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The Milwaukee Brewers have lacked for run-scorers through the years

Can Milwaukee break a pair of streaks in 2018?

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Though there are plenty of arguments related to the best way to build and execute an offense, the ultimate goal is simply scoring as many runs as possible. While the Milwaukee Brewers have usually been known for their ability to score runs, the franchise has had two noticeable droughts when it comes to individual runs scored.

  1. Milwaukee has not had a player score 100 or more runs in a season since...
  2. Milwaukee has not had a player score 115 or more runs in a season since...

There are a variety factors that play a role in an individual reaching these marks, but it was still a bit of a shock to stumble across these. Considering the Brewers have nearly always been known for offense, it’s rather surprising they’ve failed to hit these marks recently.

Let’s take a look at the first standard: a player scoring 100 or more runs in a season.

Ryan Braun is the last man to hit the century mark in Milwaukee, scoring 108 times in 2012. That was the fourth straight season Braun reached 100 runs - and his last. Braun played in 154 games that year, hitting 41 home runs with a .391 OBP and .987 OPS.

From 2013-2017, there were 66 instances of a player scoring 100+ runs in a season. This was spread out across 22 different teams, so at least the Brewers were joined by seven other clubs to be shut out in this category over the past half-decade. Still, it’s odd that playing in a hitter’s park and boasting a fair amount of offensive talent, it has eluded the Brewers recently.

In fact, since the start of the 21st century, a Brewer has only crossed the plate 100+ times in a single year 11 times. Four of those occurrences belong to Braun and a pair are thanks to Prince Fielder.

As for the past five seasons, only two Brewers have scored at least 90 runs - Carlos Gomez (2014) and Jonathan Villar (2016). Certainly their speed played a large role in flirting with 100. Last year, the Brewers’ run-scoring output was fairly balanced, boasting three separate players with more than 80 runs - Domingo Santana (80), Travis Shaw (84), and Eric Thames (83).

So why have the Brewers failed to see a 100-run player? First of all, despite some strong power numbers (e.g. second in the NL in HR in 2017), Milwaukee’s overall run production has been below average. The Brewers have ranked 11th in the NL in runs per game the past two years, and have finished ninth on average since 2013.

A second reason, one could argue, has been the lack of a true offensive star with a combination of skills to reach 100 runs. Power, on-base skills, and quality base running work together to bring a player home more often than not. Really, Braun may have been the only guy that fit the bill, and his problem has been being on the field. It’s tough to score 100 runs when you play 140 games or less.

Looking at Santana’s 2017 numbers (.371 OBP, 30 HR, 151 games played), he probably should’ve been able to reach the milestone figure; however, there was an underlying issue that was out of his control. Manager Craig Counsell liked batting Santana fifth in the Brewers’ lineup, meaning the guys behind him weren’t going to drive him in at a very high rate.

A 100-run season would’ve been a foregone conclusion for Santana had he hit second in the lineup most of the year. In 30 games in the two-hole, Santana owned a .438 OBP and scored 0.83 runs per game. When hitting fifth (81 games), he had a respectable .363 OBP, but only scored 0.58 runs per contest. The spot in the order clearly plays a role.

That’s part of the reason Braun, who mostly hit third in front of Prince Fielder (and Aramis Ramirez in 2012), eclipsed 100 runs in four straight seasons. Meanwhile, Fielder only reached 100 runs scored twice in his career (both with the Brewers). Despite a .390 OBP in Milwaukee, he didn’t usually have strong run-producers behind him. Since he didn’t run as well as Braun, either, Fielder had to mostly rely on driving himself in, hence his pair of 100-run campaign came when he hit 50 and 46 home runs.

So will the Milwaukee Brewers finally boast a player with 100 runs again this season? With a potentially deeper, more dynamic lineup, it would seem like they have a good shot. It may depend greatly on how much Counsell shuffles lineups and how many days off certain guys are getting. The outfield depth may be the one thing that thwarts a run at 100.

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are hitting in the top two or three spots for most of the season, they would be the odds-on favorites. Considering the prospect and financial commitment made to those two, they figure to get the playing time (assuming health). Both have strong on-base skills, run the bases well, and have a 100-run season under their belts.

Santana and Braun may not get enough time to put up the numbers. Plus, many see some regression for Santana and Braun isn’t getting any younger. Shaw may have the power, but can he keep his OBP high enough and be driven in by the guys behind him? Jonathan Villar could be intriguing, but he’d have to come close to his 2016 numbers in OBP (.369) and stolen bases (62), on top of finding his way back into the top of the lineup.

With all this uncertainty of a player reaching even 100 runs scored, it would appear the Brewers second drought will definitely continue. Milwaukee has gone 27 consecutive seasons without a player reaching 115 runs scored. It is the longest current drought of its kind in Major League Baseball. Tampa Bay has never had a player reach 115 runs scored, but that franchise didn’t play their first season until seven years after the Brewers’ streak started.

Paul Molitor is the last player to reach 115 runs scored in a season for the Milwaukee Brewers. That was all the way back in 1991 when Molitor scored 133 times, thanks in part to 216 hits, 32 doubles, 13 triples, and a .399 OBP. Molitor hit leadoff in 155 games that season and reached 100 runs without a single teammate driving in 100 runs. Greg Vaughn led the team with 98 RBI, with Robin Yount (77) and Molitor (75) rounding out the top three.

For reference sake, the New York Yankees are the team with the most seasons with a player scoring 115+ runs since 1992 with 19 such occurrences. As far as individual players go, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez each did it eight times during that span. In total, it’s happened 181 times since the last time the Brewers had a guy do it. It would take a truly special season for that to happen in 2018.

In the end, it’s not vital that a team have a player with at least 100 runs scored. Team success can be predicated on a variety of things. However, it would be nice to see at least one guy have a breakout and snap the string of missing 100-run Brewers. The quest for 115 runs - that will probably have to be a fantasy for now.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs