The Brewers scored the most runs in the National League in 2012. Even when we take into consideration Miller Park’s recent offensive jump, the Brewers’ offense still remains one of the top National League clubs, outscoring their park environment by more than 65 runs. Furthermore, the Brewers’ offense was rather efficient in 2012. If we calculate the basic runs created in the National League, the league actually scored approximately 98.8% of their expected runs. In the Brewers’ case, their basic runs created was approximately 781; this means their actual runs scored total of 776 is five runs better than the league ratio. Even if we consider the Brewers’ advanced runs created statistic (as calculated by Baseball-Reference), the club remained efficient; while the National League actually scored approximately 93.6% of their advanced runs created estimate, the Brewers’ 776 runs account for 93.8% of their 827 advanced estimate.
Fun with Runs Created, Runs Scored, and Runs Batted In
2012 NL R: 10929
2012 NL RRBI*: 10642 (97% of actual runs)
2012 NL RC: 11064 (101% of actual runs)
2012 NL RC advanced (B-R): 11675 (107% of actual runs)
*RRBI is a down-and-dirty, at-a-glance stat that I used to estimate a player’s actual production against their expected production. By taking the harmonic mean between R and RBI, we can estimate (1) how a player’s batting position influences their production, and (2) how their opportunities to score runs and plate baserunners relates to their expected production. It’s easy as pie: (2*R*RBI) / (R+RBI), and since it’s already on the scale of actual runs scored, it is incredibly easy to place in park context and compare to the actual run environment in league and park.
(We can argue that R and RBI are simply consequences of context and batting order or other opportunities out of the batter’s control, but those contextual factors still influence production).
Brewers’ Positional Analysis
Unsurprisingly, the Brewers’ positional rankings heavily favor left field and third base. Of course, those positions were filled by Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, who filled approximately 91.5% of the club’s plate appearances at those positions. Simply accounting for their actual runs scored and runs batted in, the Brewers were approximately 50 runs better than average at LF and 3B alone. Clearly, these positions were key to the Brewers.
Surprisingly, the Brewers’ remaining positions were rather close to the league average, even in the cases of SS and 2B. The club’s “worst” position was RF, but that can be accounted for by the fact that Norichika Aoki, Nyjer Morgan, and Corey Hart combined to bat lead off at least 95 times for the 2012 Brewers (nevermind another 20+ times batting second from RF). Batting early in the order will probably contribute to a position losing some of its offensive value, simply due to the lack of RBI opportunities provided by leading off ballgames and batting behind the pitcher.
Three of the most interesting positions for the Brewers are second base, shortstop, and centerfield. These three positions combined for estimated run production nearly 30 runs below average. However, due to the actual distribution of runs in the Brewers’ batting order, as well as the placement of those positions in the batting order across the league, the R and RBI production of the Brewers’ 2B, SS, and CF were only six aggregate runs below average. This is similar to overall league trends, as the batting positions of CF, 2B, and SS lost approximately 20 (or more) runs when their actual runs produced are compared to their estimated runs created.
As a result, even though it appears that the Brewers have several below average bats at these positions, the club was able to maintain solid production from those questionable performances. Undoubtedly, this is a strong contributing factor to the Brewers’ overall offensive efficiency, a good back-up to above average performances by LF, 3B, C, and 1B.
Perhaps for 2013 we truly need not worry about whether the Brewers have an above average offense. Rather, I propose a different question: can the Brewers use their power/speed advantages once again, and produce an efficient offensive club?