Prevailing through the DoU staff previews of the Brewers positional players, there was a general sense of optimism. Despite the general number of question marks, the Brewers depth and new arrangements around the diamond (including Ryan Braun in RF and Khris Davis in LF) leaves the club more options in case of an absolute replacement emergency (such as early 2012 and 2013 provided). After Tuesday’s run through of the impact of Matt Garza on the Brewers rotation, I think it could be useful to place some Runs Scored totals to the Brewers’ positional players.
On Tuesday, I asked, “How does Garza impact the number of games that the Brewers can win while scoring four runs?,” and “How does Garza impact the number of games that the Brewers can win while scoring three runs?” Now, it’s time to turn the tables: the pitchers can improve all they like, but if the Brewers offense does not score more runs, the club might not be able to fully capitalize on the pitching improvements. So, for the bats one can ask, in how many games can the Brewers score 4 or 5 runs?
Why stop at 4 or 5? Why not focus on gigantic run totals? Well, the basic idea around the offense improvement is simple: if the offense improves by 40 runs, but those runs are distributed unevenly in high-scoring affairs, there is a sense that the club might still fail in close games. Furthermore, the basic idea is to expand the number of close victories for the Brewers. If the pitchers and batters both improve in complementary ways, the club can not only improve their run differential, but they can also improve their distribution of quality games.
|Brewers Offenses||0-2 R||3 R||4 R||5 R||6+ R|
However, despite the Brewers’ inability to score runs in 2013, the offense scored four and five runs significantly more frequently than in 2012 (and, they scored five runs more frequently than in 2011). The trouble with the offense can clearly be seen while looking at runs scored totals between zero and three runs. In both cases, the Brewers scored between 0-and-2 runs, as well as three runs, in significantly fewer games in 2013. Not surprisingly, the club also scored more-than-six runs in significantly fewer games than in 2011 and 2012.
Even if one upholds the importance of close wins, or the ability to win with a moderate number of runs (such as three and four runs), it is clear that a runs scored improvement for the Brewers must occur at the extreme ends of the spectrum. While more games in which the club scores three runs could certainly help the Brewers improve on their 6-14 mark in such games, the club simply needs to reverse its runs totals on opposite ends of the spectrum; instead of scoring 0-2 runs so frequently, an improved offense simply does means scoring six-or-more runs more frequently. This changes the focus of the offensive improvement from the idea of winning more 4-3 or 3-2 games to the idea of winning more 6-4 or even 10-3 games (easy victories certainly would not hurt Ron Roenicke‘s roster strategies and bullpen moves.
Scenario #1: Braun and Ramirez do not come back full strength, and the Brewers have weak production from at least four other positions (1B, 2B, SS, LF)
A negative, everything-goes-wrong offensive season is certainly a possibility for the Brewers. In fact, that’s distinctly how the season went in 2013. Judging Brewers by their R and RBI, here’s how the 2013 Brewers compared to the NL / Miller Park:
RRBI is a quick and dirty way to estimate runs production within the context of a specific team or league. By taking the harmonic mean between R and RBI, one can balance those elements of production to estimate a player’s contribution. Calculation: ((2*R*RBI) / R+RBI)
So, this is an example of one “everything goes wrong”-type scenario. But, it’s almost opening day, and we can save negative scenarios for June and July. My question is, How do Brewers improvements look?
Scenario #2: Braun and Ramirez come back strong; 2B, SS, 1B, and LF below-or-approaching average.
So, you might be wondering why we should analyze players by using their R and RBI. Certainly, R and RBI are completely contextual, dependent measurements of player performances; they cannot be removed from the context of the club, and they do not necessarily show a player’s true ability or reflect their statistical record. However, this type of tool can be beneficial for looking at how a team’s offense might actually perform. One can prorate R and RBI to plate appearances, which makes it very easy to judge players against their fielding position and their batting order.
By judging players in the context of their batting order, one can see how different elements of the team interact. For example, the first and second batters will almost inevitably lose a significant percentage of their “statistical production,” since their actual production depends so much on R (and so little on RBI). By contrast, the middle-order-bats require players with skills related to RBI (or, they provide those players with an opportunity to drive in a lot of runners).
2013: Lead-Off Woes
This means that teams ought to place their best batters in the middle of the order, and use lead-off and second hitters as an afterthought (or, place players there with profiles that do not seem suited for producing RBI; teams might also bat players 1st or 2nd that can afford to lose production). One might disagree with this strategy, but NL managers have used their lead-off roles this way in the past few years; the managers’ most important concern seems to be placing their best bats in the middle of the order, while anyone from the 4th best to 7th best bats can serve in the lead-off spot.
|Order||R / RBI||RRBI / PA||RC / PA||% of Production|
By using this chart, one can construct a batting order that maximizes the Brewers’ players:
1. Gennett / Weeks (contact or OBP)
2. Segura (contact)
3. Braun (power / speed)
4. Ramirez (power / contact)
5. Gomez (power / speed)
6. Lucroy (contact / discipline)
7. Davis (power)
8. Overbay / Reynolds
Now, one can also plug these players’ expected, position average, or career average R and RBI into the chart:
|Order / Bat||PA||RRBI Produced (R / RBI)|
|2B||750||65 (90 R / 51 RBI)|
|SS||734||63 to 71 (80 R / 53 RBI)|
|RF||717||100 to 116 (118 R / 113 RBI)|
|3B||701||90 to 99 (92 R / 105 RBI)|
|CF||685||85 to 90 (85 R / 92 RBI)|
|C||668||69 (64 R / 72 RBI)|
|LF||648||55 to 60 (52 R / 60 RBI)|
|1B||629||55 to 65 (55 R / 58 RBI)|
|Positional Players||Best Run Total: 620-636 R|
|Team||660 to 680|
By comparison, in 2013 the Brewers scored 640 runs as a team. Their positional players scored 596 runs, and their RRBI suggested 572 runs of production. It should be clear that even with shortcomings elsewhere in the batting order, a healthy Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez improve the offense notably.
Scenario #3: Braun and Ramirez @ 80%, average LF and 1B, below average 2B and SS
One of the important elements of improving the depth of the club is that the Brewers have more options to maintain their offense in the case of injury and ineffectiveness issues in 2014. This also gives the offense a better chance to produce runs, even when Braun and Ramirez are not at their best. In a sense, Braun and Ramirez really do not drive this offense.
|Order / Bat||PA||RRBI Produced|
|SS||734||63 to 71|
|RF||717||80 to 93|
|3B||701||72 to 79|
|CF||685||85 to 90|
|LF||648||66 to 74|
|1B||629||71 to 78|
|Positional Players||Best Run Total: 610-626|
|Team||655 to 670|
This should give Brewers fans some faith that even if the team does not receive the best production from their top two bats, the offense can still improve in 2014.
Scenario #4: Everyone Average or Better
Remember 2012? That offense was excellent, in part because they had so many players with complementary attributes: contact-hitting, power / speed, and discipline / speed players throughout the batting order. This scenario is the type of case where excellent middle-order production maximizes early order production (like 2012’s Norichika Aoki), and where strong bats play throughout the order.
|Order / Bat||PA||RRBI Produced|
|RF||717||100 to 116|
|3B||701||90 to 99|
|CF||685||85 to 90|
|LF||648||66 to 74|
|1B||629||71 to 78|
|Positional Players||Best Run Total: 667-683|
|Team||712 to 728|
This case might certainly be unrealistic, but one need not lose the entire season to ineffectiveness and injury just yet. The basic point is that the Brewers’ order has the capacity to produce a notable offensive improvement in 2014.
The 2014 Brewers will turn more to young faces to develop their offense, and players like Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura may need to lead the top of the order. However, in contrast to concerns about their OBP, patience, discipline, or contact profiles, these players are the best candidates for leading off on the club. Since their bats do not necessarily profile into other roles (especially middle-order production), and since they play at weaker offensive positions, the Brewers can afford to place both batters 1-2. Meanwhile, with both Braun and Carlos Gomez in the middle of the order, the Brewers can alternate traditional power with excellent speed in the middle of their order. In this sense, a 5-6-7- of Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Khris Davis presents a variation of a 1-2-3 setup. For this reason, the Brewers can translate their sudden positional depth into a deep offensive order that helps them score more runs.
An 88 run improvement might be extreme, but a 40 run improvement should be well within the abilities of the 2014 Brewers. The question remains, toward which end of this spectrum, between 680 and 728 runs, will the Brewers land?
3/10: Ryan previewed the catcher position
3/11: Curt previewed first base
3/12: Jonathan previewed second base
3/13: Steve previewed third base
3/14: Vineet previewed short stop
3/17: Adam previewed left field
3/18: Alex previewed center field
3/19: Ryan previewed right field
3/20: Jaymes previewed the top of the rotation
3/21: Nicholas previewed the back of the rotation
3/22: Curt previewed the team’s rotation depth
3/25: Tim previewed the closer role
3/26: Curt previewed the setup men
3/27: Jaymes previewed the left-handed relievers