The defining trends of the past week and half for the Milwaukee Brewers are a case of hot and cold: the dominance of the pitching staff and the lackluster offense. Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies have been pitching very well for the Crew in the last month. In addition, the starting rotation has had Brent Suter and, through one start, Brandon Woodruff fill in very, very nicely for the injured Chase Anderson and Junior Guerra.
The bullpen has really picked up their game, from what we as a fanbase have come to expect this season. What hasn’t been nice is the Brewers offense.
Going back to July 28, a day after the throttling they received from the Washington Nationals, the Brewers have scored 20 runs. That stat is good enough to earn them dead last in the majors. Not great to say the least.
But through it all the Brewers pitching staff has kept fighting with barely any run support, which is remarkable.
Let’s start with the good. The Brewers starting rotation has pitched a 10th most 55.1 innings, with an opponent wOBA of .251, second best in that timeframe. They also have recorded 50 strikeouts, which is tied for 9th best. They boasted a 1.95 ERA, second best in the majors.
Compared to the rest of the season, the starting rotations opponent wOBA is down 76 points from .327. Their ERA is down 2.17 points from 4.12. In short, they’ve been pretty gosh darn good as of late.
And the pitching performances don’t stop there.
The bullpen has been surprisingly good as well, in thanks to awesome performances from All-Star Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Anthony Swarzak. Milwaukee’s bullpen has pitched a 6th least 26.2 innings in these last nine games. Who would’ve thought that when your bullpen pitches less, they pitch better?
The bullpen’s opponent wOBA is down 22 points from .331 to .309. Their 1.69 ERA (!!!) is good for best in the MLB since that fateful thrashing. What is almost equally astonishing is the Brewers’ bullpen posting 41 strikeouts in those games, 14 fewer than the starting rotation in less than half the innings. Wow.
Live look into the Brewers’ pitching staff after all of their amazing performances this past week.
But now it’s time for the bad news, the Brewers offense. It hasn’t been the greatest lately, despite the Brewers winning five of the last nine.
The Brewers offense has put up a truly abysmal .257 wOBA and an equally abysmal 29.5 strikeout percentage. Keep in mind, according to Fangraphs.com, an “awful” rating in wOBA is .290.
Even though the Brewers batting average with RISP has not been their strong suit all season, averaging only .245 before this terrible stretch, they have managed to drop down to a .109. Yeah. Not great.
The Brewers big hitters have simply not shown up. Eric Thames has .271 wOBA with only six hits. Thames only has two RBI in that span too. He also added on 12 strikeouts. Again, not great.
Travis Shaw put up a .229 wOBA, with six hits as well. Shaw swung and missed on strike three 11 times also. Again. Not great.
Ryan Braun has posted a .297 wOBA, topping Thames’ and Shaw’s six hits, with eight. Okay audience, say it with me. Not. Great.
I can only imagine this is the Brewers’ offense walking around the clubhouse like this after this week’s performance.
The question is which part of the team do the Brewers need more? Do they need shutdown pitching and average to mediocre run support? Or do they need to light up the scoreboard and okay pitching and outscore their opponents?
Personally, I think the offense is way more important to this Brewers team than the pitching. Last year, the Brewers scored 617 runs, 26th in the MLB. This year, they have 521 runs so far, averaging 4.62 runs per game. If that pace keeps up, they will end up scoring 748 runs. Compared to last year that would’ve put them in the 12th spot. To put that into prospective, only four of the top 12 didn’t make the playoffs.
On the flip side, the Brewers last year had a 4.10 team ERA, good for 13th lowest in the MLB, yet they were 16 games under .500. In addition, they ranked 19th in opponent BABIP with .300.
This year, they are ranked 8th in the MLB in ERA with a 4.06. Oddly enough the Brewers pitching staff is boasting a .300 opponent BABIP currently, which is 20th in the bigs.
In this stretch of games, Milwaukee’s pitching staff has a 1.87 ERA, best during this time, .283 BABIP, 12th in the majors and 1.11 in WHIP, good for fifth best in the majors.Yet during this stretch they have lost four games.
These stats go to show that a good offense is better than a good pitching staff. I’m not trying to devalue a good pitching staff either. But without decent run support, all it takes is one inning or 15 bad pitches to get behind two or three runs, and then your pitcher is up for the loss.
The Crew has only outscored their opponent 20-17 since the opener of the Chicago Cubs series. They need to score more runs to give their pitchers some breathing room and every inning isn’t make or break. For example, if they score any of the seven men left on base or get a base hit with one of the eight runners in scoring position, the Brewers probably win that game.
The Brewers need their offense more than their pitching, but if they can keep both of them going at the standard the pitchers are putting up, they will be in an amazing spot comes the end of the season.