Brewers: Should We Be Worrying About Keston Hiura?

The Brewers have not gotten off to an ideal start to the season after losing the opening series to the Twins with a relatively putrid offensive output. One of the key players that struggled offensively was Keston Hiura.

The man can hit. Ever since the Brewers drafted Hiura in 2017, that’s all we’ve heard about him. The man can hit. But right now, it appears that he can’t hit.

After playing all three games in the Twins series, Hiura went hitless in 11 at-bats. He struck out six times.

2020 was a down season for Hiura, as his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate jumped up. Hiura led the National League in strikeouts last year.

After a slow start to the 2021 season, is it time for the Brewers to start worrying about Keston Hiura?

No. It’s not time to worry or press the panic button on Keston Hiura yet.

A bad start to the season often inflates the feelings that a player has lost the ability to hit. If Hiura had an 0-for-11 stretch during July, no one would worry and maybe not even notice. But since his 0-for-11 stretch has come in the first three games of the season, things look far worse.

Hiura is also learning a completely new position on defense, a transition that hasn’t always been smooth. With the extra emphasis on defense, mentally it can tough to place the necessary focus on offense that Hiura, or any other hitter for that matter, is used to.

While we shouldn’t worry or panic just yet, we do need to keep an eye on Hiura. Slow starts can put hitters in massive mental ruts that last a whole season, possibly longer. When a hitter starts slow, mentally they try too hard to get base hits and it can lead to a downward spiral they can’t get out of. The Brewers witnessed Travis Shaw go through that in 2019, which ironically led to the call up of Hiura.

Shaw had that slow start get to his head and it destroyed his entire 2019 season and set back his career big time. Hiura needs to avoid that same fate.

It just looks like Keston Hiura has a hole in his swing and is striking out a lot.

He is striking out a lot, and even in his strong rookie campaign of 2019, he struck out 30.8% of the time. That’s just going to be part of the territory with Hiura.

Another important stat to look at is Hiura’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). In 2019, his BABIP was .402, which is quite high. Even in the minors, Hiura was posting a BABIP in the .380 range. In 2020, his BABIP fell to .273.

While the average BABIP across baseball is around .300, Hiura’s is going to be much higher considering the type of hitter he is. The best hitters usually do have consistently higher BABIPs.

But a sustainable .400 BABIP seems unlikely, even for Hiura. Something in the .350 range seems like a better target.

Yes, Hiura’s coming off a down year and he isn’t starting this next year off too well. But he’s also learning a new defensive position and is still learning the league. This is Hiura’s third year in the big leagues, and it’s a very important year for him. He had a sophomore slump in 2020 as the league adjusted to him, and now he has to adjust back.

The odds of a bounce-back season are still good, but it’s important that he sees something fall in soon, and gets himself on the board. The Brewers need Hiura in the worst way, and the last thing either side can afford is a mental downward spiral like Shaw in 2019.

The best thing fans can do is be supportive of Hiura and be positive that he’ll get it going on offense. Spreading negativity is not going to help. He’s making a tough transition to first base, and it’s important that he does well defensively there, just as it’s important he does well on offense.

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It’s very difficult to work on both at the same time. We’re three games into the season. There’s no reason to panic or worry about things right now.