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Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #5: Willy Adames’ unusual season and the new Christian Yelich

Answering this week’s questions for the weekly mailbag

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball mailbag!

Everyone knows the drill by now. Let’s dive into the questions.

metalmilitia844 asks:

What is going on with Adames? It seems as if he’s completely selling out for power this year and is only focused on hitting the ball into the parking lot. He’s turned into Cris Carter. Nice HR total but nothing else. His OBP have plummeted as a result. Have you noticed anything with his approach?

Bad luck on balls in play has been a major player in Adames’ unusual slash line. His combined BABIP over his first four seasons was .342. This year, it has plummeted to .225.

What makes this even more peculiar is that he is squaring up the ball more than he did last season. His average exit velocity and barrel rate are 90 mph and 15.6%, respectively.

Because home runs are not included in BABIP, one might theorize that Adames is crushing his home runs but making weaker contact on other batted balls. We can remove those long balls from the equation to find out. His average exit velocity on non-homers (88.5 mph) is identical to last year, and his barrel rate is slightly better (5.8% to 6.7%).

Adames is currently sporting a below-average line drive rate for the first time since his rookie season in 2018, and his fly ball rate has skyrocketed to 47%. Such a combination can lead to a lower BABIP and suggest that he is trying to hit for more power, but it’s not nearly enough to account for a BABIP drop of over 100 points.

Adames has the tenth-lowest BABIP among players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, making him one of baseball’s unluckiest hitters. He has been murdering the baseball, and if that continues, better results should be coming soon.

Is it time CC starts getting Hiura more into the lineup against righties? Maybe an everyday player against righties? The results so far this year for Hiura against RHP are pretty staggering. .296 average with a .424 OBP and an OPS over 1000

Hiura still has a .476 BABIP and 43% strikeout rate against right-handers this season. It doesn’t matter how hard he hits the ball when he makes contact. His numbers are going to crash.

The Brewers could play him more and see how far he makes it until that crash hits, but I understand why they’re keeping him in more of a part-time role. If he stays anywhere close to this level of production for a few more weeks, they should try to sell high on him.

wiguy94 asks:

Should we be concerned about the extended slump Wiemer is having? In June he slashed .229/.326/.361 and in July he is currently slashing .105/.150/.105

Wiemer turned heads in his first professional season when he hit a combined 27 home runs in 109 games between Single-A Carolina and High-A Wisconsin. He’s followed that up with 15 home runs in 69 games for Double-A Biloxi this year, proving that his power is for real.

However, one element of Wiemer’s season that has gotten virtually no coverage is his tendency to swing and miss. After striking out 22.2% of the time last season, he has punched out at an alarming 30% rate this year as a 23-year-old.

The whiffs have been there all season, even when Wiemer was on fire during the first couple of months of the minor-league season. The difference is that he no longer seems to be driving the ball. His BABIP was .381 through the end of May. Since the start of June, he has a .281 BABIP and has hit just three home runs.

The power outage could be due to an injury, as Wiemer sat out the entire first week of June with no public explanation. The power is legitimate and will come back. My main concern is the whiffs.

Captain What’s His Name asks:

Mark A mentioned that there is a belief that this deadline will see more MLB for MLB player trades as more teams will be in playoff contention trading from strengths to improve weaknesses. If this is true could you see the Brewers dealing Wong and shifting Jace to a full time player? What other guys could be on the move from the major league team?

Peterson has practically been a full-time player by filling in for various injured players, and he’s been one of this year’s most valuable Brewers in the process. That said, I don’t think the Brewers will be especially inclined to move Wong because it would cut into their position player depth.

I don’t envision the Brewers dealing from their major league roster because I don’t think their roster is especially deep. Their position player group is an area of mediocrity, not of strength. Injuries to the pitching staff have forced them to turn to upper minors depth arms more than they would like, so they’re not exactly in a position to deal from that group, either.

There are two players I could see getting moved. Trading Pedro Severino would alleviate a potential roster crunch. As I said above, I think selling high on Hiura would be wise.

Even then, I’m not convinced that either is all that likely to be dealt. Severino is a much-needed right-handed bat who has been solid against left-handed pitching in recent seasons. With Omar Narvaez hitting free agency after 2022, he could have more of an expanded role next year. Maybe you can find an organization enthralled by Hiura’s ability to murder the baseball when he puts it in play, but most teams will likely view his swing-and-miss profile as too risky.

Ben Reagan asks:

Can this defense be saved? Catcher and shortstop are good. Tellez can catch a baseball but has the range of a lamppost. Wong looks like an imposter. Urias can make a play but the arm remains an adventure. Yelich and McCutchen are bad, Taylor is average, Davis is OK to good but the bat has proven unplayable as a 31 year old. Renfroe has a great arm but his range is just OK. Hiura is a DH. Jace is good to OK depending on where he plays. Is this a “can’t be helped” situation?

While the defense has not been as good as the Brewers likely anticipated, I think concerns about their glovework are overblown. Yes, they’ve had their share of ugly misplays all year long, but they still rank 10th in baseball with 26 Defensive Runs Saved.

If you’re looking for an immediate shakeup to improve the defense, it’s benching Kolten Wong or giving him more at-bats as the designated hitter. That might be a hard pill for both the Brewers and Wong to swallow, but the reality is that he has been a poor defender this year by both the eye test and advanced metrics.

Jace Peterson, meanwhile, has turned into a fantastic defensive third baseman (11 DRS, 6 OAA). Slotting him in at the hot corner and shifting Urias to second base is probably the best alignment moving forward.

I think Renfroe has turned in strong work in right field. Not only does he have a cannon, but his range has also graded out extremely well (10 DRS). He’s similar to Avisail Garcia in that he can cover plenty of ground but doesn’t always appear graceful in the process.

The center field defense will depend on how the Brewers approach the position at the trade deadline. Will they target a bat-first player, a defensive specialist, or someone who does a little of both? Maybe someone like...

@BenzDh asks:

I talked about Taylor last week, and I believe he’s exactly the kind of player the Brewers will try to acquire. His track record at the plate is spotty, but he’s been slightly above-average this year (108 OPS+). His defense in center has been consistently strong, and this year is no different (8 DRS). Taylor is controlled through the 2023 season on a two-year extension he signed with the Royals last September.

Duhawk Steve asks:

26 games in and Yelich is still amazing as a leadoff hitter: .304/.408/.431 for a 138 wRC+. That is the 5th best wOBA in baseball as a leadoff hitter. His .372 BABIP is certainly contributing, but perhaps as that declines to normal his power might make up for it. How many PA’s until you declare... he’s back?

Yelich is not back, nor is he anywhere close to being back. Instead, this is a new version of Yelich.

The former MVP’s productive run in the leadoff spot began right as I said he was entering a make-or-break period of his career. Yelich had been slumping badly after hitting for his third career cycle in May, so I argued that the remainder of the first half would be a pretty telling indicator of who he is now as a hitter.

Yelich has since put up strong numbers in his new assignment at the top of the order. He’s hitting fewer fly balls and not hitting the ball as hard as he did earlier in the year. Instead, he is drawing plenty of walks and hitting a ton of line-drive singles, making him an on-base machine.

He is not hitting for much power. Just six of his 32 hits as the leadoff man have gone for extra bases, resulting in an underwhelming .123 ISO.

However, the kind of contact Yelich is making—consistent line drives hit softly enough to fall in front of outfielders—is a key ingredient in posting a high BABIP. Add in the fact that he has a career .349 BABIP, and I think this is a sustainable way for Yelich to be productive.

It’s not the kind of hitter the Brewers are paying him to be, but it’s something.

Junbug11 asks:

With the introduction of the DH in the NL and the creation of a more balanced schedule, what do you think of a proposal to shuffle divisions every year? A division lottery would be a great way to kick of the winter meetings, no?

I think shuffled divisions would add intrigue to the offseason because it could dramatically impact how teams approach their winter.

For example, the Brewers knew it would not take a 100-win team to win the National League Central because the Cardinals were their only real competition for the division. That would not be the case if they suddenly found themselves in the same division as a big-market powerhouse. Perhaps that would prompt them to be more aggressive in upgrading the roster.

Of course, for every team that increases their efforts to get better because they’re suddenly facing stiff competition, there will be teams who decide to throw in the towel and tank instead. I would be in favor of something like this, though.

Gorilla Bean asks:

Will you commit to answering the question with the most recs each week, even if it’s stupid? Let the people vote!

No, and this is why:

Thanks for your questions this week! We’ll check in again next Friday.