The Brewers offense has been a weakness for the team for a while now.
While the team has heavily relied on its pitching to get where it is, injuries this season have shown that that strategy is not foolproof. What do the metrics show? Is the team underperforming, or are they performing just as intended?
(17)2020 89 (25)26.6% (3)10.1%
(27)202191 (23)24.0% (T-8)
2022 97 (19)23.6% (8)8.7%
data via StatCast and FanGraphs
The underlying metrics show the Brewers are hitting the ball hard, and barreling the ball up at a rate that is near the top of the league this season. Despite that, the team currently is 17th in runs per game.
The Brewers offense has been a struggle for the past several seasons, what can the advanced numbers available today show?
The Brewers have 11 batters who have over 100 plate appearances, and only six have a wRC+ over 100, which is league average. Of those 11 players with at least 100 plate appearances, only Omar Narvaez, Hunter Renfroe, and Kolten Wong have a higher than wOBA than xwOBA, which predicts outcomes based on launch angle, exit Velo, and sprint speed.
While the team was never constructed to lead the league in offensive production, nor is it, that’s not an inherent problem when the pitching staff is as elite as it was last season. With Freddy Peralta out for the foreseeable future, and Brandon Woodruff still injured, the staff is just not at the levels it was last season. Instead of rolling with this offense still, perhaps it’s time the team changes how they are constructed.
Over the past 5 seasons, the Brewers hard hit% has gone up and has increased from 2018 to 2022, despite the raw increase, the Brewers have fallen in team ranking of hard hit%. While a hard hit rate of 37.6 was good enough for 5th in 2018, 39.1 places the team in 13th place in 2022.
Christian Yelich and Willy Adames currently lead the team in Hard Hit%, but Yelich’s wRC+ of 101 once again shows that hard hits don’t always correlate with success.
The team has been able to keep up with teams in regards to their barrel%. The team as a whole records a barrel in 8.9% of batted balls which is led by Willy Adames (17.5%), Hunter Renfroe (13.0%), and Rowdy Tellez (11.9%). The list ends with Omar Narvaez (4.7%) , Kolten Wong (3.4%), and Lorenzo Cain, who is yet to record a barrel.
This season in particular, the aggregate Brewers have seen a decrease in line drives, and are hitting more fly balls, with three expected names leading the charge: Hunter Renfroe (46.3%), Rowdy Tellez (45.9%), and Willy Adames (45.6%). Christian Yelich (29.8%) and Lorenzo Cain (28.8%) are at the bottom of the list. Conversely, Cain (59.6%) and Yelich (55.3%) lead the team in ground balls hit.
For the Brewers to improve their offense, getting healthy is the first step. Currently Kolten Wong, who has struggled throughout, is on the IL, and Luis Urias is battling hamstring discomfort. After the team is healthy, there are upgrades the team needs to look to make, specifically center field, DH, and possibly second base.
The Brewers should look to bolster those positions they are currently producing below league average production from, and they should target hard hitting batters who can elevate the ball.
Eventually the team will have to reckon with its continued under performance on offense year in and year out be it through metrics used to evaluate players, or changes made on the player development front, this year is showing the Brewers they cannot rely solely on their pitching.