Where To Improve: Hitting With The Bases Loaded | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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The Milwaukee Brewers offense was good in 2011, but it stops there. At fifth in the National league in runs scored and sporting just a 102 OPS+, any positive adjective past good doesn’t qualify — not great, not excellent, and certainly not doubleplusgood. The problems were easily visible throughout the 2011 season, and they were named Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt. But surely there can be more reasons why the Brewers, despite having arguably the best 1-through-5 in the league, couldn’t manage to plate more runs.

One way the Brewers can — and almost certainly will — improve in 2012 is in hitting with the bases loaded. The Brewers finished 14th in the National League in hitting with the bases loaded, outperforming just the Braves and the Reds:

Rk PA BA OBP SLG OPS sOPS+
1 ARI 133 .387 .421 .649 1.070 191
2 STL 136 .384 .434 .607 1.041 185
3 PIT 123 .317 .341 .485 .827 126
4 FLA 166 .274 .307 .507 .814 120
5 NYM 181 .297 .331 .439 .770 112
6 SDP 132 .267 .333 .406 .739 105
7 CHC 143 .296 .322 .416 .738 104
8 PHI 191 .289 .319 .410 .729 101
9 SFG 113 .260 .301 .427 .728 99
10 COL 163 .234 .301 .358 .658 83
11 WSN 141 .238 .271 .385 .657 80
12 LAD 151 .208 .265 .354 .619 70
13 HOU 141 .244 .262 .354 .617 69
14 MIL 140 .261 .286 .319 .605 69
15 ATL 124 .195 .226 .310 .536 47
16 CIN 179 .169 .246 .264 .509 43
TOT 2357 .268 .309 .414 .724 99

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2012.

With just 140 of the 6,113 plate appearances piled up over the course of six months of baseball coming with the bases loaded, it’s tough to chalk up these results to anything other than the luck of the draw. Still, given how well the league hits with the bases loaded — .268/.309/.414 against .253/.319/.391 in all other situations — putting up an absurdly bad .605 OPS in these situations can put a quick halt to an other wise chugging offense.

However, one of the big issues of the Brewers’ 2011 lineup is exposed when we dig deeper into this split: if Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder didn’t hit themselves in, they couldn’t count on anybody else to do the job.  Of the 140 plate appearances taken by the Brewers with the bases loaded, 56 (40%) were taken by Yuniesky Betancourt, Jonathan Lucroy and Casey McGehee. Lucroy was fine in these situations even if he didn’t provide power (.357/.412/.357), but Betancourt (.143/.167/.143) and McGehee (.273/.200/.455) were not.

Pretty much the Brewers' best offense with the bases loaded.

Betancourt’s awfulness seriously cannot be overstated. He was 3-for-21 with one walk. He hit two sacrifice flies, but also grounded into three double plays. Overall, Betancourt produced a whopping 23 outs (15 normal outs, six on double plays, two on sacrifice flies) in just 21 at-bats and 24 plate appearances. That’s bad enough to break the OPS+ statistic. He checks in at a -12 on a statistic which describes offense produced as a percentage of the league average offense. Considering -12% of the league average offense is some negative number, the stat is basically saying that if you could have negative runs in baseball, Yuniesky Betancourt’s performance with the bases loaded in 2011 is how you would get there.

But the entirety of the blame cannot be placed on him (as fun as that may be). The Brewers’ best hitters were hardly monsters with the bases loaded themselves:

PA BA OBP SLG OPS sOPS+
Erick Almonte 1 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 463
Shaun Marcum 3 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 326
Corey Hart 7 .500 .571 .500 1.071 204
Yovani Gallardo 2 .500 .500 .500 1.000 181
Jerry Hairston 2 .500 .500 .500 1.000 181
Chris Narveson 2 .500 .500 .500 1.000 181
Mark Kotsay 10 .333 .400 .444 .844 136
Nyjer Morgan 10 .286 .400 .429 .829 132
Jonathan Lucroy 17 .357 .412 .357 .769 119
Casey McGehee 15 .273 .200 .455 .655 73
Prince Fielder 14 .333 .286 .333 .619 72
Craig Counsell 4 .333 .250 .333 .583 60
Ryan Braun 12 .182 .250 .182 .432 24
Yuniesky Betancourt 24 .143 .167 .143 .310 -12
Carlos Gomez 6 .000 .167 .000 .167 -46
Rickie Weeks 7 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Felipe Lopez 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Brandon Boggs 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Josh Wilson 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
Team Total 140 .261 .286 .319 .605 69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2012.

Rickie Weeks produced nothing in seven plate appearances, Ryan Braun managed to reach base just thrice in 12 chances, and Prince Fielder didn’t record a single extra-base hit or walk in 14 chances. Next year, the Brewers won’t have the kind of exceptional concentrated talent at the top of the order where they can afford to miss opportunities like this. Chance says that Weeks and Braun should perform better.  Construction of the lineup should result in fewer run-scoring chances left for offensive black holes.  Last season, the Brewers were lucky enough to score enough runs to win the National League Central despite these struggles. Don’t expect them to be so lucky should we see a repeat in 2012.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Luke says: February 22, 2012

    Brewers were also 15/16 in OPS in 2010 at .656. 2009 they were 6th with a .776 OPS, but they were last in 2008 at .563. Do you think this is a team that just isn’t clutch? This could be very ungood.

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