How The Brewers Built One Of MLB’s Best Offenses In 2024


Not every team can contend each season. Certain big-market franchises, such as the Dodgers, have perfected the craft of competing in the majors while continuously developing the next crop of young contributors. Others, such as the Orioles, suffered through some down years to build a young core that simultaneously peaks.

Then there are the Brewers, who seem to annually answer the buy-or-sell question with “Why not both?”

At the 2022 trade deadline, despite competing for a postseason spot, Milwaukee traded away star closer Josh Hader for a prospect package that included Robert Gasser and Esteury Ruiz, the latter of whom was flipped for 2024 MVP candidate William Contreras. We’ll get to him more in a bit.

This offseason, the front office was again at a crossroads and decided to trade impending free agent Corbin Burnes for DL Hall and Joey Ortiz. Hall battled injuries and ineffectiveness this spring, but Ortiz has been a catalyst for what has been one of the top offenses in baseball.

The Brewers entered Monday’s series against the Blue Jays with a 6.5-game lead in the NL Central. As summer approaches, we’re again left to ponder if this will be an “all-in” year or if there’s another deal to be made with the club’s long-term roster health in mind. Regardless of the decision, Milwaukee’s results so far this season should inspire confidence in their decision-making process.

A Surprising Offensive Juggernaut

When assessing the Brewers’ 2024 campaign, attention shifts to their lineup. Entering the year, they were seen as a scrappy, speedy group with some interesting young players. But so far, they’ve been a top unit according to several key metrics. Their overall wRC+ is higher than the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Braves, as well as the divisional preseason favorite Cardinals.

CategoryMLB Rank

Some offenses, like the Yankees and Dodgers, excel at both hitting home runs and getting on base. The Orioles lead the league in homers but rank 17th in OBP. The Brewers are interesting because they’re elite at getting on base and stealing bases while still being above average at slugging and hitting homers.

To understand how they’re doing it, we can zero in on individual players. Milwaukee has 11 hitters with at least 140 plate appearances so far. Here are their results entering June 10:

Christian Yelich stands out as a player who, despite missing some time this year, has still been Milwaukee’s best hitter when healthy. His 160 wRC+ is the third-highest of his career, just below his marks in 2018 (167) and 2019 (174). It might not feel like he’s been that good due to the weaker offensive environment in 2024, but Yelich’s contributions have been invaluable thus far.

On the other end of the playing time spectrum, there’s William Contreras. The 26-year-old catcher played in all but one of the Brewers’ first 65 games and has the 15th-most plate appearances in baseball. When isolating catchers only, the gap in plate appearances between him and No. 4 (roughly 50 PAs) is the same as the gap between No. 4 and No. 14.

Among all position players, Contreras ranks fifth in runs scored, seventh in average, 10th in RBI, 12th in OBP and 13th in fWAR. He hasn’t just been one of the best catchers in baseball—he’s been among the best players on a top three NL team.

There were reasons to be bullish on Contreras entering the 2024 season. One was that he succeeded in two ways as a hitter between 2022 (his breakout All-Star campaign with the Braves) and 2023. Notice the sudden reduction in strikeouts upon joining the Brewers:

That improvement coincided with a drop in his barrel rate from 13.4% in 2022 to 9.4% and 9.3% the past two years, respectively.

That Contreras is hitting the ball harder more frequently now than he was in 2022 is likely due to continued improvements with his swing decisions:


Using Robert Orr’s SEAGER metric, which quantifies whether players are swinging at hittable pitches they can do damage on, Contreras has improved from the 86th percentile in 2023 to the 98th percentile so far this year.

While his slugging percentage has only increased from .457 to .475, it’s worth noting the ball isn’t traveling as far league-wide in 2024. Additionally, his expected slugging has improved from .433 to .483 (now in the 84th percentile among all hitters).

A reasonable MVP candidate, Contreras ought to be thought of less as a great catcher only and more as a great hitter who plays every day, bats high up in the order and also happens to play one of the most premium defensive positions in baseball.

Most Valuable Rookie

Jackson Chourio entered the year as one of the best prospects in baseball, but he isn’t the Brewers rookie who leads MLB in fWAR. That title belongs to Joey Ortiz, who also leads first-year position players in wRC+:

Ortiz’s strikeout and walk rates also stand out, and those plate skills are the foundation of the 25-year-old’s game. We’re still learning how to best apply Baseball Savant’s bat speed data to player analysis, but it should be noted that Ortiz ranks in the 86th percentile among all hitters. His 92.1% zone contact rate has been elite not just for rookies, but among all MLB hitters. An unsustainable BABIP hasn’t fueled his strong .284 batting average, and he’s contributing both homers and stolen bases while playing multiple positions in the field and hitting all throughout the lineup.

In all, the Joey Ortiz offensive package can be summarized by good swing decisions, a quick bat and good contact skills. His quality play is especially noteworthy during a season in which many top prospects have failed to make an instant impact in the bigs. Chourio has been 30% worse than league average. Wyatt Langford and Evan Carter have struggled, as has Colt Keith. Ortiz is an older rookie, but his performance has been everything Milwaukee could have hoped for out of the Burnes trade.

A Path to Postseason Success

The Brewers’ lineup is generally imposing, but it’s a group that particularly crushes right-handed pitching. Only the Yankees have a higher OPS against righthanders this season. This makes some sense considering how many young, lefthanded bats are on Milwaukee’s roster. For instance, Brice Turang is slashing .318/.377/.436 against righties while Willy Adames, Rhys Hoskins and Ortiz (all righthanded batters) are performing much better against RHP, as well.

Still, lefthanded starters may be one way to attack the Brewers come playoff time. It’s hard to envision anyone else in the Central seriously challenging for the division crown this summer, but some combo of Ranger Suárez, Chris Sale, Max Fried, Shota Imanaga and Cristopher Sanchez could be waiting for them come playoff time.

Back in the the preseason, both PECOTA and FanGraphs projected the Cardinals to win the Central division. Despite a “will they or won’t they” conversation about trading star players every six months, the Brewers keeps coming out on top. No longer underrated or scrappy, they are, by many accounts, a top three NL team that turned shrewd front office decisions into one of the best lineups of the 2024 season.

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