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  • Five Numbers to Make You More Optimistic About the Brewers

    Jake McKibbin

    Even amid a difficult stretch, the Brewers are a first-place team. Their problems are first-place problems, and there are signs that even they can be ameliorated. Here are five statistical foundations for optimism.

    Image courtesy of © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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    Darin Ruf is the Lefty Masher We Craved

    Ruf has shown an ability to make consistent, solid contact for the Brewers, striking out just twice so far, with only one groundout, and a lot of hard-hit balls to the outfield. He has a 58-percent hard hit rate and an expected batting average of .286. He is a subpar defender, even at first base, but his bat has shown value so far, doing exactly what it says on the tin, with more to come with a little better batted-ball luck. His at bats have been high quality, with a good eye at the plate and an ability to foul off pitches and draw out the at-bat, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in the heart of the order against lefties.

    The Untapped Potential

    The Milwaukee Brewers have won two and lost three of their last five games against the surging St Louis Cardinals and red-hot Tampa Bay Rays, yet even despite a poor performance from Eric Lauer (again) they’ve managed to eke out wins while going through a rough stretch with the bats when they needed them. The Brewers had just four hits in 42 at-bats with runners in scoring position against two top teams, and could have brought in another couple of wins had they been even league-average in this area. It’s an area of the game that has a lot to do with luck, and a rebound next week could get the Brewers back to winning ways in the next series.

    Tyrone Taylor’s Manageable Misfortune

    Taylor’s current slash line is a measly .179/.203/.268 for a .471 OPS. However, his expected stats would be a .244 batting average and a slugging percentage of .391–by no means dominant, but a significant improvement. He smashed several balls against Shane McClanahan that were a mere few feet from extra-base hits or home runs. That could have been a real difference-maker in such a low-scoring game. Taylor has a strikeout rate of 20.3 percent at the moment, and is lifting the ball well, but he will need to improve even his expected statistics. The Brewers have the worst output in baseball from their right fielders so far this season.

    Brian Anderson’s All-Around Presence

    This past week, a lot of the Brewers’ big names struggled, with Christian Yelich out of action in the Cardinals series. Rowdy Tellez, Willy Adames, and William Contreras showed some signs of life in the final game, but certainly, the hope was for more consistent production from those three. Enter Brian Anderson, with a .407 on-base percentage in the last week, with three strikeouts, six walks and two long home runs. Add that to his barehanded catch and laser throw for the first out of the ninth inning on Sunday, and you can see how valuable he is for this streaky Brewers team.

    He’s gotten on base at a .373 clip in his last 15 games, having gone through a rough patch, and with the way in which the Brewers have been hitting for power recently, that is invaluable going forward.

    Joel Payamps: Shut-Down Innings

    Payamps is in the 94th percentile for hard hit rate, and the 96th for walk rate, with his added reliance on the slider resulting in incredible results for him. He is recording career lows with 4.8-percent barrel rate and 3.2-percent solid contact rates, as well as a career high 26.6-percent strikeout rate (it was 17.7% last season). The only issue is that he has a .426 xBA and a .636 xSLG against his sinker, and his four-seam fastball has performed fantastically thus far, so he may tweak his pitch mix a little bit as the season progresses. It’s undeniable that he has been an incredible weapon in the 7th inning for the Brewers relief corps.

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