Yesterday, I gave an overview of who's been contributing most and least in terms of Win Probability Added during the Brewers' first half. For part two, I wanted to take a closer look at hitting, and review the Brewers' best and worst performances of the year.
WPA seems to be a lot more interesting and useful for hitters than pitchers, for a few reasons: One, as I mentioned yesterday, it can't distinguish between a pitcher's 1-2-3 inning and an inning in which the bases are loaded but nobody scores.
Two, as a few commenters mentioned, relievers' stats end up being pretty unrevealing - they get a mild WPA+ for a scoreless outing or any mopup duty (dependent entirely on the manager's situational usage), and then a massive WPA- every time they blow a lead.
And three, for the purposes of MVPs and LVPs, starters are often going to get MVP for a great start, LVP for a terrible one, and neither for the many starts in between - but the quality of those in-between starts is often what differentiates good pitchers from mediocre ones.
So for each game, in addition to the overall MVP and LVP, I logged a batting MVP and LVP (position players only). These totals should add some nuance to the overall numbers we looked at yesterday.
Brewers WPA MVP Leaders (Batting Only)
25 - Prince Fielder
17 - Rickie Weeks
15 - Ryan Braun
5 - Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Casey McGehee
4 - Corey Hart, Mark Kotsay, Nyjer Morgan
2 - Yuniesky Betancourt, George Kottaras, Josh Wilson
1 - Erick Almonte, Craig Counsell, Wil Nieves
Brewers WPA LVP Leaders (Batting Only)
15 - Rickie Weeks
14 - Yuniesky Betancourt, Casey McGehee
9 - Prince Fielder
7 - Corey Hart, Mark Kotsay
6 - Nyjer Morgan
5 - Craig Counsell, Carlos Gomez
3 - Erick Almonte, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy
1 - George Kottaras, Wil Nieves
It's amazing how clearly this reveals the extent to which the offense relies on Fielder, Braun, and Weeks - and the extent to which the others are failing to step up to complement them. This also reveals just how damaging the left side of the infield (especially Yuni) has been to the Brewers' offense in addition to their terrible defense.
Now for the highlights and lowlights of the Brewers' season so far (with actual video highlights where I could find them):
5 Best Brewers Batting Games of the 2011 Season by WPA
5. Casey McGehee, .566, April 10, 6-5 win over Cubs, 1-1, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Casey only needed one at-bat to make this list: With two outs in the eighth and the Brewers down one, McGehee belted a two-run shot to right to score Yuniesky Betancourt and give the Brewers the lead. It's also my favorite Uecker call of the year.
4. Jonathan Lucroy, .569, May 24, 7-6 win over Nats, 2-4, 1 HR, 1 1B, 3 RBI
The Brewers were down 6-2 in the fourth when Lucroy hit his homer, but his biggest hit came with two outs in the eighth, when he singled home McGehee and Brandon Boggs to give the Brewers a one-run lead over the Nats.
3. Prince Fielder, .576, May 20, 7-6 win over Rockies, 2-7, 1 HR, 1 1B, 2 RBI
The game of the season, and the play of the season, in my book. Prince had been out in his last five at-bats when he came to the plate in the 14th and took Felipe Paulino waaaaaaaay outta here to turn a one-run deficit into a walkoff win.
2. Prince Fielder, .583, June 8, 7-6 win over Mets, 2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Fielder erased a Brewers deficit with both his homers in this game: He made it 2-1 with a two-run shot in the fourth, and then capped a four-run rally with another two-run bomb to tie the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth. Tony Plush won the game on a walkoff an inning later, and followed it with his most happily insane interview this year.
1. Mark Kotsay, .798, July 8, 8-7 win over Reds, 2-5, 1 HR, 1 1B, 3 RBI
I know, I still can't believe it either. After the Brewers had been down 4-0, Kotsay gave the Crew a 5-4 lead with a solo homer in the sixth, then came up in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, the bases loaded, and Brewers down by two. He singled to left, scoring two and giving the Brewers their most improbable hero of the season.
5 Worst Brewers Batting Games of the 2011 Season by WPA
5. Prince Fielder, -.201, May 5, 2-1 loss to Braves, 0-4, 3 K
These performances are going to be the least memorable of these groups, so I'll zip through them. Prince batted with RISP with one out in the sixth and two out in the eighth, in a tie game both times. He flied out and struck out, and Brewers lost it in the ninth.
4. Rickie Weeks, -.207, June 26, 6-2 win over Twins, 0-5, 1 BB, 2 K
There were five men in scoring position when Weeks batted. He batted none of them in. Oh well, the Brewers didn't need him anyway.
3. Rickie Weeks, -.245, May 8, 3-1 loss to Cardinals, 0-5, 1 K
This one came down to Weeks' last at-bat, when the Brewers were down 3-1 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Tony LaRussa brought Fernando Salas in to face him, he struck out swinging, and that was that.
2. Erick Almonte, -.403, April 23, 9-6 loss to Astros, 0-1, 1 GIDP
This one wasn't even really Almonte's fault (at least not mostly). His one at-bat was that infamous botched hit-and-run, the one where Yuni stopped short of home and tried to wave Lucroy on to third, and they both ended up getting tagged out. (It was almost a triple play, too.) The worst baserunning play of the season, probably anywhere in MLB.
1. Corey Hart, -.407, May 20, 7-6 win over Rockies, 0-7, 1 K
The Caveman earned the top spot the old-fashioned way - by getting up a ton of times with men on base (four, with a total of seven guys on) and getting out every time. He also grounded out in the bottom of the 14th just before Braun's walk and Prince's walkoff blast.
5 Best Brewers Pitching Games of the 2011 Season by WPA
5. Chris Narveson, .431, May 19, 1-0 loss to Padres, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K
The Brewer bats were dead in this game, but Narveson held up his end of the bargain, shutting the Padres down into the eighth before Marco Estrada gave up a small-ball walkoff sac fly to the Padres the next inning.
4. Randy Wolf, .458, June 13, 1-0 loss to Cubs, 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
Wolf edged Narveson by pitching essentially the same game. Kameron Loe gave the game away in the eighth.
3. Tim Dillard, .472, June 5, 6-5 win over Marlins, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
The only relief-pitching performance on this list. Dillard came in with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth and got a force out at home and a flyout to left to wriggle out of it. Then he pitched a 1-2-3 10th for good measure. Josh Wilson gave him the win by homering in the top of the 11th.
2. Yovani Gallardo, .601, May 7, 4-0 win over Cardinals, 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 6 K
This was right in the middle of the Brewers' horrific offensive slump, so they needed Gallardo to be every bit as brilliant as he was. He didn't give up a hit until Daniel Descalso's leadoff single in the eighth. The Brewers gave him a run in the third on a Casey McGehee double, then padded the lead with three more in the top of the ninth, once he was out.
1. Yovani Gallardo, .760, April 5, 1-0 win over Braves, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K
The Brewers' much-needed first win of the season, and one of the best all-around games of Gallardo's career. He didn't get his usual K's, but held the Braves to two hits in a complete-game shutout. At the plate, he singled in the third and scored the Brewers' only run. (That WPA is included here, too.)
5 Worst Brewers Pitching Games of the 2011 Season by WPA
5. Kameron Loe, -.526, June 1, 4-3 loss to Reds, 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K
Loe came in to pitch the eighth with a one-run lead, got two quick outs, then hit Brandon Phillips with a pitch and gave up a two-run homer to Joey Votto. And that was that.
4. Kameron Loe, -.583, May 11, 13-6 loss to Padres, 0.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 0 K
The Gas Can Game. Loe came into the eighth with the Brewers up 6-5, a runner on first, and no one out. Single, single, sac bunt, intentional walk, double. Boom. 9-6. The Padres scored four more in the inning off Mike McClendon to make it a seven-run lead.
3. Kameron Loe, -.645, July 3, 9-7 loss to Twins, 1.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 1 K
Yup, him again. This time it was a two-run lead Loe blew in the eighth, coming in with runners on first and second and finishing the inning with the Brewers down two, after giving up two singles and a walk. Mark Kotsay's error in left didn't help Loe out at all, either. He pitched a scoreless ninth, though, so yay?
2. Kameron Loe, -.649, June 8, 7-6 win over Mets, 0.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 1 K
The last Loe game on this list, I promise. And the Brewers won the game anyway! Loe got Randy Wolf out of the seventh, but blew up in the eighth again, turning a 2-1 lead into a 6-2 deficit while only retiring one batter. I hope he bought Braun and Prince dinner after this game.
1. John Axford, -.957, March 31, 7-6 loss to Reds, 0.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 K
The Brewers had played a beauty of an Opening Day game, putting Axford on the mound in the ninth to protect a three-run lead. But the Reds blitzed him for four runs and a walkoff win, capped by Ramon Hernandez's three-run homer. Axford was finally avenged by Mark Kotsay on July 8, and karmic balance was restored to the universe.