Milwaukee Brewers: Offensive struggles and playoff hopes

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01: Travis Shaw
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 01: Travis Shaw /

Milwaukee Brewers third baseman, Travis Shaw, is experiencing struggles in the second half for the second season in a row.

The same player who hit .299 in the first half is quieting down to just .235 through the first 45 games of the second half. This is not a new phenomena, Shaw slumped hard with the Red Sox last year during the second half as well, slashing .188/.256/.319 in his final 50 games of 2016, according to Adam McCalvy.

One thing McCalvy uses in that article to defend Shaw is a recent home run hit off of Ariel Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners. Putting the 98.9 MPH pitch over the fence marks the fastest by any Milwaukee Brewers hitter this season.

A final point that differentiates this years second half struggles, according to McCalvy, is that Shaws head is in a better place. That is an important part of the battle. Things will turn around if a batter who is proven to be successful has confidence in his swing.

The rest of the numbers in his first and second half splits are naturally down as well. But the bigger issue is how that effects the team performance. With the big series against the Cubs coming up, the offense needs to thrive like old.

It takes looking no farther than the team stats leaders to this point in the season. Shaw leads the team, still, in batting average, homers, RBIs, and hits. While it is a nine man lineup night in and night out, he has been leading the way all season. Topping the team in such important stats means the other eight guys go as Shaw goes.

To be fair, other guys are performing. Looking at just batting average Domingo Santana is hitting .275 to Shaws .276 on the season. While Santana pulled out a big performance against the Nationals recently, he got bit by the second half bug as well. Dropping his .291 from the first half to .247. However, in the brief six game start to September, he is hitting .313, bringing hope for a turnaround.

The acquired Neil Walker and Stephen Vogt have been playing well in their brief Brewer second halves. But, the true second half performer to this point is a guy who had an injury filled first half. Ryan Braun is hitting .289 through 44 games in the second half. He is hitting the ball better in more games, but his run production numbers are down. And strikeouts are up.

So, yes, the offense is struggling a little bit in the second half. That is fairly obvious. But the important part to it is what it means. It adds a whole new dynamic to this playoff race in September. The team is so close to October.

With all the talent on the defending World Champs, this devotion is tough enough. However, the Cardinals are also showing they want to make a push. They just traded for Juan Nicasio to bolster their bullpen. The thing about that move is that Nicasio isn’t eligible for the playoff roster and will be a free agent at the years end. They are looking to make that final push into the playoffs as well.

The way the standing sit right now, the Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals are tied four games behind the Chicago Cubs. If the Brewers hitting can come around just a little bit, they can close the gap. Especially with the series against the Cub this weekend. Something fellow writer Matthew looked at in an article that can be found here. It is a very important series.

These other teams are showing their plan to take that division title. At the beginning of the year, the didn’t think the Milwaukee Brewers would be right there. If things don’t go well in the upcoming series, the eyes will naturally turn to the Wild Card matchup. The Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the two spots essentially on lock. That leaves one spot left, currently held by the Colorado Rockies.

The Milwaukee Brewers are next in line for that, as they sit three games back. That is much more attainable than it looked midseason. It also offers a post season outlet if the Cubs looks as lethal as they did last season. Obviously, a division title is a lot nicer. But if push comes to shove, and a Wild Card berth is what needs to happen, it is still the post season.

Next: Why is Quintin Berry on the roster?

A young group in Milwaukee means this is not the only playoff push in the near future. But it is what is there now. One thing is for certain, the second half struggles need to turn around in some way. It will be hard to make any sort of run with some of the core bats struggling to get going. September is a new month, and hopefully bats like Shaw’s can wake up and find the first half stroke.