The Milwaukee Brewers Aggressive Offensive Approach | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

The Brewers’ nine-game winning streak was snapped on Monday night at the hands of timely Cardinals hitting and a dominant Lance Lynn performance. A Jhonny Peralta solo homer got St. Louis on the board in the second inning, and Jon Jay put the game away with a three-run blast off Matt Garza in the sixth. Lynn took advantage of the aggressiveness of the Brewers, striking out 11 over seven frames.

In case you missed it Monday, the New York Times ran a piece by Tyler Kepner about the Brewers’ free-swinging approach at the plate that led them to a 10-2 start, but also proved beatable on Monday night. It not only detailed the mentality Brewers hitters are taking this season, but also features probably one of my favorite quotes ever.

““It has to be, like, wayyy a ball for us to not swing,” said Carlos Gomez, their center fielder, swiping his hand about a foot off the edge of an imaginary plate.”
In an age and a league dominated by discussions of drawing walks, OBP, and pitch selectivity, the Brewers are swinging to the beat of their own drum. From Kepner:
“If your personnel works out better by being aggressive on the first thing they see, then you go with it,” said Roenicke, who guided the Brewers to their last playoff appearance, in 2011. “Aramis and Gomez have shown that on the first pitch, they do a lot of damage. So you let them do what they do best. I don’t want to tell them, ‘Hey, you guys, start taking pitches,’ because that’s not who they are.”

The first glance at the numbers agrees with the reports of the Brewers hitters’ aggression. The team ranks 20th in OBP (.316) through 13 games despite filing in at sixth in batting average (.271), a number aided by a .324 BABIP, which entered play Monday as the seventh-highest in baseball. Only three teams–Baltimore, San Diego, and Detroit–have drawn fewer walks (and two of those three offenses have been, well, putrid, and Baltimore hasn’t been so hot, either).

Before, I drew conclusions from how drastically the Brewers are taking this new #gritty approach from walk numbers after 13 games. A better, more predictable, way to look at the approaches of this Brewers team at the plate is to take a look at the heat maps of the hitters.

To do that, it’s important to look at more than just the overall assessment of pitch selection. For example, while the whole picture does sum up who’s being more aggressive and so on, by taking into account all counts and all pitch types, looking at specific samples and comparing them to the league is probably a better test.

First, here’s noted first ball swinger Aramis Ramirez on 0-0 counts, with league average on the right.

Compared to years past, Ramirez is swinging at a higher percentage of first pitches, particularly those down in the zone and on the fringes, which normally are rarely swung at in baseball.

Next is another notorious free swinger, Carlos Gomez, proving to us that the ball does, in fact, have to be, like, wayyy outside in order to not swing at it. The visual is Gomez’s swing rate at balls outside the zone compared with league average.

Not all hitters on the Brewers are as naturally aggressive as Ramirez and Gomez (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Lucroy), but, as a whole, the charts do go to show that Milwaukee is swinging at more pitches out of the zone. And not only are they swinging at more balls, but they’re doing so in hitter’s counts. Below is the team swing rate at pitches outside the zone in no ball counts, compared with league average.

Is this approach paying off? Not taking BABIP into context at all, it appears to be paying off with the aggressive hitters on the team. Keep in mind, though, that as the season goes on, those red marks on pitches out of the zone are sure to go down, though the swing rate may remain constant if the team really has bought into the free-swinging mentality. More so than anything, however, these charts go to support the article in the Times and Carlos Gomez’s greatest quote in history. 


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Tell us what do you think.

  1. L says: April 15, 2014

    I’m not a fan of the swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, but it’s been working thus far and I guess it might be better than getting the batters uncomfortable with their approach at the plate… i guess.

    • Curt Hogg says: April 15, 2014

      There will certainly be nights like last night where their over-aggressiveness hurts them and, like I said, those hot zones will probably balance out a little bit. Interested to see if this approach carries over and for how long. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Jason says: April 15, 2014

    As a strategy, it works great if you are going up against a pitcher who challenges batters and pounds the strike zone. In their 3 losses, Atlanta and St. Louis let the Brewers get themselves out. When you only score 2, 0 & 0 runs, you’re going to lose.

    BTW, was I the only one who thought this was going to be a commentary about last night’s strike zone when they saw:

    ““It has to be, like, wayyy a ball for us to not swing,” said Carlos Gomez, their center fielder, swiping his hand about a foot off the edge of an imaginary plate.”

  3. Cory D Sour says: April 15, 2014

    My favorite take-away of the NYT article:

    “When I came up in the league, ‘Moneyball’ was big, and I understood that, because the fifth-, sixth-inning guys were not that good,” Overbay said. “Now, the bottom of our bullpen — any bullpen — they all throw 95. I’d rather face the starter four times. So it’s changed. I don’t think it’s the same game.”

    Is he onto something here? If hitters get to the 6th or 7th inning, what is the likelihood they score runs if they’re facing the starter for a fourth time today versus a reliever they’ve faced maybe four times in a career? Granted, pitchers that stay in the game that late are usually throwing good ball, but I like to believe that the hitter gains an advantage as fatigue sets in and the batter gets an eye on the guy. Maybe there is some stock in keeping a pitcher’s pitch count low so as to see him one more time thru the lineup for a more likely late-inning rally. I have to imagine there’s numbers somewhere to either support or kill Lylo’s Pitch Count Theory. I’d be interested to see ‘em.

    • L says: April 15, 2014

      I thought that Kyle had an intriguing comment too; definitely some interesting logic within it.

      Though I still believe that working pitch counts into favorable pitch situations for the batter is better than a super aggressive mentality, but of course that has to be offset by the players themselves too.

      By that I mean, I do believe some players really can become uncomfortable at the plate when trying to execute a more patient approach that’s meant to work the pitch count so that they can either get good pitches to swing at or earn a walk because for those players their mindset is one where they have difficulty getting past the fact that they may have let a hittable pitch get by them because of their attempt to be patient and do what the coaches expected of them; basically, taking them out of their game mentally. For those types I believe the regret festers and instead of keeping their focus on the next incoming pitch or next at-bat they can’t help but remember the possibilities that could have been.

      When I use to play ball when I was young I had a similar mindset (lacked patience and festered on missed opportunities), but as I aged I felt I could refine my craft with the bat and patience at the plate became more a virtue then a hindrance thanks to my ability to accept that I might let good pitches go by here and there in hopes of getting a more ideal pitch to hit or exactly the pitch I wanted so I could put it into play where I wanted to put it (I wasn’t a home run hitter; I was more of a contact guy w/ speed).


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