It took 14 innings until the Brewers’ luck finally ran out Sunday. After a lost start by Kyle Lohse, due to a lengthy rain delay, the Brewers’ anemic offense managed only two hits over 12 innings – both courtesy of Martin Maldonando. Maldonando even doubled to start the eighth inning but, following a failed sacrifice bunt by Logan Schafer, never made it off second base.
After going 59-18 (.766 WP%) against the Pirates between 2008-2012, the Brewers are 4-9 (.308 WP%) versus the Pirates in 2013. With six games left between the two team (Aug 27-29 and Sept 2-4), the Brewers will need to sweep the remaining games to win the season series against the Pirates. Of course, to do so would be nothing more than a small victory for the Crew. Yet, with their season lost, the Brewers’ next challenge will be to figure out what’s worth fighting for from here forward.
Last year, Ron Roenicke managed his way through a beleaguered bullpen and found a way to motivate the team for a late season run, which, in turn, elevated fans expectations. But this season has begun with a belly-flop that has stung us all. Everyone’s preseason predictions, even the tepid ones, have crashed to earth, and the Brewers has buried themselves in a hole so deep that the thought of a respectable season is all but gone. As fans and an organization, we haven’t been in this spot for a long time. This is what it feels like in the cellar of the NL Central.
If Roenicke wants to avoid replacing Ned Yost and the 2004 Brewers as the most recent Brewers team to finish last in the NL Central, he must reframe what success means and manage this team toward the small victories from here forward.
As fans, we can only hope the injury bug treats the team better in the season’s second half and understand that rough seas will make way for smoother sailing. A fan’s small victory comes in supporting their team through troubled times only to see it emerge stronger than before.
Sunday afternoon, Juan Francisco became the seventh Brewer to bat cleanup this season. FS Wisconsin noted in their pre-game coverage that this would be the Brewers’ 57th different batting order to start a game – not including the pitcher’s spot. 57 different line-ups through 80 games felt like a lot to me and got me wondering if the Brewers’ lack of line-up stability was part of the reason the team has struggled?
According to Baseball Reference, prior to Sunday’s game and line-up, the Brewers had used 56 different batting orders through 79 games. The most common line-up was used seven times and looks like this –
As a comparison, I looked at how much the Pirates’ batting order has been shuffled around. Surprisingly, through their first 80 games, the Pirates have used 64 different batting orders (again, not including the pitcher’s spot). The Pirates most common batting order also occurred only seven times.
As a final comparison, here’s how the Brewers’ total batting orders (TBO) and use of their most common batting order (MCBO) compares to the rest of the National League prior to Sunday’s games –
From what I can see, there appears to be no correlation between a consistent batting order and success on the field. Though it is interesting to note that the Cardinals have had the steadiest line-up. Meanwhile, Don Mattingly plays batting order Mad Libs on a daily basis and can’t bring himself to fill out the same line-up card more than twice.
Clearly, the Brewers’ struggles aren’t caused by a consistently shifting line-up. In fact, the average number of different batting orders used by NL teams is 61. Making the Brewers’ 57 line-ups slightly below the NL average. So, if anything, the shifting sands on the line-up card are nothing more than a consequence of a ton of injuries and an unproductive bottom of the line-up — in other words, the natural ebb and flow of the game.