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  • The Weekly Dispatch: Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst


    Brent Sirvio

    The Milwaukee Brewers are committed are committed to launching fastballs, come hell or high water. Other teams know this. The Brewers don't seem to know that other teams know this. This is a problem.

    Image courtesy of © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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    The Weekly Dispatch is a column on the Brewers. 'On' may do heavier lifting on some weeks than others.

    First things first, temper your enthusiasm for revived Brewer bats: they hung 19 runs on a Pittsburgh Pirates club that lacks major league talent up and down its roster, left a young arm out to rot -- rightly earning the non-partisan scorn of Baseball Twitter -- and is about to sell its best commodity for what will almost certainly be 40 cents on the dollar. What they did Friday night is decidedly the exception to the rule.

    We can look at a more manageable schedule and probably anticipate the Brewers build their division lead by 2-3 games in a tripartite involving the Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Pirates again, before hitting the road for stronger competition; the Minnesota Twins and the almost Minnesota ballclub, the San Francisco Giants, lead into the All-Star break.

    The Brewers won't hang 19 runs every night, especially when they're not designed (primarily or otherwise) to fill up box scores. This remains a run prevention team that doesn't do a particularly good job of preventing runs. They are overly reliant on a injury-riddled pitching staff and three true outcomes (top-six in MLB in HR, BB, SO) and lefty bats in a home ballpark with a short right field fence that is, for the first time in its 20+ year history, benefiting pitchers. Whether that's the humidor or baseballs with the apparent composition of a wet sock, MLB has done the Brewers no favors in 2022.

    In the same breath, though, the Brewers are doing themselves no favors this year.

    This space has mentioned the apparent lack of advance scouting and good analysis on opposing pitchers in the past. It is a deficiency that has plagued this organization long before its current administration. It takes no real acumen for strategy to rely on three true outcomes: either hit ball hard, don't swing at ball. or get out trying, requires minimal mental investment.

    The team approach to offense -- something, again, that has less to do with whomever occupies the hitting coach position and more to do with whomever is running baseball operations -- has been to lift and drive the ball, something that can best be accomplished with hanging breaking stuff and fastballs. The problem is that if a batter is unable to recognize a pitch, and the Brewers all season have struggled to pull the trigger on hanging stuff, it's easy to fool him.

    So they launch, third in the majors in home runs, feasting on lesser opponents and scraping by against contenders. I looked at all batted ball outcomes in 2022 where Brewers hitters have made contact with a launch angle of 30 degrees or greater, and removed small sample size hitters to normalize results. The results? Well, Brewers hitters are clearly not being put in a position to succeed.

    While these 30-degree and up outcomes represent less than 1.5% of total pitches seen, they comprise nearly 21% of team outs. If a pitcher wants to beat the Brewers, they'll simply get them to do what they've been instructed to do.

    Here are the month-by-month breakdowns:

    • April: 21-147, .126 BA, .158 xBA , .057 BAbip, .349 SLG, 46.49 average launch angle
    • May: 32-196, .181 BA, .176 xBA, .027 BAbip, .661 SLG, 44.57 average launch angle
    • June: 19-169, .130 BA, 140 xBA, .057 BAbip, .510 SLG, 46.26 average launch angle

    Bear in mind, these figures exclude cameo appearance players and the Brewers as a team don't chase outside the zone relative to league average. If they get under the ball, it's not going out. To wit, the numbers on batted balls with a launch between 26-29* are much more encouraging, but the sample size is far smaller. Opposing batteries seem to know better and have adjusted accordingly. The Brewers, not so much.

    In essence, the team is winning in spite of its own organizational prerogative. It was borderline absurd to expect Brewers' starters to replicate their franchise-best dominance in 2021 (saying nothing of sustaining health) and emerge from a lockout-induced sequester with two new hitting coaches and suddenly start mashing. In fact, given the interrupted offseason and staff-in-transition -- and the strong possibility there was some sort of fire causing the smoke of offseason rumblings about David Stearns and/or Matt Arnold being lured to another organization --  a continued reliance on 3TO was probably the most reasonable prediction.

    Turning this cruiseliner around is no easy proposition. Getting better, more drivable pitches requires Brewers hitters to stop swinging at less-than-ideal balls in the zone. That's a challenge when they don't have adequate intel on what's coming, and regardless of whether it's a deficiency in databases or scouting, whatever it is they do have is obviously broken. Working counts into walks isn't a bad thing; there are those of us who remember the Brewers striking out with impunity not that long ago. Walks are great when a team is among the league leaders in grounding into double plays, keeps its bats on the shoulder more than league average, and also resides amongst the league's worst in BAbip. 

    It also requires the Brewers to paradoxically give up on the home run in favor of flatter-planed swings, forcing pitchers and catchers into adjusting their approach, wearing them down and digging into bullpens. Moving Christian Yelich to lead-off, recommended here by BF's own Tim Muma weeks before it happened, is in a way a concession to the need for a change in approach.

    This is also a roster that wasn't necessarily built for athleticism on the base paths or for putting the ball in play. Given the litany of injuries and the lack of adequate reinforcements at Triple-A, making moves toward an offensive sea change in-season is highly unlikely. The Brewers are, from this vantage point, stuck with what they've got: a team that might be good enough to get into October, but also has some uncomfortably familiar 2014 vibes.

    After three months of 2022, the takeaway from the data is clear: if the ball gets in the air, hope for the best and expect the worst.

    Baseball Savant, FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and Statmuse were instrumental in developing this piece.

    Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

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    Apparently you don’t completely agree with the posters on the forum who are committed to using advanced stats to try convince others that the Brewers offense is just fine. 

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    13 hours ago, BruisedCrew said:

    Apparently you don’t completely agree with the posters on the forum who are committed to using advanced stats to try convince others that the Brewers offense is just fine. 

    Absolutely no one is saying the offense is just fine. What posters are disagreeing with is the assertion that the offense is a lost-cause dumpster fire, and that the team has no hope of doing anything in the playoffs. Those are two very different ideas.

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    7 hours ago, Ron Robinsons Beard said:

    Absolutely no one is saying the offense is just fine. What posters are disagreeing with is the assertion that the offense is a lost-cause dumpster fire, and that the team has no hope of doing anything in the playoffs. Those are two very different ideas.

    I have made my opinion about the Brewers offense very clear (particularly in the "2022 Brewers Offense" thread). and it is not that the offense is a "lost cause dumpster fire and that the team has no hope of doing anything in the playoffs". So, when someone disagrees with my opinion by responding directly to me, that isn't the position they are disagreeing with.

    I'm not sure that anyone has used the exact words "the offense is just fine", but when I hear people telling me that the Brewers offense is in the same tier with teams like the Braves, Phillies, Giants, and Padres, and that the Brewers have "enough" offense because of their elite pitching, that sounds like someone telling me that the offense is "just fine" as is.

    Same when I am told that the offense will be OK when all of the injured players are back in action. I think the Brewers offensive deficiencies are not solved with just players on the current roster returning from injury.

    These exchanges can all be reviewed in the "2022 Brewer Offense" thread. There are other examples there of posters using advanced stats attempting to refute my opinion about the Brewers offense. My opinion might prove to be too pessimistic, but suggesting that I have said that the Brewers have no hope of doing anything in the playoffs is flat out wrong.

    Maybe instead of responding to me, you should address the author of this article and tell him that he is too pessimistic. His conclusion is, if anything, even more pessimistic than mine, but he uses some of the advanced statistics that some posters seem to think is a prerequisite for a valid opinion.

     

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    34 minutes ago, BruisedCrew said:

    I have made my opinion about the Brewers offense very clear (particularly in the "2022 Brewers Offense" thread). and it is not that the offense is a "lost cause dumpster fire and that the team has no hope of doing anything in the playoffs". So, when someone disagrees with my opinion by responding directly to me, that isn't the position they are disagreeing with.

    I'm not sure that anyone has used the exact words "the offense is just fine", but when I hear people telling me that the Brewers offense is in the same tier with teams like the Braves, Phillies, Giants, and Padres, and that the Brewers have "enough" offense because of their elite pitching, that sounds like someone telling me that the offense is "just fine" as is.

    Same when I am told that the offense will be OK when all of the injured players are back in action. I think the Brewers offensive deficiencies are not solved with just players on the current roster returning from injury.

    These exchanges can all be reviewed in the "2022 Brewer Offense" thread. There are other examples there of posters using advanced stats attempting to refute my opinion about the Brewers offense. My opinion might prove to be too pessimistic, but suggesting that I have said that the Brewers have no hope of doing anything in the playoffs is flat out wrong.

    Maybe instead of responding to me, you should address the author of this article and tell him that he is too pessimistic. His conclusion is, if anything, even more pessimistic than mine, but he uses some of the advanced statistics that some posters seem to think is a prerequisite for a valid opinion.

     

    Okay, let's look at your favorite stat of runs per game. Right now, the Brewers are 10th in MLB in that stat, in a virtual tie with the Cardinals and ahead of the Padres. 

    Now, let's look at the advanced stat of WRC+. The Brewers are ranked 14th, just below teams such as the Giants and Phillies and ahead of the Padres. 

    What does this mean? The Brewers are in fact, by the advanced stats and by the traditional stats, in the same general tier of MLB offenses as contenders such as the Padres, Giants, and Phillies...You can pound sand all you want, which is all you seem to want to do nowadays, but that's what the stats say right now. I believe that the offense does place them in a weaker position compared to teams like the Dodgers and Braves, but that it's not impossible for them to overcome that in a postseason series with arms like Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta (hopefully), Williams, Hader, etc. Had we gotten just an average level of offensive production last postseason, we likely would have been the ones advancing and not the Braves. 

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    I think a very good solution for every Brewers fan struggling to make peace with this version of the Brewers and their Brewers offense or, well, just the Brewers in general - and, I do want to be clear: I am not pointing a finger at anyone here or anyone anywhere ? - spend a dedicated period of time watching the Brewers' Double-A 2022 Biloxi Shuckers.

    They'll sober you right up into a state of gratitude for any semblance of consistency anywhere in any level of baseball. They'll give you a couple moments of 'Up', they'll give you many moments of 'Down', and they'll most likely leave you in a complete state of confoundedness as they seesaw their ways from 6-8 games under 0.500 back to 4-5 games above 0.500 seemingly on the monthly. Every expectation will face challenge. Every facet of play that can sabotage a chance of victory will be performed for a stretch or stretches - occasionally at the same time. There will be slumps, injuries, over-promotions, send downs, thin rosters, six-game series sweeps. The whole gambit. 

    If you can keep your positivity through it all, it is akin to achieving a level of Aikido mastery. And, I think it will bring you back to the Brewers side of things a modern-day Fanatic Zen Master. You will find yourself ready for any devious tendencies or malfeasance in the batters box. 

    Just my two meaningless centavos. Go Brewers!

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    16 hours ago, Brewcrew82 said:

     

    Okay, let's look at your favorite stat of runs per game. Right now, the Brewers are 10th in MLB in that stat, in a virtual tie with the Cardinals and ahead of the Padres. 

    Now, let's look at the advanced stat of WRC+. The Brewers are ranked 14th, just below teams such as the Giants and Phillies and ahead of the Padres. 

    What does this mean? The Brewers are in fact, by the advanced stats and by the traditional stats, in the same general tier of MLB offenses as contenders such as the Padres, Giants, and Phillies...You can pound sand all you want, which is all you seem to want to do nowadays, but that's what the stats say right now. I believe that the offense does place them in a weaker position compared to teams like the Dodgers and Braves, but that it's not impossible for them to overcome that in a postseason series with arms like Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta (hopefully), Williams, Hader, etc. Had we gotten just an average level of offensive production last postseason, we likely would have been the ones advancing and not the Braves. 

    Nothing new here.

    Where we seem to differ is that I have hoped for the Brewers to be in a better position than “not impossible” to win a playoff series against the better teams in the league. I have never said that it was impossible, which is why I object to the characterization of “dumpster fire with no hope of doing anything in the playoffs.” That is not and has never been my opinion, and I think you and the rest of your cohorts who like to complain about some others not living up to your standards of optimism know that.

    BTW, do you think this article is too pessimistic about the Brewers offense?

     

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    18 hours ago, BruisedCrew said:

    I have made my opinion about the Brewers offense very clear (particularly in the "2022 Brewers Offense" thread). and it is not that the offense is a "lost cause dumpster fire and that the team has no hope of doing anything in the playoffs". So, when someone disagrees with my opinion by responding directly to me, that isn't the position they are disagreeing with.

    I'm not sure that anyone has used the exact words "the offense is just fine", but when I hear people telling me that the Brewers offense is in the same tier with teams like the Braves, Phillies, Giants, and Padres, and that the Brewers have "enough" offense because of their elite pitching, that sounds like someone telling me that the offense is "just fine" as is.

    Same when I am told that the offense will be OK when all of the injured players are back in action. I think the Brewers offensive deficiencies are not solved with just players on the current roster returning from injury.

    These exchanges can all be reviewed in the "2022 Brewer Offense" thread. There are other examples there of posters using advanced stats attempting to refute my opinion about the Brewers offense. My opinion might prove to be too pessimistic, but suggesting that I have said that the Brewers have no hope of doing anything in the playoffs is flat out wrong.

    Maybe instead of responding to me, you should address the author of this article and tell him that he is too pessimistic. His conclusion is, if anything, even more pessimistic than mine, but he uses some of the advanced statistics that some posters seem to think is a prerequisite for a valid opinion.

     

    I apologize if it appears that I was attributing the "“dumpster fire with no hope of doing anything in the playoffs” idea to you. That was more of a general statement that probably envelopes a number of posters here. I don't really think it should be met with any sort of surprise, though, that when the posters who are consistently negative and pessimistic make those type of assertions, they will be met with others who make an aggressive attempt to refute them. 

    And so what if someone disagrees with your view and believes that the offense is just fine. It's a message board. People are going to disagree. Why rip on those who are using advanced stats as part of their argument?

    For the record, I'm not a fan of this article. It cherry picks advanced stats to paint a negative picture of the rest of the season, without taking the idea of internal improvement or outside acquisitions into consideration. 

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