Thursday, April 18, 2024

William the Conquerer


The Brewers are an odd team when it comes to their postseason value. The last time this team was truly terrible was pre-Counsell, back in 2016, they've either won the division or snuck in via a wild card spot 5 times since then, and they've won 90+ games three times. However, the only time they've actually advanced significantly in October has been 2018, where they made it to the NLCS and clashed famously with the Dodgers in 7 games, a match that we all thought would recur in subsequent years. 

And in the last few years, the Brewers have gotten to the playoffs easily but then are usually trounced in round 1. Last year they couldn't even make it out of the wild card round after the Diamondbacks came to life. So with Craig Counsell now managing a division rival, and the managing now handed over to Pat Murphy, who's probably never been toasted in a pub on March 17th, the Brewers are trying to get past a rung that seems to have become unattainable to them since the departure of Ryan Braun. 

Yet somehow, on a Brewers team that is without Brandon Woodruff for the season, has lost Christian Yelich for a couple weeks, and have no timetable on Devin Williams' return, the biggest star on the team has become William Contreras, a guy who Atlanta figured they'd get by without [and that's working...alright for them at the moment].

William Contreras deterred a lot of people because he was a late bloomer, later certainly than his brother Willson, who hit the ground running during his rookie year in Chicago. William's 2021 season was a quiet one, where he batted .215 in 52 games backing up Travis d'Arnaud. Of course, he takes off in 2022, becomes an all-star, is dealt to Milwaukee in the Sean Murphy deal, and was figured to peter off there. However, William's 2023 season was his best yet, and his best overall offensively. And now, as the season picture begins to develop for the Brewers, William's becoming one of their most crucial pieces. So far he's hitting .375 with 17 RBIs and 4 homers, with a 1.1 WAR after 3 weeks. Even on a team with Willy Adames hitting up a storm, Jackson Chourio making the moment his own and Brice Turang stealing all the bases, Contreras is making the most pronounced step forward, which says a lot for a guy I thought the Braves essentially gave up on.

That's the thing about this Brewers team, and I think it's something I like: this is an insanely rookie-centric squad for a competitor. Oliver Dunn, Jackson Chourio, Joey Ortiz and D.L. Hall are all integral parts of this team, and at the very least Chourio and Ortiz are playing like regulars. You also have to factor in all the second-year guys: Blake Perkins, Brice Turang, Abner Uribe, Sal Frelick, Joey Wiemer and Andruw Monasterio. And a lot of them are improving on their 2023 numbers; Turang and Perkins are better at the plate, while Uribe's looking like a fun closer. And remember, Jefferson Quero's on the 40-man waiting for somebody to drop. So this is a very young team, with a lot of players establishing themselves right now. Which is why it's so cool that, at the moment, the people seen as veteran authority figures are still-young guys like Contreras, Freddy Peralta, Willy Adames and Rhys Hoskins.

I think the Brewers could get a lot done, but part of me worries how much they'll be able to accomplish without Yelich, and how their inexperience could undo them long-term. Still, if William Contreras keeps it up they'll at least have another confident pillar to rely on.

Coming Tonight: The last few seasons he's gotten off to a slow start and started dominating midyear, and this year he decided with a ring under his belt he can just skip to the good part.

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