Milwaukee Brewers’ 2014 Lineup a Challenge to Construct
Optimizing the Milwaukee Brewers Batting Order
With the signing of Mark Reynolds, the Milwaukee Brewers appear to be set with their regular, everyday lineup. The problem of actually constructing it effectively is another issue. Lacking a true on-base threat to hit leadoff, while fielding a handful of similar hitters, has created a significant challenge for manager Ron Roenicke.
Most stat guys will claim the batting order means little as long as you aren't hitting the pitcher cleanup and your best hitter at the bottom. In theory, this makes sense, but on a day-to-day basis, lineup construction absolutely has an effect on players and the overall offense. Between in-game strategies and the mental side of hitting, the batting order can have a profound impact. The "proof" against this is still based on theory as we can never actually test these comparisons out.
Anyway, the Brewers have a few options in figuring out the optimal lineup this coming season. Part of the issue will be Roenicke's insistence on certain hitters always being in one spot, essentially handcuffing himself. Because Roenicke likes to play small ball with a traditional lineup, some players aren't going to be utilized to their fullest capacity. So, in trying to work within those parameters, the Crew's options dwindle further.
Milwaukee's offense has a chance to be in the league's top five in scoring runs with so much power throughout the lineup. They also add speed to the mix to help compensate for the strikeouts that will come, which offer contributions to long, team-wide slumps. Finding the right mix can help alleviate some of those problems.
Here is what Roenicke should start with this season.
9 - Scooter Gennett - 2B
Yes, I would hit Scooter Gennett ninth with this group of hitters. Despite his .356 OBP in 260 MLB plate appearances, Gennett's bat will struggle in his first full season. His best OBP in the minors was .354 in A-ball, and it went down each year as he moved up. His OPS also dropped below .700 in Triple-A. One can't expect that his OBP will stay above .330, hitting here prevents him from the difficult task of batting in front of the pitcher. Hitting ninth also gets another position player in front of the top of the lineup, instead of the pitcher making an out 90 percent of the time.
8 - Pitcher's Spot - SP
Some people will scream this tactic is absurdity. They'll ask, "Why would you give your worst hitter, by far, more at-bats than a position player?" First of all, starting pitchers are often pinch-hit for before their third at-bat and almost always prior to a fourth time up. Thus, you'll be using a bench bat in a lot of cases, and find the matchup that works best. Secondly, it clears the pitcher one batter sooner to help eliminate an out before the top of the order. Besides, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg all handle the bat fairly well.
7 - Mark Reynolds - 1B
Should the top five in the Brewers' lineup play up to their potential, Reynolds becomes a phenomenal hitter to have in the bottom third of the order. In the National League last year, the seven hitter in the lineup had a .307 OBP and .381 slugging (.687 OPS). In Reynolds' last three seasons, he has a .321 OBP, .438 slugging percentage and a .759 OPS. He's going to strikeout a ton, but could hit 40 bombs with half his games in Miller Park. Reynolds is also the type of guy who doesn't care if the pitcher is behind him, because he's going to whiff plenty anyway.
6 - Khris Davis - LF
It was a toss-up between Khris Davis and Reynolds, but in the end, Davis has more upside and higher on-base potential. He also thrived hitting here in 2013 with five home runs, a .686 slugging percentage and 1.070 OPS in 15 starts (yes, small sample). I like him and think some people are underestimating what he can deliver.
5 - Carlos Gomez - CF
In a perfect lineup, Carlos Gomez probably bats sixth, but he's the best fit compared to the guys behind him. Power and speed in the second half of the lineup is a terrific combination. If Gomez comes close to last year's production, this is a deadly location for him. Batting fifth also means he doesn't have to worry about his OBP as much and simply swing away.
4 - Aramis Ramirez - 3B
If Aramis Ramirez can be the same hitter he's been throughout his career, cleanup works perfectly for him. If he were to put up his three-year average of a .574 slugging percentage and .874 OPS, the offense will flourish. The Brewers desperately need their third baseman to be healthy all season if they hope to contend for a Wild Card spot.
3 - Ryan Braun - RF
It appears Ryan Braun is locked into this spot. It's a little bit of a waste, as the third hitter actually has more at-bats with the bases empty than the second or fourth spots. He would be best utilized hitting second, but Roenicke and Braun seem to be stubborn with it. Braun is switching to right field, so maybe he's open to a lineup change as well. Everyone will be curious to see how Braun fares after the PED suspension, but his production should be fine. His season-long health, however, will be a major concern.
2 - Jonathan Lucroy - C
Since Braun won't be here, Jonathan Lucroy is a fine option. He has pop, a solid OBP and he'll give you quality at-bats in front of the power hitters. His lack of speed doesn't matter as much because of the home run potential behind him. Plus, he is a great hit-and-run candidate as he takes the ball the other way well, thus helping to stay out of double plays.
1 - Jean Segura - SS
That leaves Jean Segura to hit leadoff. His aggressive approach isn't necessarily ideal, but few guys on the club walk much, so his bat plays best here. Paul Molitor was an aggressive leadoff man and that worked out alright for the Brewers. Segura had the highest OBP in the minors among any guys who would be considered to hit first. His wheels will also be an asset following Gennett and hittng before Lucroy.