The 9 greatest players in Milwaukee Brewers history
While they did give up future All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley as part of a package of four prospects that went back to Cleveland, the Milwaukee Brewers made one of the best trades in franchise history when they acquired CC Sabathia in July of 2008.
In 17 starts as a Brewer, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, 2.44 FIP and seven complete games, three of which were shutouts. Sabathia put up a staggering 4.7 fWAR in what amounted to less than half of his starts during the 2008 regular season.
The addition of Sabathia helped the Brewers to reach the postseason for the first time since 1982, when they reached the World Series as the *American League* pennant winners.
Unfortunately for Brewers fans, Sabathia was always seen as a rental, with the team unlikely to make the necessary investment to retain him after they were eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2008 NLDS. Instead, Sabathia departed in free agency for the New York Yankees, where he would spend the final 11 seasons of his career.
Like Rollie Fingers, Sabathia had too short of a stint in Milwaukee to find his way on this list, even if he was incredibly dominant in his time with the franchise. Those two -- along with the likes of Don Money, Richie Sexson, George Scott, Jonathan Lucroy, Dan Plesac, Josh Hader, Jeromy Burnitz, Gorman Thomas, Jim Gantner and Christian Yelich -- fell just short of cracking our countdown of the nine greatest players in Brewers history:
9. Geoff Jenkins (1998-2007)
Best Season as a Brewer: 2000 - .303/.360/.588 with 34 home runs, 94 RBIs, 33 walks, .948 OPS, 137 OPS+ and a 4.5 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .277/.347/.497 with 212 home runs, 704 RBIs, 394 walks, 1,221 hits, .843 OPS, 116 OPS+ and 24.2 fWAR
One of the most underrated outfielders of his era, Jenkins had an uppercut swing with thump, which allowed him to hit 212 home runs as a Brewer, the fourth-best mark in franchise history. An All-Star in 2003, Jenkins is also in the top five in both doubles (287) and extra-base hits (521) in Brewers history.
8. Jeff Cirillo (1994-1999; 2005-2006)
Best Season as a Brewer: 1998 - .321/.402/.445 with 14 home runs, 68 RBIs, 79 walks, .847 OPS, 123 OPS+ and a 6.5 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .307/.383/.449 with 73 home runs, 418 RBIs, 374 walks, 1,000 OPS, 113 OPS+ and 25.9 fWAR
It may surprise you, but Cirillo's .307 batting average is the highest mark in the history of the Brewers. The two-time All-Star is also in the top seven among all Brewers players in defensive WAR (6.4), on-base percentage (.383), OPS (.831) and doubles (217). He's a pretty clear example of a player who wasn't appreciated enough because he played on some bad teams during The Steroid Era.
7. Prince Fielder (2005-2011)
Best Season as a Brewer: 2009 - .299/.412/.602 with 46 home runs, 141 RBIs, 110 walks, 1.014 OPS, 166 OPS+ and a 5.9 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .282/.390/.540 with 230 home runs, 656 RBIs, 566 walks, 996 hits, .929 OPS, 143 OPS+ and 20.0 fWAR
Fielder didn't spend as long with the Brewers as some of the other names on this list, but he was one of the most fun players in the league at the height of his powers, much of which came during the seven seasons he played in Milwaukee. Fielder set a new franchise single-season record when he hit 50 home runs in 2007, and finds himself in the top five in franchise history in career on-base percentage (.390), slugging percentage (.540), on-base percentage (.929) and home runs (230).
6. Ben Sheets (2001-2008)
Best Season as a Brewer: 2004 - 12-14 with a 2.70 ERA, 162 ERA+, 2.65 FIP, 0.983 WHIP, 264 strikeouts, five complete games and an 8.0 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA, 115 ERA+, 3.56 FIP, 1.201 WHIP, 1,206 strikeouts, 18 complete games and 31.9 fWAR
Injuries perhaps prevented Sheets from having a Hall of Fame-caliber career, but he still made four All-Star teams in parts of eight seasons with the Brew Crew. If you need a reminder of how good of a pitcher Sheets was when healthy, his 8.0 fWAR in 2004 was second among all pitchers in baseball, trailing only future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. In terms of all pitchers in Brewers history, Sheets is first in fWAR (31.9), fourth in FIP (3.56), and sixth in both ERA (3.72) and wins (86).
5. Teddy Higuera (1985-1991; 1993-1994)
Best Season as a Brewer: 1986 - 20-11 with a 2.79 ERA, 156 ERA+, 3.40 FIP, 1.208 WHIP, 207 strikeouts, 15 complete games and a 5.1 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: 94-64 with a 3.61 ERA, 117 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 1.236 WHIP, 1,081 strikeouts, 50 complete games and 26.7 fWAR
Perhaps the greatest starting pitcher in franchise history, Higuera had one of the better six-year stretches to open his career that we've seen from a pitcher. Higuera -- who finished runner up in voting for both the 1985 American League Rookie of the Year and 1986 AL Cy Young -- was sixth in fWAR (25.7) among all starting pitchers in the sport between 1985 and 1990. Like Sheets, injuries derailed the second half of Higuera's career. Still, Higuera is second in career fWAR (26.7) and FIP (3.49) among Brewers starting pitchers, while coming in at third in terms of wins (94), complete-game shutouts (12) and ERA (3.61).
4. Cecil Cooper (1977-1987)
Best Season as a Brewer: 1980 - .352/.387/.539 with 25 home runs, 122 RBIs, 39 walks, .926 OPS, 155 OPS+ and a 6.6 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .302/.339/.470 with 201 home runs, 944 RBIs, 367 walks, 1,815 hits, .809 OPS, 123 OPS+ and 29.5 fWAR
The Brewers acquired Cooper in a trade with the Boston Red Sox for George Scott -- who was near the end of his peak -- ahead of the 1977 season. In 11 seasons in Milwaukee, Cooper made five All-Star Game appearances, won three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. On three occasions as a Brewer, Cooper finished fifth in American League MVP voting, including in 1982 when he helped Milwaukee reach their first -- and to this point, only -- World Series.
3. Ryan Braun (2007-2020)
Best Season as a Brewer: 2011 - .332/.397/.597 with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs, 58 walks, .994 OPS, 166 OPS+ and a 7.1 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .296/.358/.532 with 352 home runs, 1,154 RBIs, 586 walks, 1,963 hits, .891 OPS, 134 OPS+ and 43.9 fWAR
While it will be impossible to ever forget the saga that led to Braun being suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs, he had quite a few impressive seasons before and after his darkest moments as both a player and a person. Braun -- despite disastrous defensive marks -- won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year, was a six-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and the 2011 NL MVP, though that award will always be tainted to some degree given that Braun would later admit to PED use during what was his finest statistical season. You can make of Braun's PED history what you will, but he's the Brewers' all-time leader with 352 home runs and is in the top three in franchise history in terms of fWAR (43.9), offensive WAR (50.2), hits (1,963), runs scored (1,080), doubles (408), triples (49), total bases (3,525), walks (586) and RBIs (1,154). From a statistical sense, he absolutely deserves to be this high.
2. Paul Molitor (1978-1992)
Best Season as a Brewer: 1987 - .353/.438/.566 with 16 home runs, 75 RBIs, 69 walks, 1.003 OPS, 161 OPS+ and a 6.0 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .303/.367/.444 with 160 home runs, 790 RBIs, 755 walks, 2,281 hits, .811 OPS, 125 OPS+ and 56.0 fWAR
Molitor would go on to win a World Series MVP as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays and Manager of the Year while leading the Minnesota Twins, but he'll always be most remembered for his 15 seasons with the Brewers. As a Brewer, Molitor made five All-Star Game appearances, and won the Silver Slugger Award twice. Molitor hit .300 or better in eight seasons as a Brewer, and led the league in hits, runs scored, doubles and triples on at least one occasion during his time in Milwaukee. One of the best third basemen in MLB history, Molitor was inducted into the Hall of Fame with a Brewers cap on his plaque in 2004, five years after the Brewers retired his No. 4.
1. Robin Yount (1974-1993)
Best Season as a Brewer: 1982 - .331/.379/.578 with 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, 54 walks, .957 OPS, 166 OPS+ and a 9.8 fWAR
Career Stats as a Brewer: .285/.342/.430 with 251 home runs, 1,406 RBIs, 966 walks, .772 OPS, 115 OPS+ and 66.5 fWAR
Yount is one of the greatest shortstops in MLB history (though he also played center field), and easily the best player to ever suit up for the Brewers. Yount is one of 32 players who have won multiple MVPs, having captured the American League's top honor in both 1982 and 1989. The three-time Silver Slugger Award winner spent his entire 20-year career with the Brewers, and is the franchise's all-time leader in games played (2,856), fWAR (66.5), offensive WAR (83.1), hits (3,142), singles (2,182), doubles (583), triples (126), extra-base hits (960), walks (966) and RBIs (1,406). Yount's No. 19 was retired by the Brewers in 1994, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.