Let’s face it Brewers fans, this season is not how everyone thought it would go. 2022 started with intentions of winning the division and securing a playoff spot. Perhaps, even making a deep playoff run towards a World Series. The season still isn’t over and there is plenty of life to it, so the Brewers can’t be counted out yet. However, because of two glaring issues within their offense, the team has been held back. Fixing them won’t necessarily turn the Brewers into a division winner, but it would certainly help their chances.
1. Plate Mentality
When someone is talking in depth about baseball and they say “Plate mentality”, they are referring to the mental approach of the hitter. Baseball is a highly mental game, and if the hitter isn’t properly prepared or doesn’t have a plan heading into the box, their chances of being successful drop.
The reality of the new MLB is that the game is much more analytical than it used to be. Pitchers learn hitter tendencies and if a hitter only bats .220 against off-speed, then he will throw more. If the hitter struggles at hitting outside pitches and he’s only batting .187 on anything outside, the pitcher will attack that.
The Brewers hitters have really struggled with this issue. Milwaukee is currently 27th in the league with an 8.95 strikeout per game rate and 4th in the league with 1181 total strikeouts. Over the last seven, it’s been 9.56 strikeouts per game. The Brewers are also batting .236 collectively as a team this season, which ranks 22nd in the league. In 2021, the team batted .233 on the season and struck out over 1400 times. Along with that, last year the team worked 586 walks and this year they have 474 so far.
The statistics from this year to last year are pretty comparable, so why has there been a different result in 2022?
Working Counts Selectively
The answer lies in the approach of each Brewers hitter. While the entire MLB has seen a surge of strikeouts and a decrease of walks, there is one thing in common between all the teams ahead of the Brewers right now. Every team above the Brewers in the standings has more hits, and most have more walks. This team hasn’t had an issue hitting homers and getting chunks runs, but putting the ball in play has been the issue.
Again, this is a product of the MLB as well, but the Brewers are pushing to crush the ball instead of finding the gaps. If each person in the lineup were to be more selective, then the chance they get a better hitters pitch is higher. Along with that, the Brewers are at a 28% swing rate on first pitch fastballs. Perhaps they are trying to take more pitches to work counts, but they need to work the right pitches. As Ryan Zimmerman has famously said, “I’m not going to take a fastball 0-0 to run up his pitch count.”
This attitude can benefit the Brewers because their greatest weakness is choosing the wrong pitches. It hasn’t been a matter of the ball not dropping, or a bad slump, it has been inconsistency in choosing the right pitches against each pitcher. There are times this season where the Crew just look lost and don’t have a plan at the plate.
2. Brewers Need Solid Contact
As mentioned before, the Brewers are not putting the ball into play as much as they should. 1046 hits and 194 doubles in 2022 is down from last year. They can still reach very similar numbers, but given the stretch they have been on it is hard to confidently say that.
Honestly, the pitching has not been what everyone thought it was going to be, especially the bullpen. Given that, the Brewers really need to take advantage of the games where they are getting pitching help. Baseball is a streaky game, so it is difficult for the offense and defense to be on the same page day in day out, however getting on base will naturally drive in more runs. The Brewers have had 80+ games where they scored 4+ runs, and they have been doing this with less hits and less walks.
Hitting and Driving the Ball
In baseball there is a statistic called ISO, which measures the average of a player only using their extra base hits. The Brewers only have four players on their roster batting over .200 which is telling about the offensive strength. The team is down in hits and their power in general is down as well, which has resulted in less runs. Every team needs singles too, and the Brewers could use a few as well, but they are hurting for doubles and consistency right now. What is also telling about the ISO stat is that there aren’t many contributors to the offense right now.
The need is for more hits, more consistently, and every team obviously wants that. However, it is achievable for the Brewers because working a count to get your pitch and driving it can result in that. It is easier said than done. But if the Brewers hope to make the playoffs, they will need to make those adjustments.