The Milwaukee Brewers’ offensive struggles have gotten to an extremely worrisome point following a 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. While it’s certainly not time to panic, and many will argue that the batting order does little to change run-scoring output, it’s time Ron Roenicke took a different approach with his lineup for at least a couple of weeks.
Other managers have done it with success, including the Tampa Bay Rays’ Joe Maddon batting Evan Longoria leadoff to get him going, and in Cincinnati where Joey Votto moved into the two-spot to take advantage of his on-base skills. Keep those in mind when reading the following.
Jonathan Lucroy needs to be placed in the leadoff spot to utilize his team-high .390 OBP. While purists will whine that you need a quick runner batting first, getting on base is far more important at the top. Over his last 14 games, Lucroy is batting .362 with a .455 OBP and .965 OPS. He only has one home run during that time, but he’s been a stud at reaching base with 17 hits (four doubles), eight walks and just six strikeouts.
While he may not be fleet of foot, with Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun behind him, Lucroy’s lack of wheels isn’t a big negative. He brings far more value by simply getting on more frequently, putting pitchers in the stretch where they’re typically less effective, and creating more RBI opportunities for the power hitters.
The next biggest issues with the Brewers’ lineup, and it may never change due to Braun’s ego, is that the third spot in the lineup is vastly overrated. There are a number of statistical factors that play into the limited effectiveness of a three-hitter, but that’s for a different article. A team’s best hitter has the most impact batting second or fourth. Putting Braun third lessens the weight of his tools, especially without Aramis Ramirez.
Braun and Gomez need to be hitting in the aforementioned spots, and it may not matter much either way. Braun has consistently put up a higher OBP as he’ll generally take more walks than Gomez, so it might make the most sense for Braun to follow Lucroy. For those worried that Go-Go will somehow be messed up by batting in the premiere power-hitting location in the order, the guy swings harder than anyone regardless of where he hits, so that shouldn’t matter.
But again, he and Braun could flip spots, so long as two and four are filled by their two best bats.
With those three extremely important spots accounted for, Roenicke can then play matchups in the five-hole until Ramirez returns. Once the veteran third baseman is back, that slot in the order is all his to be an RBI machine. For now, Rickie Weeks or Mark Reynolds should work out fine against southpaws. With Weeks hitting the ball well now, he’s a better choice at the moment. The other guy can hit sixth, at least until Khris Davis gets rolling.
Against righties, I’d actually suggest Scooter Gennett. Though he doesn’t have the typical power potential for the five-hole, he does own a career .863 OPS versus right-handers, as well as two home runs, seven doubles and a triple this year. He’s also a contact guy, so ideally he’ll have runners aboard to knock in with a single or a sacrifice fly following the first four hitters.
Now back to the third spot in the lineup, the one people overvalue. That’s a place to try to get a hitter going. For the Brewers, it’s Jean Segura. Segura can fill that role as player who can hit to right field, drop down a bunt and puts the ball in play. In-between Braun and Gomez, he may find a rhythm to his swing and become the “good version” of himself once again.
I’m sure this is all a pipe dream and unfortunately, I don’t have a direct line to Doug Melvin or Roenicke. Still, it’s fun to think a manager would use all the information at his fingertips to put his players and team in the best position to succeed.