The Brewers pitching staff — a rather perennial weakness turned into a strength by a pair of offseason trades — was very good throughout much of the 2011 season. The squad as a whole posted a 3.63 ERA despite the hitter-friendly nature of Miller Park. For the most part, that meant the Brewers succeeded up and down the lineup, except for two notable instances:
Purely looking at OPS, the table reads as we would expect. The Brewers took the most damage from leadoff and cleanup hitters — typically two of the three best hitters on the team, and then from third and fifth hitters. But as sOPS+ — or, adjusted OPS inside the split — tells us, the Brewers were hit the hardest from eighth place hitters relative to what we would expect.
The league average eighth place hitter notched just a .674 OPS, but against the Brewers, these hitters turned into top-of-the-order mashers, with 28 doubles and 12 home runs in just over 600 plate appearances. Perhaps notable: the Brewers only utilized the intentional walk twice in these situations. The rest of the league? 184 times in 10123 chances, a full 5.5 times more often than Ron Roenicke called for it. In many cases, the intentional walk is overused, and the benefit of facing the pitcher to lead off the inning undervalued, but it will be interesting to see if Roenicke sticks to his guns regarding the intentional walk in 2012.
The Brewers also took a bit of a beating from leadoff hitters, although that should probably be expected in the National League Central. Most of the teams sported excellent leadoff hitters in 2011, including the Pirates (Andrew McCutchen), Cubs (Starlin Castro), Reds (Drew Stubbs) and even the Astros (Michael Bourn). Even the Cardinals got in on the action after acquiring Rafael Furcal, who was mediocre against most teams but crushed the Brewers to the tune of five home runs in just 12 games.