wRC+ (108), and OBA (.347) and is second with 18.6 fWAR.
The franchise fWAR leader at second with 19.5 is Jim Gantner. A franchise cornerstone, Gantner spent his entire 17-year career in Milwaukee from 1976-92. Never an All-Star and only once above league average offensively, Gantner was an effective gloveman and continuous presence for the franchise. The 75.3 Def he earned as a Brewer was the 8th highest total by a 2B over that span.
Weeks’ single-season of excellence or Gantner’s full career of steady mediocrity? Both players have a decent shot at the final roster and I’d rather have the more reliable presence.
2B – Jim Gantner
SS has a much clearer answer, but the top 5 are Robin Yount, JJ Hardy, Bill Hall, Jose Valentin, and Craig Counsell.
Current Brewers manager and Marlins’ playoff hero Counsell didn’t provide much statistical value but obviously made an impression on the franchise. Jose Valentin, a power-hitting infielder, fell a tenth of a point short of 10 fWAR over 2768 PAs for the Brewers.
Billy Hall had a great season in the middle of an otherwise quiet career. A Brewer from ‘02 till he was dealt to the Red Sox in ‘09, Hall played all over the field. In ‘06 he got a chance as the starting SS and made the most of it. His 13.1 Def was 4th in the league behind Adam Everett, Omar Vizquel, and Clint Barmes. On the other hand, his 19.4 Off was 5th behind Derek Jeter, Carlos Guillen, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes. The combination of offense and defense resulted in him being 4th in fWAR. He had career highs in HRs (35) and RBIs (85) and slashed .270/.345/.553 a 124 wRC+. All told his 10.3 fWAR as a Brewer ended up 3rd in franchise history.
Hall was the starter in ‘06 because phenom JJ Hardy had gotten injured. Hardy debuted in ‘05 and was the primary SS until being traded to the Twins after the ‘09 season. While Hardy had pretty good pop in his bat, evidenced by a pair of 20+ HR seasons with the Brewers, most of his value was with the glove. While a Brewer, his 59.9 Def was 6th among SS. He struggled to get on base only walking 8.2% of the time for a well below-average OBP of .323 and overall only managed 95 wRC+. His 11.0 fWAR was second in franchise history.
The highest fWAR among all players in Brewers history belongs to HOFer Robin Yount. He debuted in ‘74 and struggled for his first few seasons before becoming a monster from ‘78-89 with only a few dips in between. He remained a Brewer for his entire 20-year career, retiring after the ‘93 season. He was elected to the Hall in 1999 as a 1st ballot selection along with other 1st ballot superstars Nolan Ryan and George Brett. For Yount’s first 12 seasons he was one of the most well-rounded SS in the league. Offensively, the only SS worth more runs was Toby Harrah from ‘74-85. HOFer Cal Ripken was the only other SS with 100+ Off over that span. He was also worth 92.0 Def over that span which was 11th among SS. The combination of the bat and glove, and great baserunning, resulted in 44.9 fWAR to lead all SS. He peaked in ‘82, with 29 HRs, 114 RBIs, a .331/.379/.578 slash, 164 wRC+, worth 54.7 Off, 16.2 Def totaling 9.8 fWAR for the NL MVP.
But that was only half of his career. In ‘86, at the age of 30, Yount transitioned to CF. While the move wasn’t great in terms of defensive value, his bat took to it quite well, and he logged 4-straight seasons of 20+ Off and accumulated 102.1 Off over the remaining eight years of his career. In ‘89 he was NL MVP a second time, with an elite slash of .318/.384/.511, a 149 wRC+ worth 41.0 Off. The HOFer would be in contention for the All-Brewers at SS or CF but due to positional strength it’s an easy choice to put him in the infield.
SS – Robin Yount
Another HOFer headlines the top 3B in Brewers’ history. They are Sal Bando, Jeff Cirillo, Paul Molitor, Don Money, and Aramis Ramirez.
Sal Bando had a long as effective career in Oakland before wrapping up his career in Milwaukee and earned a spot on this list with his elite ‘78 season worth 5.6 fWAR. Ramirez spent the bulk of his career torturing the Brewers for the division rival Pirates and Cubs, but was an elite member of the 2012 club with 27 HRs, 105 RBIs and 5.4 fWAR. Neither player will threaten the all-squad with less than 10 fWAR in their Brewers careers.
Jeff Cirillo was an 11th round pick for the Brewers in 1991 who made good on his promise in the ‘94 season. He was productive in Milwaukee until ‘99 and then went to Colorado for two years, Seattle for two years, and then returned home to the Brewers for the ‘05 and ‘06 seasons. He wrapped up his career with 78 games between the Twins and Diamondbacks in ‘07. In his first tenure with the Brewers, ‘94-99, Cirillo’s 22.8 fWAR was 6th among 3B. His best season came in ‘98 when he slashed .321/.402/.445, a 128 wRC+, worth 24.9 Off, added 19.0 Def for a career-best 6.5 fWAR. He was primarily a backup during his second round with Milwaukee but finished with the franchise lead in Def (60.8) among 3B and is 3rd in fWAR with 25.9.
Don Money edged out Cirillo with 26.2 fWAR over 11 seasons with the Brewers from ‘73-83. After struggling to produce in Philadelphia the first five years of his career, his bat turned a corner and he accumulated 85.3 Off over his Brewers career. The 4x All-Star peaked in ‘74 with a .283/.346/.415 slash, a 120 wRC+ worth 17.0 Off.
HOFer Paul Molitor played 15 of his 21 seasons in a Brewers uniform from his debut in ‘78 to ‘92. From ‘87-94 he was one of the premier offensive players in the game, his 266.6 Off was 5th among all players behind Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Fred McGriff, and Frank Thomas. He was the runner-up to Lou Whitaker in the ‘78 Rookie of the Year campaign and notched four top-5 MVP finishes. Never great defensively, Molitor split time between 3B and DH which ultimately held down his value somewhat. His best season as a pro was in ‘87, when he slashed .353/.438/.566, a 165 wRC+, worth 49.2 Off and 6.0 fWAR. He finished his Brewers career with the franchise lead in SBs (412), and the positional lead in RBIs (790), HRs (160), and wRC+ among 3B with 1000 PAs (125). His 56.0 fWAR is 2nd in franchise history behind Yount.
3B – Paul Molitor
The Brewers OF candidates are Ryan Braun, Jeremy Burnitz, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart, Geoff Jenkins, Sixto Lezcano, Ben Ogilvie, Gorman Thomas, and Christian Yelich.
Corey Hart, Jeremy Burnitz, and Sixto Lezcano all had very similar numbers as Brewers. Hart had a pair of 30 HR seasons but struggled defensively, Burnitz launched 163 HRs over just a five-year stretch but then moved on, and Sixto had one massive offensive season in ‘79 with a .321/.414/.573, 165 wRC+, 44.5 Off line but didn’t do a whole lot else. Solid contributors, but more complete careers are on the list.
The current Brewers have a superstar OFer putting up numbers that are stratospheric. Christian Yelich has only been in the big leagues since 2013, and only a Brewer since 2018, so there’s definitely a small sample size warning on his profile. However, the offensive onslaught he has wrought the past two seasons has been epic. In terms of wRC+, his 174 in ‘19 led the NL as did all three of his .329/.429/.671 slash. This was his second consecutive batting title although he was barely beaten out in the MVP race by Cody Bellinger to foil plans for back-to-back MVPs as well. His Brewer career slash is .320/.408/.618 a ridiculous 168 wRC+ worth 118.9 Off. Entering his age-28 season in 2020, the HOF seems well within reach even with a leveling off of his production.
In November of 2009, the Brewers gave up on JJ Hardy and traded him to the Minnesota Twins for a struggling but promising outfielder named Carlos Gomez. Six productive years later he was flipped to the Rangers with Mike Fiers for four players including a reliever to appear later in this article. Gomez was an above average defender and base runner but well below-average offensive player for most of his career, however, in ‘13-14 he briefly became one of the best OFers in the game. An All-Star both seasons he set career highs in HRs (24, 23 respectively), RBIs (73 both years), and slashed a combined .284/.347/.491, a 130 wRC+, worth 50.1 Off and added 8.1 BsR and 26.7 Def for a whopping 12.4 fWAR. Only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen were worth more those two years. His 47.0 Def and 20.0 BsR from the OF position are the franchise leading marks and his 18.9 fWAR is 5th among Brewers OFers.
Slugger Gorman Thomas is the subject of one of more bizarre trade stories in MLB history. He was a highly touted minor leaguer who put up big power numbers in the minors before debuting in ‘73. He struggled mightily, only managing a meager .193/.280/.355 slash with 22 HRs over the first four years of his career. For the ‘77 season Thomas was sent back to the AAA club in Spokane where he crushed the weaker pitching to the tune of .322/.436/.640 and 36 HRs. The Brewers were sure they had a productive player but didn’t have a spot for him on the roster. Earlier in the season, they had acquired aging 1B Ed Kirkpatrick from the Rangers for a player-to-be-named-later. On a handshake, the Rangers agreed to acquire Thomas and then sell him back to the Brewers before the ‘78 season for cash. Something clicked and Stormin’ Gorman went on to launch 180 HRs from ‘79 before being traded to Cleveland midway through ‘83. His best season was ‘79, when he had 45 HRs to lead the NL, 123 RBIs, and slashed .244/.356/.539, a 139 wRC+, worth 29.6 Off and 5.0 fWAR. His 19.5 fWAR is 4th in Brewers OF history.
Playing alongside Thomas in the late 70s was Ben Oglivie. After stints with the Red Sox and Tigers, Oglivie was traded to Milwaukee for pitchers Rich Folkers and Jim Slaton. He spent the remaining nine years of his career with the Brewers and put up some impressive offensive seasons. His best was in ‘80, when he hit 41 HRs and drove in 118 runs. He also slashed .304/.362/.563, a 147 wRC+, worth 35.3 Off and paired it with average defense for a 6.6 fWAR, good enough for 3rd among OFers. All told, his 20.8 fWAR as a Brewer was 20th among OFers over that span, from ‘78-86, and is 3rd in Brewers OF history.
Geoff Jenkins debuted in ‘98 and spent the first ten of his eleven-year career in Milwaukee. He hopped over to Philadelphia and got a World Series ring in ‘08 before retiring. Injuries and inconsistent play prevented Jenkins from greatness, but he had several very effective seasons at the dish. He eclipsed a 130 wRC+ 4x and 4.5 fWAR 3x and was an All-Star in ‘03. That season he slashed .296/.375/.538, a 133 wRC+, worth 18.1 Off and 3.1 fWAR. A net positive on defense and 2nd in franchise OF history with 24.2 fWAR makes Jenkins a lock for a starting spot on the All-Brewers.
Phenom 3B Ryan Braun debuted in 2007 with an explosive rookie campaign. He won the ROY belting 34 HRs and slashing .324/.370/.634, leading the league in SLG, a 155 wRC+ worth 36.3 Off. However, he was an abysmal 3B. The Brewers quickly transitioned him into the OF and after a few horrid seasons there as well he got better and has managed so-so defence the rest of his career to-date. He has had a much easier time at the plate. He blasted 30+ HRs in five of his first six seasons and has exceeded 140+ wRC+ 4x. In 2011, he slashed .332/.397/.597, again leading the league in SLG, with 33 HRs, 33 SBs, and 111 RBIs a wRC+ of 171. His 58.2 Off and 7.1 fWAR were 2nd to Matt Kemp but the voters gave Braun the NL MVP. In ‘12, he had another massive year with 41 HRs, 112 RBIs, 30 SBs and slashed .319/.391/.595, a 159 wRC+ worth 50.4 Off. This time Buster Posey edged him out for the MVP. His production has slowed down and the end likely looms just over the horizon for Brauny, but his 43.6 fWAR currently stands as 3rd in franchise history and his career 329.9 Off is 4th among all players since his debut.
Braun and Jenkins are locks but the 3rd spot is up for grabs. Oglivie is next in fWAR but he only has a 1.3 fWAR lead over Stormin’ Gorman who in turn only leads Car-Go by 0.6. The next question is who plays where. Both Braun and Jenkins are corner OFers so Ogilvie’s lack of defensive prowess decreases his chances. Gorman stalked CF but not nearly as well as Gomez. The wild card in all this is Yelich. His two seasons of productivity are so enormous that his claim is impossible to ignore, add to that his ability to play CF and my choice is clear.
RF – Geoff Jenkins
CF – Christian Yelich
LF – Ryan Braun
The NL has no DH but the Brewers spent their first 30 years in the AL so they have some options. The 5 who’s contributions fell outside of the other top-5’s and spent time as a DH are Cecil Cooper, Daryl Hamilton, Larry Hisle, Ted Simmons, and Greg Vaugh.
Of that group, only Vaughn and Cooper accumulated over 10 fWAR with the Brew Crew. Vaughn launched 169 HRs but was a liability in the field and ended up with only a slightly above-average offensive contribution with a 110 wRC+.
Cooper, on the other hand, had a very productive Brewers career. Splitting time between 1B and DH, Cooper was brought to Milwaukee in exchange for George Scott and Bernie Carbo. From ‘78-83 he exceeded 130 wRC+ every season and slashed .319/.359/.512. His best season was ‘80 when he was an All-Star for the 2nd of 5x and led the majors in RBIs with 122. He slashed .352/.387/.539, a 151 wRC+, worth 41.9 Off and 6.6 fWAR. His 201 HRs are 6th and his 944 RBIs are 3rd in franchise history. He’s the starting DH without question.
DH – Cecil Cooper
The All-Brewers carry a standard three position-player bench.
Bench – Ben Ogilvie, Don Money, Jeff Cirillo
Last man off would be George Scott.
The Brewers had some great pitchers over the years but not many stuck around long enough to put up huge numbers. While the top 10 in fWAR all exceeded 1000 IP with the Crew, only three exceeded 1500 innings. The ten competing for the rotation are Chris Bosio, Mike Caldwell, Jim Colburn, Cal Eldred, Yovani Gallardo, Moose Haas, Teddy Higuera, Ben Sheets, Jim Slaton, and Bill Wegman.
Cal Eldred, Jim Colborn, and Bill Wegman bring up the bottom of the pack. All three had sub .500 records with the Brewers and league average ERAs. Wegman led the three with 679 career K’s which is 7th in franchise history. They will not get a spot.
Jim Slaton was Brewer from his debut in ‘71 till ‘83 except for when he was traded to the Tigers for Ben Oglivie for the ‘78 season. He returned to the Brewers in Free Agency a year later and ended up with 12 of his 16 career seasons with the Crew. The first “half” of his career with Milwaukee he was almost precisely league-average with a 3.86 ERA over 1448.2 IP. He threw at least 200 IP every year from ‘73-77 and was particularly effective in ‘76 with a 3.44 ERA over 292.2 IP. Then he had a flashy but ultimately subpar season in Detroit in which he won 17 games but was only worth 1.3 fWAR due to high HR totals and a 4+ ERA. He returned to Milwaukee and had his last truly effective season with a 3.63 ERA over 213.0 IP. In the end, he was never a superstar but until an injury changed things in ‘80 he was a durable righty you could trust for 30 starts and 200 innings and his 117 wins are the franchise lead.
The second-winningest pitcher in franchise history is Mike Caldwell. Caldwell was traded four times in four years, from ‘73-77, and has the distinction of having been traded for HOFer Willie McCovey. He bounced from the Padres to the Giants to the Cardinals to the Reds and finally to the Brewers where he settled in and pitched the last 8 years of his 14-year career. He made an immediate impact in his first full season with the Crew, going 22-9 with a league-leading 23 complete games and a 2.36 ERA over 293.1 IP in ‘78. He was the runner-up to Ron Guidry in the Cy Young race that year and 12th in the AL MVP race. He was effective again the next season with a career-low 2.36 ERA over 235.0 innings worth 4.4 fWAR. Outside of those two seasons, he was little more than average. His 16.2 fWAR is 6th among pitchers in franchise history.
Yovani Gallardo has the 3rd most wins of any Mexican-born major leaguer. After a bit of a false start to his career in ‘07-08, he logged five-straight effective seasons, earned an All-Star selection, Silver Slugger, and top-10 CY finish before being tossed around the league for the last few years of his career. Over 1289.1 IP as a Brewer, Yo’s 3.69 ERA was below league average and he started 30+ games six years straight, the modern version of durability. Despite throwing 180+ IP each season from ‘09-14 he managed a K/9 rate of 8.61, good enough for 9th among starters with at least 1000 IP. He leads the franchise’s starters in K’s, K/9, and is 5th in fWAR with 17.5.
4th in fWAR among Brewers starters is Chris Bosio with 20.5. Bosio debuted with Milwaukee in ‘86 and pitched for seven years for the Brewers before leaving to finish his career in Seattle. Fairly effective as a swingman for his first couple seasons, he earned a rotation spot and delivered a fine season in ‘89. He went 15-10 with a 2.95 ERA over 234.2 IP with 173 K’s and 2 shutouts. Bosio averaged just under 3.0 fWAR during his Brewers career and his 3.76 ERA is an ERA- of 93 which is 7% better than the average guy. So he’s no superstar, but consistent solid production was the name of the game for Bosio.
Bryan “Moose” Haas was a durable starter for the Brewers from his debut in ‘76 to when he was traded to Oakland after the ‘85 season. In general, Moose was an average, talk the ball every day, type of righty. However, in 1980 he had a season to remember. He started 33 games, going 16-15 with a 3.10 ERA over 252.1 IP. So far, that’s pretty pedestrian but above average for his career. The key was his 14 complete games – 25% of his career complete games – which was 7th in the AL. His 4.0 fWAR was tied for 11th and his 5.21 K/9 was 14th in the AL as well. He managed to be a 2+ fWAR pitcher in five of his ten Brewers seasons and his 20.2 fWAR is 3rd in franchise history.
Teddy Higuera was an instant impact when he debuted late at age 27 in 1985. The Mexican-born lefty was the runner-up in the ROY race to Ozzie Guillen. A year later he was an All-Star, won 20 games, and K’d 200 batters for the first of two consecutive seasons. He opened his career with four consecutive 200 inning seasons but then arm trouble began and he ended up with only 1380.0 for his career. Just ‘86-88 were worth enough fWAR to make him 5th greatest pitcher in Brewers’ history. He ended up pitching nine seasons and logging elite K numbers (7.05 K/9) and ERA (3.61) making his 26.7 fWAR the best in franchise history until the career of the next name on the list.
The only Brewers pitcher to pile up 30+ fWAR is Ben Sheets. He was a four-time All-Star, including his rookie year in ‘01 and had a top-10 CY finish in ‘04 despite a losing record. That 2004 season saw him set the franchise record in strikeouts (264) and log a career-low 2.70 ERA over a career-high 237.0 IP. His greatest game was in ‘04 when he became the 4th pitcher since 2000 to strikeout 18 men. His last year with the Brewers, 2008, he tossed 3 shutouts to lead the league and was 13-9 finishing his Brew Crew career 86-83. He was a power pitcher finishing second to Gallardo in career strikeouts and K/9 with 1206 and 7.60 respectively. Among Brewers pitchers with 1000+ IP his 1.20 WHIP is the franchise-best as was career-best 0.983 in ‘04. He was also the Ace for USA team in the 2000 Olympics, tossing a complete-game shutout to win the Gold Medal. He’ll also be the Ace of the All-Brewers.
Sheets and Higuera are the obvious righty and lefty on the front-end of the rotation. After that, the three remaining spots are between Gallardo, Haas, Bosio, Caldwell, and Slaton. Slaton’s longevity and Caldwell’s success give them the edge in my opinion. The last spot is a real toss-up. Gallardo has the K’s and ERA advantage but Bosio was more effective at run prevention as evidenced by his WHIP and fWAR in less games/innings.
Rotation: Ben Sheets, Teddy Higuera, Chris Bosio, Mike Caldwell, Jim Slaton
Reminder from the earlier articles this list is as much about what a player contributed to the franchise as it is about being the best so only pitchers used primarily as relievers will be considered for the ‘pen.
The All-Brewers bullpen candidates are John Axford, Mike Fetters, Rollie Fingers, Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, Dan Plesac, Francisco Rodriguez, Ken Sanders, and Bob Wickman.
Dan Plesac is the franchise leader in saves with 133. He also leads all Brewers’ qualifying relievers with 8.4 fWAR and managed an elite 2.96 ERA over 455.1 IP, a 73 ERA-. Also, the only reliever to ever win an MVP and CY award was the inestimable Rollie Fingers, who the Brewers acquired before the ‘81 season along with Ted Simmons for four players. Over 78 innings that year, Fingers only allowed 9 runs to score, finishing with a 1.04 ERA, 333% better than the league average.
The rest of the bullpen would be John Axford (106 saves, 10.87 K/9), Josh Hader (6 fWAR, 2.42ERA, 15.35 K/9, .085 WHIP), Mike Fetters (2.99 ERA, 79 saves), Corey Knebel (13.02 K/9, 1.20 WHIP), Ken Sanders (2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), and Francisco Rodriguez (2.91 ERA, 95 saves).
Bullpen – Dan Plesac, Josh Hader, Rollie Fingers, Corey Knebel, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Ken Sanders, Mike Fetters
Results and Lineup
Presenting the All-Brewers:
C – Jonathan Lucroy, Dave Nilsson
IF – Jeff Cirillo, Cecil Cooper, Prince Fielder, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Don Money, Robin Yount
OF – Ryan Braun, Geoff Jenkins, Ben Oglivie, Christian Yelich
SP – Chris Bosio, Mike Caldwell, Teddy Higuera, Ben Sheets, Jim Slaton
RP – John Axford, Mike Fetters, Rollie Fingers, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Dan Plesac, Francisco Rodriguez, Ken Sanders
- Robin Yount 6
- Christian Yelich 8
- Paul Molitor 5
- Ryan Braun 7
- Prince Fielder 3
- Cecil Cooper DH
- Jonathan Lucroy 2
- Geoff Jenkins 9
- Jim Gantner 4
Let us know in the comments where we went wrong and look out for the other entries in the series coming out soon.