Why are the Brewers so bad at Miller Park?

July 15, 2015 Comments off

Win or lose, Milwaukee fans have fun at Miller Park. But the lose option has been more frequent than usual lately.

In fact, poor play at home is almost entirely to blame for the Brewers’ lost season. While they’ve gone 22-24 on the road, they have just 16 wins in 44 home games.

No team has won fewer games at home this season, with only the Rangers matching them at 16, but in two fewer games. The average home record among MLB teams is 24-20, putting the Brewers eight games off the pace. Their road record, on the other hand, is a game better than the league average mark of 20-24.

Since opening Miller Park in 2001, the Brewers have gone 609-569 (.517) there, with seven seasons each above and below .500. Their best home mark came in 2011 at 57-24, while their worst was a pair of 31-50 years in 2002 and 2003.

So, what’s the problem with the Brewers at home?

It starts with the 72 home runs they’ve given up, which is 14 more than any other team. Their 46 home runs ranks fifth in the National League offensively, but that’s still a 26-home run gap in 44 home games. By contrast, they’ve allowed just 28 home runs on the road, the second-fewest total in MLB. With 38 offensive homers, that gives the Brewers a 10-home run advantage away from home.

As for runs scored, the Brewers have a 186-177 advantage on the road, while being outscored 232-174 at home. They’ve also been outhit 412-352 at home while holding a 412-388 edge on the road. Across the board, the numbers show a similar trend.

The cause of this discrepency is unclear, but a trip to Miller Park is no longer as likely to end in a win.

Categories: Uncategorized

1st-inning offense powers Brewers’ hot streak

July 8, 2015 Comments off

It’s no secret that increased offense has fueled the Milwaukee Brewers’ recent hot streak. But where exactly is that offense coming from?

It appears the key to their outburst has been the first inning.

Over their last 16 games, the Brewers have slashed .383/.444/.617 in the first inning with 22 runs scored on 31 hits, including five home runs and four doubles. They’ve outscored opponents 22-5 in the opening frame, which has accounted for 25 percent of their 89 total runs over the same stretch.

RELATED: Another dominant 1st half for Will Smith

The Brewers have gone 12-4 since June 23, winning four straight series before dropping the first two games to the Atlanta Braves. In the four losses, the Brewers scored just two first-inning runs, while plating 20 in the 12 wins.

This boost in early run production leading to wins follows a seasonlong trend for the Brewers. They’re 27-14 when scoring first, and just 10-36 when their opponent scores first. The 22 first-inning runs also have helped make the frame the Brewers’ most productive.

Through June 22, the Brewers’ best inning had been the third, with 37 runs. The first and fourth innings were tied for second at 32 runs. They’ve now plated 54 runs in the first, 10 more than their new second-best mark of 44 runs in the fifth.

Gerardo Parra, Ryan Braun and Adam Lind have been particularly impressive during the team’s first-inning hot streak. They’ve combined to go 18-for-36 (.500) with four home runs, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored and three doubles.

Parra has jump-started the Brewers with three leadoff home runs, to go along with a pair of singles and a double. Braun hasn’t produced as many runs, but has six hits in 12 at-bats, with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Lind has gone 6-for-10 with a two-run homer, two doubles, six RBIs and two runs scored.

RELATED: K-Rod is Brewers’ only all-star

First-inning run production leading to wins is hardly surprising. But what makes the Brewers’ recent stretch impressive is the extended nature of the production.

Eleven times in two weeks they have scored in the first inning. Six of those innings featured multiple runs and 10 had multiple hits, including a six-run outburst on June 26, in which they went 6-for-11 with a home run, double and four singles.

This rate of production is hardly sustainable, but it does offer one clear takeaway. The earlier the Brewers score, the better their odds of winning.

Sounds simple enough, right?

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Another dominant 1st half for Will Smith

July 1, 2015 Comments off

You don’t hear a lot about Will Smith, and that’s a good thing.

Last time the Milwaukee Brewers reliever made headlines, he had been ejected May 21 in Atlanta for using a foreign substance. Since finding himself in the middle of that controversy, the lefty has fallen back off the radar.

Like many unheralded positions in sports, you typically can tell how well relief pitchers are doing by how little you hear about them. Smith, in his relative obscurity, has been dominant once again in the first half of this season.

RELATED: K-Rod is Brewers’ only worthy all-star

Over his last 17 games, which dates back to that same Braves series, Smith has tossed 162/3 scoreless innings, striking out 21 batters while allowing just 10 hits and five walks. Though three of his seven inherited runners have scored over the same stretch, opponents have hit just .172/.238/.190 against him.

Smith has recorded multiple strikeouts on seven occasions during his scoreless streak, including a three-strikeout inning on May 23, his first appearance following the ejection.

For the season, Smith has not allowed a run 33 times in 36 appearances. He’s given up four earned runs on 18 hits over 291/3 innings for a 1.23 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 11 walks. His ERA leads all Brewers pitchers with five or more appearances this season, and his 4-0 mark also is the team’s best.

Smith was similarly strong last season through the end of June, before the heavy workload started to take its toll. He has been used slightly less in 2015, having pitched in 36 games compared with 44 at this time a year ago.

RELATED: Is it time to cut Kyle Lohse loose?

Over the final three months of 2014, Smith had a 7.27 ERA, giving up 21 earned runs on 28 hits in 26 innings. His struggles over those 34 appearances derailed what began as an all-star caliber season for the lefty.

In the first three months of the last two seasons, Smith has pitched in 80 games, tossing 69 innings and giving up just 10 earned runs for a 1.30 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP. He’s also recorded 88 strikeouts against 28 walks, while allowing just nine of 39 inherited runners to score.

How Smith will fare over the final three-plus months this season remains to be seen. But he’s proven his first three months in Milwaukee were no fluke.

Can he sustain it over the course of an entire season?

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K-Rod is Brewers’ only worthy all-star

June 24, 2015 Comments off

Raise your hand if you had Francisco Rodriguez as the Milwaukee Brewers’ best player this season.


As surprising as the team’s complete and total collapse this year has been, the closer being their best player would have seemed nearly as unlikely just a few months ago. But it’s late June and K-Rod is almost a lock to be the Brewers’ lone representative at the all-star game.

Rodriguez tossed his 10th straight scoreless outing Wednesday night, a dominant stretch that dates back to May 31. Over those 10 outings, he has allowed just four hits and four walks with 13 strikeouts.

He hasn’t had many this season, but Rodriguez is a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities. Over his last 22 games since April 23, the veteran closer has a 0.41 ERA, giving up just one run on 11 hits with 27 strikeouts.

For the season, Rodriguez has given up just three runs on 13 hits over 26 innings for a 1.00 ERA with 32 strikeouts against seven walks. He’s striking out 10.8 batters per nine innings, with a 0.778 WHIP that is well below his career 1.149 mark.

Rodriguez started similarly strong last season, but had already started to struggle by his 26th appearance, which came a month earlier than it did this year. Though he is used to and apparently prefers a heavier workload, limited work this season has not hindered Rodriguez.

Depending on your source, Rodriguez either ranks first or fourth on the team in WAR. Baseball Reference puts his total at a team-best 1.6, ahead of Adam Lind (1.4) and Ryan Braun (1.3). Fangraphs, which uses different pitching metrics in its formula, puts him at 0.8, behind Mike Fiers (1.3), Lind (1.3) and Braun (1.0).

Either way, K-Rod is well on his way to a second straight all-star appearance. The difference is, he likely won’t be joined by any teammates this year.

For just the third time since 2005, the Brewers should have just one all-star this summer. It’s also only the second time since 2007 the club will not have a starter in the all-star game.

It’s fitting, really, in an odd way. A team with only 26 wins in late June has little need for a closer. In fact, it might be the least valuable role on the 25-man roster.

But what Rodriguez has lacked in practical value, he’s more than made up for in on-the-mound dominance. He should go to Cincinnati and represent the Brewers at the midsummer classic.

Just a few weeks later, he should prove even more valuable to the club on the trade market.

Categories: Uncategorized

Is it time for Brewers to cut Kyle Lohse loose?

June 17, 2015 Comments off

Kyle Lohse has not been good this season.

The veteran Milwaukee Brewers starter has been among MLB’s worst pitchers in 2015. Through 14 starts, his 6.44 ERA is the highest among qualified pitchers.

His 0.1 WAR is the eighth-lowest, and less than the 0.2 of Tyler Cravy, who has made just one start for the club this season. Others on the team worth more wins above replacement than Lohse: Mike Fiers, Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, Jimmy Nelson, Michael Blazek, Jeremy Jeffress, Wily Peralta and Taylor Jungmann.

And those are just the pitchers.

Lohse is tied for the most home runs allowed (16) and most losses (8), and he has given up an MLB-high 57 runs. His average game score has been below average at 44, with a low of nine on opening day.

Digging through his stats, it’s hard to find any redeeming factors for Lohse. After two strong outings in mid-May, he’s in the middle of his worst four-game stretch of the season. Since May 25, Lohse has given up 24 runs on 40 hits over 26 innings for an 8.31 ERA and 0-4 mark. Opposing batters are slashing .357/.392/.545 with six home runs over his last five games.

So what do the Brewers do with Lohse?

Given the state of their season, there’s likely little to lose by keeping him in the rotation. Lohse could make up to eight starts before the July 31 trade deadline. That could be enough time for him to sort things out and regain at least a little trade value.

But how much value can he gain in six weeks? And what if he doesn’t get better?

What if Lohse keeps going out there every fifth day and continues to further reduce his trade value? It can’t get much lower, but if he doesn’t turn things around, no team will even take a flyer on him. The Brewers certainly won’t get anything of significant value in return.

If they can’t trade him, Lohse is worth nothing to the Brewers on the mound. His continued presence in the rotation would simply prevent prospects like Cravy or Tyler Wagner from showing what they can do at the big league level.

More likely than not, Lohse will make those eight starts before July 31. But the Brewers might be better off cutting him loose.

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MLB debuts offer some Brewers excitement

June 10, 2015 Comments off

Sixty games into the season, the Milwaukee Brewers haven’t given fans much excitement. That’s finally changing.

Over the last two weeks, three starting pitchers have made their major league debuts: Tyler Wagner, Tyler Cravy and Taylor Jungmann. The last two have been stellar, combining for a 1.29 ERA with two runs allowed on seven hits over 14 innings. They also struck out 11 and walked three.

Jungmann impressed manager Craig Counsell enough to earn a second start Sunday against the Nationals at Miller Park. Cravy had the misfortune of being sent back down to make room for another outfielder.

To put their starts in context, the last Brewers starter to go seven or more innings in his MLB debut was Steve Woodard in 1997, when they were still in the American League. They’ve now had two in a row.

Jungmann has had the better luck so far — both on the field and with his roster spot — but he and Cravy each should get plenty of opportunities to show what they can do over the final 3 1/2 months of the season. Those starts could be the highlight of the Brewers’ remaining schedule.

Buried in last place 16 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and 9 1/2 games back in the wild card race, the Brewers haven’t had realistic playoff hopes in nearly two months. Their playoff odds haven’t reached 10 percent since the first week of the season and not since May 11 have they topped 2 percent.

Jungmann, the Brewers’ top pick in the 2011 draft, was just the third first-round pick to make his MLB debut with the club since 2007, joining Ryan Braun (’07) and Jeremy Jeffress (’10). He ranks 13th on MLB.com’s list of the Brewers’ top prospects, and 10th on Baseball America’s list. After a slower-than-expected rise through the minors, the 25-year-old right-hander has the chance to show that he belongs as a big league starter.

ravy was a mid-draft find, taken in the 17th round of the 2009 draft. He ranks as the Brewers’ 23rd-best prospect on MLB.com’s list and does not project as a top-of-the-rotation starter. But if his debut is any indication, Cravy could be solid No. 4 or 5.

Wagner, who also may return to the majors sooner rather than later, comes in ninth and 11th on the Baseball America and MLB.com lists. He struggled in his debut (3 2/3 innings, five runs, nine hits, two strikeouts), but has been dominant over his last 30 starts in the minors.

That trio — along with other top prospects that could debut later this summer — is as exciting as anything the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers have to offer. Be sure to mark their starts down on your calendar.

Categories: Uncategorized