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  • 5 Stats Showing the Brewers' Pitching Dominance


    Tim Muma

    No one can argue that the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff is one of the best in baseball. Stats like ERA and ERA+ have a particular value, but those don't always tell the whole story. To see some other areas Brewers pitching has excelled in, here are five stats they led MLB in after a month (and a day).

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    Milwaukee's pitching staff ranks in the top-5 in most categories and often sits first or second. Even in the stats mentioned above, the Brewers rank fourth in ERA (3.01) and third in ERA+ (133). When you dig a little deeper, there are five statistics Brewers hurlers hold the top spot in baseball.

    Strikeouts Per Nine Innings (K/9)
    Milwaukee's staff owns a 10.37 K/9 through 23 games, the highest rate in MLB. They finished second in baseball last season (10.14), so it's not a big surprise. However, you can't overstate the value of so many strikeouts.

    The more outs recorded via punchout and the fewer balls put into play help limit the chance of errors and fluky plays that can lead to defeat. Strikeouts are also vital to get out of jams, which the Brewers have done quite a few times already.

    The beauty is that it's not one or two hurlers leading the charge. Milwaukee has eight pitchers with a K/9 over 10 - three starters, four relievers, and swingman Aaron Ashby. There's no reason to think the K/9 rate will drop dramatically, keeping the Brewers among the elite at getting whiffs. This stat is an excellent indication of the Brewers' nastiness, and this group is likely better than the 2021 staff that had the great Joey Votto giving them high praise.

    Z-Swing Percentage (Z-Swing%)
    This statistic focuses on the plate discipline of the opposing hitters; specifically, the percent of times hitters swing at pitches in the strike zone. Brewers' opponents are swinging at only 65.2% of pitches in the strike zone, the lowest number in MLB.

    Stealing strikes without a swing, thus having no risk of allowing a hit, is a supremely valuable accomplishment. Hitters are always hunting for pitches in the zone to do damage; failing to pull the trigger on 35% of those lessens the opportunity for real trouble.

    There are a couple of reasons hitters may not take hacks at strikes. For one, if the pitcher has lots of movement on his pitches, batters may hold off, thinking it's going to be a ball or that he can't hit that pitch. The second reason is that said pitches are located exceptionally well. It could be a borderline cutter on the corner of the plate or a perfectly placed slider down and away after an inside heater. 

    Either way, the Brewers have been the best club at getting those called strikes, keeping hitters' bats on their shoulders, putting batters on the defensive, and occasionally sending them back to the dugout.

    Extra-Base Hit Percentage (XBH%)
    It's difficult to string three singles together to score a run, making extra-base hits more critical than ever. Pitchers who prevent giving up anything but singles make it even tougher on the offense.

    Milwaukee hurlers have allowed the lowest percentage of extra-base hits per plate appearance at 5.6%. A leadoff double puts immediate pressure on the pitcher. With runners on first and second, a triple scores a pair while a single plates one run (maybe). A three-run homer is a gamechanger.

    Extra-base hits are a key to big innings and consistent offense. If the Brewers continue to keep hits to one base 94.4% of the time a batter steps to the dish, they will continue to prevent runs at a high clip.

    Batting Average With Runners in Scoring Position (RISP)
    Many people will say that performance with RISP often fluctuates year to year and is often at the will of randomness. Milwaukee's pitchers have allowed the lowest batting average with RISP (.173).

    In 2022, when hitting is more challenging than ever, limiting base hits with RISP is another way to keep enemies off the board. There will be times a hitter gets lucky with a bloop to the outfield or a squibber through the infield, but the Brewers have shut things down when the drama increases. As noted, leading baseball in K/9 helps their cause in this statistic as well.

    Limiting damage with men on second or third will become an even greater "skill" to master if home runs continue to drop in MLB.

    FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR)
    While most don't know the exact formula for fWAR, understand it tries to give an overall value to players above or below replacement level, which is zero. Though it's more of an individual statistic, it can be used to look at a group's value.

    Brewers' pitchers own the highest fWAR at 4.1 through Sunday's games (led by Corbin Burnes' 0.7). If Milwaukee can continue the same pace, they will be at roughly 28.7 fWAR by the season's end. That would put them 5.1 fWAR ahead of last year's pitchers when they ranked third.

    One BrewerFanatic.com writer made a bold prediction that the Brewers pitching staff would set the MLB record for fWAR in a season. That mark is 30.4, established by the 2017 Cleveland Indians. So Milwaukee is currently slightly behind that pace, but there is room for improvement. Guys like Brandon Woodruff and Devin Williams have had inconsistent starts to the season, so they are likely to shoot up the rankings themselves.

    These five statistics don't mean everything either, but they give you another perspective on how Milwaukee has fared on the mound. It's fine to watch ERAs and count the strikeouts - be sure to keep an eye on the many ways the Brewers dominate with their arms.

     

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