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Mysterious case of Brewers’ missing power

April 16, 2015

What happened to the Milwaukee Brewers being a power-hitting team?

Through nine games this season, they have just three home runs, which have driven in a combined six runs. It’s still a small sample size, but that puts the Brewers on pace for just 54 home runs this season. Last year they ranked fifth in the National League with 150.

Since finishing tied for last in the majors in 2004, the Brewers have finished in the top seven in the National League in home runs each of the last 10 seasons, including league-leading totals of 231 in 2007, 185 in 2011 and 202 in 2012. During that same stretch, the ’11 San Diego Padres posted the lowest single-season total with 91.

This season, Adam Lind, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura are the three Brewers who have gone deep. That leaves Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Khris Davis among those that have yet to hit one over the fence. The four sluggers have combined for 691 career home runs, with a combined 162-game average of 105.

With those names in the lineup, there’s no doubt this team will get its home runs. But it does make their nine-game season-opening stretch puzzling.

So what’s going on with the 2015 Brewers?

They’re not hitting many fly balls, and the ones they do are staying in the park. That sounds obvious, but stay with me here.

The Brewers’ 30.8 percent fly ball rate is 23rd in MLB, while their 4.7 percent HR/FB rate is 29th. Conversely, they have the seventh-highest ground ball rate at 49 percent and their 1.59 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is seventh-highest in MLB. Milwaukee’s 20.2 percent line-drive rate is in the middle of the pack at 19th.

Thanks in part to the low home run and fly ball rates, the Brewers have struggled to score runs. They have tallied just 23 through nine games, including two games in which they have been shut out. Milwaukee has topped two runs in a game just three times

They went homerless in three games at St. Louis, the team’s seventh streak of three games or more without a home run since last May. The longest such streak was five games from June 6-11.

It’s hard to put much stock in a “2014 hangover” even with the way the Brewers finished last season. But how else do you explain a power-filled lineup struggling so much out of the gate?

A lack of power is far from the Brewers’ only problem. But fixing it would go a long way toward getting this team back on track.

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