Setting the Brewers Lineup
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Brewers offense as it stands today is very reminiscent of the one they fielded in 2014. Seven of their eight primary starters look to return for 2015, with the obvious exception being the departure of Mark Reynolds, replaced by newcomer Adam Lind.
The main offensive differences will come off of the bench, where the Brewers two most frequent pinch hitters, Rickie Weeks (.373 OBP) and Lyle Overbay (.425), have departed, but I think the order of the starting lineup could use a change or two as well.
During the season, I polled the RtB staff about who they felt should lead off for the Brewers. Among writers, it went 4-2 in favor of Scooter Gennett hitting first, and Carlos Gomez hitting second (against RHP). I have a sort of beef with my poll.
In hindsight, the real question should have been simply “who should lead off?”, not “which should hit first and which should hit second?” The poll should have allowed Gomez to slot in as the cleanup hitter, where I (and Kyle) now feel he is best suited against righties.
So I figured I’d structure my ideal starting lineups for the Crew versus righties and lefties based on their current roster.
1. 2B Scooter Gennett
2014 slash vs. RHP .307/.338/.464
Gennett is a high-average hitter that doesn’t walk much, but he’s still a great leadoff candidate against righties. His career slash line against them is .323/.355/.490, very attractive numbers for the top of the order. Scooter is questionable as an everyday player, but there’s been no doubt of his abilities in a platoon.
2. C Jonathan Lucroy
2014 slash vs. RHP .300/.372/.465
Originally I had Ryan Braun slated here, because I think he could begin there coming off of his down year and thumb surgery. I do however think that both Braun and Lucroy will regress toward their career averages, leaving Braun as the better hitter.
Last year Lucroy walked almost as much as he struck out, control that is paramount when hitting near the top of the order. Lucroy is also one of the team’s best hitters, and the two-hole is sometimes considered the most important spot in the offense.
3. RF Ryan Braun
2014 slash vs. RHP .262/.329/.431
More traditionally, the three-hole is where managers slot their best hitter, as it requires both a hitter who can get on base for the four and five hitters as well as a guy that can knock in the teammates that come before him.
As I said, I expect Braun to bounce back in 2015, and he doesn’t need to repeat his 2011 season to be a valuable number 3 hitter.
4. CF Carlos Gomez
2014 slash vs. RHP .291/.357/.478
Gomez and Braun could be similar offensive players in 2015, as both should hit between 20-25 home runs and .800-.840 OPS. As such, the two could be roughly interchangeable as the cleanup and 3 hole hitters, but Braun seems to dislike the 4 hole, and has posted a .668 OPS from there over his career.
Gomez is a good run producer and some of his talents are wasted as a leadoff hitter. His basestealing abilities will also play well in front of doubles hitters.
5. 1B Adam Lind
2014 slash vs. RHP .354/.409/.533
Each of the last two seasons, veteran Adam Lind has posted an OPS over .900 against righties. There is a question about what sort of power the Brewers should expect after he hit just 6 home runs in 318 PA in 2014, but he will be an immense step up from the first basemen the Brewers used from 2012-2013.
Even if he is more of a doubles hitter that can spray the ball, those abilities will play up in front of baserunner extraordinaire Carlos Gomez. If his power returns, Lind will make an even better 5 hitter, and will likely knock in a lot of Brewers.
6. 3B Aramis Ramirez
2014 slash vs. RHP .275/.310/.377
I don’t hide the fact that I generally find batting average to be a grossly over-appreciated statistic. Generally a player who hits .270/.300/.400 is no more valuable than one who hits .200/.300/.400.
When hitting after two guys that are above average at reaching second base, however, Ramirez’s ability to hit for average means he’ll be hitting in his teammates. Ramirez did have his lowest ISO (SLG – BA) ever in a full season, as he hit a lot of singles.
I expect his extra base hits to increase over last year’s down performance, and if he regresses toward his mean, he’ll be a big doubles hitter like Lind.
7. LF Khris Davis
2014 slash vs. RHP .239/.298/.451
Khris Davis isn’t a base stealer. He doesn’t hit for a high average. He has a weak arm, even for left field. He is an average defender in left. These factors cause Davis to be underestimated, and a large portion of Brewers fans would be perfectly content using him as a trade piece.
Davis can easily be a 2-win player, though, and young, cheap hitters worth 2 wins aren’t as easy to come by as fans seem to think. Davis has big-time power, and should walk more often in 2015 than he did last season. I’ll defend him further in a later article, found here.
Davis has plenty of pop, and he’s way overqualified as a 7 hitter.
8. SS Jean Segura
2014 slash vs. RHP .263/.293/.350
Jean Segura had a very rough season, both on the field and off of it. Projecting to 2015, I believe Segura splits the difference between his outstanding 2013 and his dismal 2014. That would be a .272/.310/.378 line. This is more than acceptable for an defensively talented young shortstop.