The Milwaukee Brewers are the #1 team in the National League in home runs. They are #2 in all of baseball in hard hit %. The Brewers are #4 in BB%, #9 in SLG. and #10 in OPB. This sounds like a good offensive baseball team yet they are a pedestrian #17 in MLB in runs scored, and that ranking lowers with each passing week. They are -24 in run differential. While pitching has had a great deal to do with the run differential (team ERA of 4.66 for #19 in MLB), it is not the entire story. Being middle of the pack in runs scored when the team is one of the best teams in the sport at hitting the ball out of the ballpark has nothing to do with pitching. The likely culprit is an inability to score runs with runners in scoring position (RISP).
I wrote an article on May 19 about the Milwaukee Brewers being #3 in MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position. I started researching for the article because I, and I believe many of you, noticed around that time the Brewers’ hitters were not coming through with runners on second and third. I was surprised to learn from the research the my eyes were telling me something different than the data were.
At the time I wrote that piece, the Brewers had a team batting average with runners in scoring position of .276 and a SLG% of .503 (good enough for #3 and #2 in MLB respectively). In that article, I was able to discern from May 1 - May 18 the team hit .258 with RISP, which would have put them as a pretty average team compared to the batting averages with RISP for all teams for the entire season to that point. So they were dropping off, but it seemed to be a lull, and not overly concerning. The Brewers were average with RISP for a small window of time, just like teams such as the Cubs and Twins had been for the entire season to that point.
Unfortunately what we were witnessing in the middle part of May was the beginning of a troubling trend. What was a strength early in the season for Milwaukee has become a severe weakness. As of July 15, the Brewers sit second from bottom in MLB in team batting average with RISP (only Detroit is worse). Take that in for a moment and compare that to where they were. Not even two months ago, the Brewers were #3 in MLB in that department and now they are second from the bottom. They were hitting .276 with RISP going into play on May 19. The Brewers now sit at .239 with RISP for the season. That is a significant drop off in just 46 games.
Might there be a correlation to the overall performance of the team in terms of wins and losses? Milwaukee is 21-25 since I wrote the article mentioned, and the trend was beginning prior to that. Couple that with the fact that Milwaukee is -24 in run differential. Yes there have been cases of blow outs, but there are also cases of not taking advantage of opportunities. It seems that has been the case on a grander scale of late.
Since June 1, Milwaukee has had two series where they performed well with runners in scoring position. The first was the series with Pittsburgh (June 7-9). They went 9 for 33 with RISP for a .278 batting average. The second series was the most recent one against San Francisco, believe it or not. In that series, Milwaukee went 10 for 36 with RISP for a .278 average. Hopefully the performance with RISP this weekend continues a trend in the other direction, but right now it just bolsters numbers that would have been worse if not for that series.
Thus far in the month of July, Milwaukee is 15 for 77 with RISP. That comes to a .195 team batting average in such situations. If we take things back to June 1, the results actually get just a bit worse. Since June 1, the Brewers are 51 for 268 with RISP for .190 batting average.
The fall from #3 to second from the bottom in team batting average with RISP is not the only issue haunting the Brew Crew at this point in time. However it is a significant one that needs to turn around and turn around quickly if Milwaukee has any hope of returning to contention and meeting the expectations that were so high coming into 2019.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, ESPN.com, and MLB.com