MLB Milwaukee Brewers

Miller Park A House Of Horrors For Milwaukee Brewers’ Pitchers in 2013

Marco Estrada HR

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Winning at home is essential to success in MLB, especially if a club has playoff aspirations. Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park was hell for the entire pitching staff.

As a collective unit, Brewers’ hurlers allowed the highest home slugging percentage (.424) in the NL, even worse than the Colorado Rockies and their mile-high disadvantage. The league-high opponents’ slugging was aided by an NL-worst 103 long balls allowed in their home park, and the second-worst BAA, OBPA and OPSA.

Additionally, Milwaukee’s 1.359 WHIP at home was the second-highest in the NL, while the team ERA of 4.17 was 13th out of 15 teams. All those poor numbers led to the Brewers’ 37-44 record at Miller Park, their worst home mark since 2004 when the club went 36-45 during a 67-94 campaign.

Now before you start to argue that the Brewers’ staff simply struggled overall, the road numbers are just as fascinating. Brewers’ pitchers were ranked no. 1 in OBPA, SLGA and OPSA away from Miller Park. The team ERA (3.49) and WHIP (1.225) were both good for third in the NL, though it didn’t translate into as many wins as you’d expect, finishing with an identical 37-44 mark.

Such a disparity from home to the road is hard to fathom. There are a few reasons this may have occurred in 2013, starting with the fact the Brewers have a number of pitchers prone to giving up the long ball in their careers. Couple that with Miller Park being a home run-friendly residence, and one can quickly see where problems may arise.

Marco Estrada has a history of surrendering home runs at a high clip, giving up 1.3 homers per nine innings (HR/9). In 2013, Estrada gave up 14 long balls in just nine home starts for a shocking 2.5 HR/9 in Miller Park. Mike Gonzalez and Alfredo Figaro also had major issues keeping the ball in the park, each putting up a 1.8 HR/9 rate overall.

Yovani Gallardo, who had a down year overall, normally gets tagged for a fair share of deep flies. Kyle Lohse has a career 1.1 HR/9, and that was bumped up to 1.2 last season. And of course, let’s not forget John Axford‘s generosity, which began on Opening Day with a blown save. He gave up a game-tying blast on day one, one of four dingers he offered up in his first three home games.

The other cause of the Brewers’ home pitching struggles comes down to strikeouts. Milwaukee hurlers couldn’t put away batters at home for some reason, striking out the second-fewest hitters per nine innings. Obviously, the more balls that are put in play, the more opportunities for runners to reach base via a base hit or error.

Though veteran pitchers can’t completely change their stripes, small adjustments will be necessary to limit balls in play and the home run ball in particular. The addition of Matt Garza will help in the strikeout department, Wily Peralta should develop further, and more innings from Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith out of the pen will be an improvement over Axford and Gonzalez.

The Brewers’ upward swing will need to start at home if they have sincere ideas about postseason. More specifically, it will start on the hill 60 feet, six inches from home plate resting at 1 Brewers Way in Milwaukee.

Tim Muma is a Milwaukee Brewers writer for Follow him on  Twitter @brewersblend, “Like” him  on Facebook, or add him  to your network on Google.