Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Brewers can’t hit the low pitch

Someone ought to be plastering “MISSING” signs all over Milwaukee in order to find the Brewers’ offense. It hasn’t been seen since August 2015, and people are starting to worry. Myself included.

The Brewers are dead last in runs and home runs, and that has a resulted in an improbable 53 wRC+. (That means they’ve created 47% fewer runs than league average.) It hasn’t helped that Ryan Braun has just one extra-base hit to his name and Jonathan Lucroy — who was just placed on the disabled list with a broken toe — has looked like a zombie at the plate.

But the lack of scoring doesn’t just boil down to two players. There’s plenty of other ingredients that go into it.

One of those missing ingredients is the team’s inability to hit pitches in the lower half of the zone. Let’s take a look at the strike zone so I can better illustrate where the problems lie.

Zone

Because I wanted to find out how the Brewers perform on pitches in the bottom of the zone (zones 7,8.9), I went to Baseball Savant and sorted pitch location by batting average. With just how bad Milwaukee’s offense has been, the results didn’t really surprise me.

On pitches in zones 7, 8 and 9, the Brewers have a measly batting average of .198 (21 for 106), which is the lowest mark in Major League Baseball. It seems as if opposing pitchers have picked up on this out as well. Only six teams have seen more pitches in those areas of the zone, meaning pitchers are pounding it because they know Milwaukee is incapable of doing anything with their low pitches. Lucroy has had the most success against low pitches, going for 7-for-16, and Braun is 4-for-12, but other than that, the Brewers have produced nada. Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Khris Davis have combined to go 2-for-28 (.071).

Struggling low in the zone isn’t new for the Brewers. In 2014, they hit .276 in those three zones, and while that batting average is infinitely better than why they’re at now, the Brewers still finished 26th out of 30 teams. Not many home runs come from pitches down in the zone, so for a team explicitly built to hit home runs, one shouldn’t expect much production.

And I think that’s the issue. For at least the last few years, the Brewers have been programmed to hit home runs or lose. They’re not an on-base percentage team, they’re an all or nothing team. And the latter has been winning for quite some time now.

What went wrong in Matt Garza’s start?

Matt Garza followed Kyle Lohse‘s poor start on Opening Day with one of his own, managing just five innings and allowing four runs on eight hits. The Colorado Rockies hit Garza so hard, that he and Jonathan Lucroy switched up their signs midway through the game in case he was tipping his pitches.

So what went wrong?

Throughout spring training, Garza boasted that he rediscovered his slider. Here’s what he told MLB.com after his final spring training start:

“Losing that last year, it taught me how to pitch. When I didn’t have my slider — I was a fastball/slider guy — now I had to learn how to pitch. I have a curveball, I developed a changeup. Yeah, it was a terrible year without strikeouts, but I was able to get through it and make pitches and get out of stuff. I still don’t forget that, and now I have my slider. It’s like, ‘Yay, new toy!’ I feel confident with my stuff right now, and I want to keep it going.”

Despite his confidence, Garza only threw his slider nine times. That doesn’t sound like much of a new toy, nor does it sound like it’s very fun to play with (three of the four sliders that were put in play went for base hits). The truth is, however, that Garza needs his slider to be successful, and from his comments above, he’s well aware of that fact. He threw it 21.7% of the time in 2014, the lowest rate since 2010, and that needs to change this season. Increased slider usage should create an uptick in strikeouts (he had just two on Tuesday) and take pressure off his fourseam fastball of which he threw 43 times out of 81 pitches.

In addition to his limited slider use, Garza had a difficult time locating his pitches.

Capture

He spent a lot of time in the middle portion of the zone, which is where the majority of Colorado’s hits came from. Garza rarely challenged hitters up in the zone, and when he did, they fouled him off. Garza was actually pretty lucky he allowed just five runs considering the Rockies posted a .381 BABIP that included more doubles than I could count. Fortunately, he kept the ball in Miller Park and Garza allowed just one free pass.

Going forward, Garza needs to work the corners more. He also can’t be afraid of utilizing his slider more or going up in the strike zone with his 93 mph fastball.

 

Let’s laugh at Kyle Lohse’s stats

Opening Day didn’t exactly go the Milwaukee Brewers way, as they were rocked 10-0 by the Colorado Rockies. I attended the game, and let me tell you, it was no fun. Sure, the couple of beers I had helped quell the pain, but it wasn’t enough. Luckily, today’s game was just 0.6% of the season, so let’s forget about it.

Instead, let’s make light of the situation and laugh at what Kyle Lohse‘s statistics look like.

ERA: 21.60

FIP: 10.26

BABIP: .471

HR/9: 5.40

HR/FB: 28.6%

LOB%: 27.8%

His xFIP sits at 2.46, so I guess we can expect his home runs to normalize. If not, he’ll be a Marco Estrada clone, and none of us want that.

Jonathan Lucroy abruptly retires, cites lost love for baseball

In a unexpected move, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy announced his retirement Wednesday, citing his lost love for the game of baseball.

In a press conference held in Maryvale, Arizona, Lucroy, seated alongside Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin, said that he no longer has the burning passion that is required to play baseball day in and day out.

“Last year was the last straw for me,” Lucroy said. “I was on the fence about playing before last season started, but now I’m positive this game is not for me. I don’t have the urge to put on my uniform anymore. I’m just tired.”

Lucroy also talked about how the drama in 2013 with Ryan Braun deeply affected his morale and that he lost “faith in baseball” as a whole.

“I still consider Braunie a friend,” Lucroy said. “But the way he tricked and lied to us wore me out. He made baseball about him and nothing else. I just don’t want to deal with anything like that again. Baseball isn’t fun anymore, and that’s one of the reasons why.”

Attanasio was caught completely off guard by Lucroy’s announcement, and despite pleading with him to remain a part of the organization, he said he respects Lucroy’s decision.

“We are losing an All-Star and the best catcher in the game,” Attanasio said. “He cannot be replaced and there’s really nothing I can say to illustrate the value he has to our team. But when a player doesn’t enjoy coming to the ballpark every day, it’s time to call it quits. We wish nothing but the best for Jonathan.”

Brewers players weren’t immediately made available to the media, but a source close to the team said the spring training clubhouse was “quieter than a ghost town.”

Lucroy finished fourth in the National League MVP race in 2014, but his success wasn’t enough to make him stay.

“I want to spend time with my family and go hunting and fishing,” Lucroy said. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”

When asked if he felt he was abandoning his teammates and putting the organization in a bad spot with such little time before the season commences, Lucroy acknowledged that to some, his actions may seem selfish.

“I mean, it’s selfish and it isn’t. I don’t want to play baseball anymore, so I would cause more harm to the Brewers than good by being on the roster.”

Melvin said backup catcher Martin Maldonado will take over as starting catcher, and discussions have already taken place about acquiring a backup.

Lucroy finishes his career with a .285 batting average, 59 home runs and 294 runs batted in.

 

 

April Fools, everybody. Be thankful Lucroy is here to stay.