The Brewers offense was hard to watch at times in 2021, but were they actually bad? Well, yes and no.
The point of offense in baseball is to score runs. That’s it. It’s not like other sports where there’s a secondary purpose like running the clock down. There is no clock. In that aspect the Brewers were 12th in the majors in runs scored, sixth in the National League. So they were technically an above average offense scoring 0.06 runs per game above the league average.
Historically bad batting average
Nonetheless, it was definitely hard to watch. They hit .233 last year, good for 28th in the majors and worst in the National League. Matter of fact, .233 is the worst batting average by a division champion in any non-shortened season. Only the Cubs (.220) and Athletics (.225) of the shortened 2020 season won their divisions with worse batting averages.
On top of the abysmal batting average, they were seventh in the league in strikeouts, third in the National League. But is that any different than what we’re used to seeing from the Brewers? Not really.
Is it AmFam?
Since the opening of what is now American Family Field in 2001 the Brewers rank 22nd in runs scored, 0.08 runs per game below league average, while being 25th in batting average and leading the league in strikeouts.
They not only led the league in strikeouts in that time period, they led the league in strikeouts at home. This is interesting because from the franchise’s inaugural season in 1969 through the final season at Milwaukee County Stadium in 2000 they were 17th in total strikeouts, 16th in strikeouts at home. I know the first few seasons at MIller Park were rough, but they’ve only had one 90 loss season since 2004 so they haven’t been trotting out anemic offenses year in and year out.
I’m curious if there is something about American Family Field that caused the jump in strikeouts, be it the batter’s eye or the shadows caused by the roof. Or perhaps the Brewers just got a jump on what baseball would evolve into. While leading the league in strikeouts and batting .253 from 2001-2021 they scored 4.43 runs per game. Compare that to 1969-2000 when they were 16th in strikeouts and batted .260, they scored 4.44 runs per game. Then compare that to just the 2021 season where they hit .233, had the seventh most strikeouts, yet scored 4.56 runs per game.
Thanks to a mix of defensive shifts becoming more popular, starters being pulled earlier, and more pitchers throwing up near 100 miles per hour, baseball has evolved into a game of lower batting averages and more strikeouts. To counter that offenses have turned to drawing more walks and hitting more home runs in order to score. Whether they did it on purpose or not, the Brewers started doing that around the turn of the century.
So was the Brewers offense bad in 2021? No. They were average. But it was pretty ugly, just like it has been.