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Milwaukee Brewers: Inside Travis Shaw’s slow start

Matthew Dewoskin
MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 16: Travis Shaw #21 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a single in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park on June 16, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 16: Travis Shaw #21 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a single in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park on June 16, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw is off to a slow start. Are there any signs in his peripheral numbers that he’ll break out soon?

Travis Shaw owned a .154/.327/.231 slash line through the first 12 games of the season. He had one home run, three RBIs, and a strikeout rate over 30%. Are there any signs that he’s due to break out and produce the way the Milwaukee Brewers need him to?

Which numbers are the most concerning?

Shaw’s strikeout rate was actually under 20% last year, so the fact that it’s at 32.7% is a concern. He’s struck out 16 times in fewer than 40 plate appearances heading into Friday night. Last year he only had two months that were over 21%. There’s still a lot of baseball left in April, but it’s a solid bet that he’s going to end up with a K-rate over 20% for the first month of the season.

At this point it’s easy to chalk it up to moving from Spring Training pace to Regular Season pace.

The good news is that his swing rate at pitches outside the zone is only 24.4% so far. That’s below his 30.3% career average, and indicates that he’s not swinging and missing at trash outside the zone. His swinging strike percentage is up slightly at 10.8%, but that’s not nearly enough to make up for a 14% increase in strikeouts.

He’s not flailing at the plate, but he’s not guessing right either. It looks like an adjustment needs to be made in regards to the pitches he’s looking for. That many strikeouts without a marked increased in swing-and-miss indicates that he’s not getting the pitches he’s looking for, and should adjust his approach.

Anything else in his approach that’s odd?

Actually, yes.

Historically a pull hitter, Shaw has gone to center or to the opposite field with over 70% of his balls in play. Pull hitters tend to get the bat out in front, while guys who go oppo are often behind pitches. This could indicate that Shaw needs to adjust his timing.

Which numbers are the most promising?

Despite only having six hits…total, Shaw has an on-base percentage of .327. That’s right around his career average of .333, and he’s doing it with a .227 BABIP. Shaw owns a 16.3% walk rate, so he’s still finding a way to get on base and help the team. He’s seeing pitches well, working deep into the count, and still getting on while going through a rough patch. He’s not fishing, and that’s a sign that he’s avoiding frustration. That’s a huge positive for a hitter in a slump.

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Shaw isn’t the only player on the Milwaukee Brewers off to a slow start, but the team needs Shaw to produce in the middle of the lineup if they’re going to make another run at the post season. The walk rate indicates that he’s as disciplined as ever, but the results show that Shaw needs to adjust what he’s looking for, and get around a bit quicker. These are fixable issues, and there’s no doubt that Shaw and the Milwaukee Brewers brain trust have already started to make adjustments. Shaw’s April numbers will end up looking ugly, but his recent history shows that he’s capable of making changes and producing.

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