Since it looks as though Mark Reynolds and Rickie Weeks will be getting the most starts at their respective positions, the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers lineup will typically have all eight position players hitting from the right side of the plate. This will make the matchups vs. right-handed pitching vital to their consistent success.
In the second half of last season, the lineup often featured Norichika Aoki and Juan Francisco as left-handed hitters to balance the order. Even still, the Brewers had a .699 OPS against righties, good for 10th out of 15 NL teams. Meanwhile, they put up a .736 OPS against southpaws, the best number in the league.
Milwaukee should clearly handle lefties better, and if you breakdown the stats a little further from 2013, right-handed batters had a .442 slugging percentage and .756 OPS against their opposite-handed opponent. Those same hitters, however, had a lowly .302 OBP, .388 slugging percentage and .690 OPS.
The lack of consistency came in the form of 73 games when the Brewers scored three runs or less. On 41 occasions, they tallied six or more. Reducing the number of three-runs-or-less contests will help the pitching staff and create longer win streaks.
Here’s where the concern lies for the Crew, particularly as their lineup has become more right-handed. Since a team will typically see 1,000 more plate appearances versus righties, the group must make adjustments. Failing to improve in this split will lead to frustrating at-bats and offensive droughts.
Aside from Weeks, who simply needs to hit better overall, the three players who Milwaukee needs to step up against righties are Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. They all feasted off left-handers, but were vastly inferior against right-handers, even more than to be expected.
Last year, Braun destroyed lefties with a .632 slugging percentage and 1.053 OPS. He always crushes southpaws and normally handles righties just fine as well. In 2013, however, Braun’s slugging fell to a disappointing .430, leading to a nearly 300-point drop in OPS.
Gomez, meanwhile, posted a .622 slugging percentage and .993 OPS against left-handers, but he only managed a .777 OPS against the right-handed hurlers. Both his power and ability to reach base were compromised equally. Segura’s struggles with the split came mainly in his power stroke. He slugged over .500 against southpaws and below .400 versus right-handers.
Of course, slight dips in effectiveness when losing the platoon advantage are expected, but the precipitous drops among these three offensive threats goes beyond the average change. Considering this trio could be the first three guys in the lineup and will be relied upon heavily throughout the season, it is something to keep an eye on.
I have no doubt Braun will close that gap considerably as he gets back to full health. Gomez has the tools to keep his power numbers up, but he would benefit from a slight change in approach with two strikes, allowing him to put the ball in play and use his speed. Finally, Segura will be more consistent as fatigue shouldn’t be as much a factor as the season wears on.
The Brewers will put up plenty of runs over the season and if they can be more consistent with their output, more wins will follow.