Right now the Milwaukee Brewers are not hitting, and the pitching staff is burdened with having to keep this team in just about every game. Milwaukee currently stands at 7-10 and in fourth place in the NL Central. They are 4-2 when the pitching staff gives up 3-runs or fewer. In two of those wins, the Brewers’ pitchers shut out the other team. In four of the 3-runs or fewer games, Brandon Woodruff was the starting pitcher.
Pitching, however, is not Milwaukee’s issue, at least not the big one. The issue is offense. While speaking with Bob Brainerd on his new radio program, Brew City Sports Tonight, he suggested I look into the Brewers’ hitting woes in detail. So without further ado, here is the detail, and it is not attractive.
Milwaukee currently ranks in team batting across all 30 MLB teams as follows:
Average - tied #27/28 just one point ahead of Pittsburgh at #29 at .215
OBP - #26 at .299
SLG - #27 at .359
OPS - #27 at .658
Home Runs - tied #24/25 at 18
Strikeouts - #6 (this one you don’t want to be high on the list) at 176
Runs Scored - #24 at 64
The lack of offensive to this point in 2020 has been downright abysmal. Milwaukee would have to have an elite pitching staff to overcome this type of offensive production, and it does not. In fact they are lucky to be just three games below .500. This becomes all the more concerning in the fact that Milwaukee’s teams over the past couple of seasons have been predicated on powerful lineups and dominant down-the-stretch bullpens. The powerful lineup is just not there except on a few given nights.
Think about this for just a moment. There are five games this season where the Brewers have scored six or more runs. Every one of those games resulted in a win for the Brewers. Otherwise the Brewers are 2-9. If that is what Milwaukee is set to be this season then we can sit back as a fanbase and enjoy a fourth place finish in the N.L. Central and maybe worse.
With a team wRC+ of 80, it all comes down to some very specific players not coming through. Christian Yelich is top of the list, and that has not been a secret. With a slash line of .167/.286/.433 and a wRC+ of 93 while striking out 30% of the time, Yelich is not looking very MVP-like. I imagine that will turn around, and we have seen flashes. Unfortunately it has been slow in coming.
Keston Hiura is supposed to be the other elite level hitter in this lineup. He is striking out at an alarming 37.3%. That is not a good sign for this season nor is it a good indicator of his future offensive performance. He has flashed at times as well, but a wRC+ of 93 will not get it done, especially when the Brewers have to rely on a lineup that does not have another elite level hitter to put out there.
Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez were supposed to supplement the losses of Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal. With wRC+ of 89 and 50 respectively, the results to this point have been disappointing to say the least. Justin Smoak was supposed to replace Eric Thames, yet his wRC+ is 69. The only hitter in this lineup other than Yelich and Hiura that might be considered still a high caliber hitter is Ryan Braun. He has had just 22 plate appearances this season thanks to a finger injury, and in that time he has a wRC+ of -1.
There are only four Brewers’ hitters batting above league average to this point in the season. Manny Pina is crushing the ball with a wRC+ of 223. Unfortunately that is over just eight games, and primarily against left-handed pitching. Jedd Gyorko has a wRC+ of 156, but he’s had just 23 plate appearances. Lorenzo Cain left things with a wRC+ of 122. That production is gone until 2021. Luis Urias has a wRC+ of 107, but with just eight plate appearances, the stat is of negligible importance.
The sad fact is, the offense has to get going. The Brewers are in a stretch where they are playing their next nine games on the road, and six of those games are against the Cubs and Twins. They need to tread water, because the schedule does get a bit easier. At the same time, if the Brew Crew fails to hit, it really doesn’t matter how easy the schedule is. Nonetheless Craig Counsell is not in panic mode like many of the rest of us are.
The Brewers’ offense was built for depth — to win the platoon advantage as much as possible over 162 games. But, too many hitters underperforming at a time the 60-game slate forces urgency.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) August 14, 2020
Here’s Craig Counsell on that conflict: pic.twitter.com/rntR1ZyF9E
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and ESPN.com