Milwaukee Brewers: Why is Travis Shaw their unspoken man?

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DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 07: Travis Shaw #21 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after a lead-off double in the eighth inning of Game Three of the National League Division Series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 7, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 07: Travis Shaw #21 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after a lead-off double in the eighth inning of Game Three of the National League Division Series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 7, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /
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With Ryan Braun’s second half resurgence, Jesus Aguilar’s first half and Christian Yelich’s  lights out September, it’s easy to forget about Travis Shaw’s consistent, yet unspectacular season for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Coming from Boston in the biggest steal since the Louisiana Purchase, Travis Shaw had an extremely successful 2017 season in the clean up spot. He put up 101 RBIs and 31 long balls. It was expected for him to duplicate his 2017 success for the Milwaukee Brewers to compete in 2018 and he did. However, it was in a completely different way.

Three True Outcomes

Home runs. Strikeouts. Walks. The true three outcomes as we know it have one thing that’s similar.

The defense, other than pitcher and catcher, are irrelevant when these happen. So let’s compare how Shaw has done with three true outcomes in 2017 and 2018. He’s posted a 9.9 BB%, a 22.8 K%, and a 5.11 HR%.

In his breakout 2017 season, 37.81% of Shaw’s plate appearances ended in either a strikeout, a walk or a home run.

Now let’s fast forward to this season. He’s managed a 13.3 BB%, a 18.4 K%, and a 5.4 HR%. The grand sum to that is 37.15%. A mere 0.66% changed from 2017 to 2018, but let’s look closely at the parts before the sum.

Shaw’s walk rate went north, while his strikeout rate went down. This lead to a much improved K/BB, going from 0.43 to 0.72. Maintaining the near identical results, Shaw did it in a spectacularly different way in 2018. He manged to walk more and strike out less while maintaining his power production.

Other unique stats for Shaw

One reason Shaw received criticism this season was due to his batting average.

Hitting a solid .273 last season, Shaw’s batting average plummeted to .241 in 2018. This was part of the reason why people thought his production had declined when it really didn’t.

People need to realize how bad batting average is, it tells you nothing about the quality of a player. Even before we had WAR and wRC+, batting average was much more popular than OPS.

Not only were people complaining about Shaw’s batting average, they were also going on about Shaw’s RBI totals, which dropped to 86 this season. Again, RBIs don’t tell you about the quality of a player. A lead off hitter will almost have less runs driven in because he will often bat with fewer runners on.

Whereas hitters in the middle of the order will always have the most RBIs because of where they bat in the lineup. In 2017, Shaw was penciled in the clean up spot, but with the Milwaukee Brewers acquiring much more talent before 2018, Shaw hit lower in the batting order, and his RBI totals suffered.

Shaw’s transition to second base

We should not underestimate Shaw’s move to second base, a position he never played before. Shaw was asked to move to second after Mike Moustakas was added and he has done fabulous there.

With only one error committed at second, Shaw’s defensive transition went smoother than hoped. While Moustakas has been a nice addition, he isn’t a star. In fact Shaw is a better hitter. Shaw moving to a position completely unfamiliar to him and continuing to produce shows a lot of character.

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It’s time to give Shaw his much due credit. A team with an MVP candidate, a 101-RBI man, Shaw has been the Milwaukee Brewers’ rock, putting up near identical production in back to back years. When you watch the Brewers postseason, don’t forget about Shaw. While he may not go on a home run binge, walks are very useful, too.

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