The Milwaukee Brewers Batting Order Isn’t That Important


The Milwaukee Brewers have been playing better baseball, and it’s hard to deny that fact. They have won five of nine games under new manager Craig Counsell, raising their record to (a still dismal) 12-22. Much has been made about the energy Counsell has brought to the dugout, how the players have responded to him, etc…though I personally don’t buy into that very much. This team simply just isn’t AS BAD as their franchise worst 5-17 start indicated, and some regression to the mean was inevitable.

One spot Counsell has been somewhat maligned, however, is with his batting order. Tonight, the Brewers will line up against the White Sox like this:

Counsell employed a similar lineup yesterday, including Khris Davis batting second; he’s has also employed Jason Rogers in the five-hole, Carlos Gomez at both lead-off and clean-up, has hit Gerardo Parra lead-off, and has mixed and matched starts for his infielders…and has caught some flack from the local talk show media about his use of a different lineup just about every night since he became the manager.

When he was hired, Counsell was up-front with the fact that he believes there is too much made about the batting order. I’m here to remind you: he’s right.

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According to this article from Fangraphs, a perfectly optimized batting lineup is most often calculated to be worth in the range of five to 15 runs over the course of a season. This equates to roughly one extra win per season, using the batting spots #1, #2, #4, #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 as the order from most to least important. Earlier this year, I published a look at what the Brewers “optimized lineup” would look like when the team is completely healthy; however, the Brewers have obviously gone without some of their regulars for extended periods of time this season.

This has forced Counsell to mix and match his lineups, which has appeared to be somewhat adept at thus far. He’s adapted his lineup the best he can, moving hot hitters (like Khris Davis and Elian Herrera) to more prominent spots in the order to take advantage of what they’re currently bringing to the plate. The idea that a batting order should be rigid can inhibit possible run creation; as players go through ebs and flows in their production throughout a season, so should a lineup to feature the hitters that are producing. While Counsell hasn’t specifically adhered to the optimized lineup laid out in “The Book,” one must remember that a perfectly “optimized lineup” will only add about one win per season.

Little things like lineup optimization can add up, however, when they are combined with other little things like properly managing a bullpen and properly leveraging platoon splits. Counsell has shown a willingness to adapt to these sabermetric philosophies inasmuch as he has sat Scooter Gennett and Adam Lind (both historically weak against lefties) against left handed starters, and he has been more willing to mix and match with his bullpen matchups later in games than previous manager Ron Roenicke was perceived to be.

Going forward, this philosophy should bode well for Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers. With a rebuild still a likely scenario as rumors begin to swirl, the Brewers should benefit under a forward-thinking manager as the team gets younger and eyes future playoff runs.

For now, try and remember that the batting order Craig employs on a day to day basis is worth still worth less than 0.1 runs per game. The Brewers have already hit rock bottom this year, so why not try something new and different like hitting Jonathan Lucroy lead-off when he returns?

Next: Brewers Shuffle Lineup in Series Finale