Popularized by Kurt Russell's portrayal of Herb Brooks in Miracle, the title of this, my debut column for Brewer Fanatic, is something that occurred to me considering not just Luis Urias' quad injury, but also the myriad lower body injuries that have plagued the Milwaukee Brewers in recent years. Let's look at some of the recent highlights:
Luis Urias' quad (last year and this!) Willy Adames' quad. Christian Yelich's kneecap. Travis Shaw's ankle. Rowdy Tellez' knee. Dan "Big Rhinelander" Vogelbach's hamstring. Lorenzo Cain's hamstrings. Eduardo Escobar's hamstring. Running a Google search for 'brewers injury' and a part of the lower anatomy just about breaks the internet entirely.
Ask a golfer, or a basketball player (though not Sunday night's Badgers!), or anyone from that 1980 Lake Placid squad, or a pitcher -- good mechanics require strength and conditioning throughout the body, but power comes from the legs. It's entirely plausible that Urias' struggles at the plate in 2021 pre-Willy Adames were a result of both having too much pressure on him and at least to an extent dealing with lingering effects from that quad strain. Wonder what happened to Yelich's power, or why he looked so hesitant at the plate over 2020 and 2021?
If the legs aren't right, don't expect comfortable-looking at-bats or consistent performance from batted balls. Which is exactly what we got from an offense-deficient 2021 Brewers club that rode their franchise-best rotation into October.
While it's true that divisions and pennants aren't won in March or April, it is also true that *checks notes* games played in April still count. You can't win the division in April, but you absolutely can lose one struggling with injuries or underperformance out of the gate.
For this reason, we have reason to hope and cause for concern. Hope in that Christian Yelich is seeing the ball really, really well right away. He's not trying to do too much with pitches, and the results are plain to see. Are these the quality of pitches and pitchers he can expect in just over two weeks' time when the wins and losses matter? Probably not (though they do open against the Cubs and Orioles, sooooo...) But Yelich's ability as a slugger is an extension of his quality as a hitter, as it was with Prince Fielder and as it should be.
On the other hand, Urias, coming off a revelatory 2021 in which he struggled, then hit 25 doubles and 23 dingers and produced a slightly-deceptive 111 wRC+, now has the double burden of meeting heightened expectations and the league knowing what he's capable of. There's real concern for a sophomore slump from a young player for whom we should all be rooting.
And the rest of those guys mentioned above? Adames wasn't the same impact bat after returning from his 2+ weeks on the injured list. Travis Shaw, early feelgood story of 2021, was never the same after his ankle injury April 11 and finished his campaign with the Boston Red Sox. Vogelbach had little reason to be in the Brewers lineup in the first place. Cain missed all of June and most of July. Only Escobar and Tellez maintained their performance, though Escobar's power disappeared, and I need not remind anyone that neither of them started the season in the organization.
A team cannot emphasize launch angle and a homer-happy offense unless they also emphasize the need to keep the lower body healthy in equal measure. Computer modeling won't do the work in the weight room or conditioning drills or on the back fields. Data informs, it does not feed.
The legs feed the wolf.