We’ve finally made it to Week 20 of Power Rankings. Unfortunately, the Brewers received little praise from our colleagues at ESPN, which, when you think about it, could have been a lot worse. The Brewers ended a 6-game skid in yesterday’s come from behind win, justifying their stay at last week’s spot at No. 23 in this week’s polls.
Since he’s earned it, this week will be centered around the man of the hour — Mr. Keon Broxton. Remember when he couldn’t even get a single hit to begin the year? Boy, how things have progressed. And of course, after I sent my comments to ESPN at around noon yesterday saying how he has three home runs through the 20th, he decides to play long ball not once, but twice.
His turnaround is the epitome of exciting, but was it expected? Some might say so, others might say not. Flashes of power similar to the incline Broxton is currently on are normal in the game of baseball, but it’ll be important to see just how long he can keep it going. Is it a phase or is it a new development in his game? Let’s take a look at how things have progressed for the 26-year-old outfielder.
Below is a heat map measuring Broxton’s contact, separating his time prior to the 26th (his most recent callup) to after. While the numbers are impressive, its important to remember that he had many more AB’s in the first chunk of the year:
The largest change from red to blue exists on the outer half of the plate. Pitchers had been feasting there prior to this recent surge, giving Broxton trouble with pitches falling off the plate (resulting in his extremely high K% to begin the year). However, much to his advantage, he has redefined his approach and is succeeding more frequently in making contact with pitches reaching that part of the dish.
Broxton’s improved plate discipline has resulted in harder hit balls when he does make contact. Prior to July 26, his line drive percentage sat at 16.7 percent. From July 26 to now? It has jumped to 33.3 percent.
His spray charts also relay some intriguing information. In the dates we’ve compared above, his hits to the middle-to-right side of the field have gone from 51.6 percent (29% center, 22.6% opposite) to 10 points higher at 61.8 percent (42.6% center, 19.2% opposite). While the opposite field data has dipped slightly, the improvement in driving the ball straight ahead is more than enough to make this a positive trend.
It’s so great seeing Broxton excel. The reasons are beginning to unfold as to why David Stearns picked him as the player Milwaukee received when Jason Rogers was sent to Pittsburgh. The defining mantra of Stearns’ time in Milwaukee so far has revolved around finding diamonds in the rough, and Broxton’s recent slash is beginning to make fans wonder if he’ll continue to be a secret weapon (Broxton is hitting .361/.465/.667 and has an OPS of 1.132 since July 26).
When you tally this all of information up, you see an astonishing increase in my favorite baseball stat, wRC+. Prior to being recalled by Milwaukee, Broxton’s wRC+ was so small, you needed a magnifying glass to read it (23, for those interested). His 44 percent K% didn’t do him any favors either, along with his slash of a putrid .125/.253/.188. Thankfully that K% has dropped dramatically down to a much more reasonable 29.9 percent and as we said before, his slash is currently at an all-time high. But as for his wRC+? It now sits at a smooth 198.
It all turns back to the word I used to define this season way back in Week 1 of these Power Rankings: development. That’s what these final games are going to revolve around. That’s what is going to be the Brewers’ No. 1 priority from here on out (along with winning, of course). It’s the theme Counsell is using for all the inexperienced players along with Broxton. The more development they receive, the more they’ll be able to contribute in 2017.