by Tim Muma 8/31/2014
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The Milwaukee Brewers' offense has found itself in another funk, having scored four runs or fewer in seven of the last eight games. In six of those contests they've scored three times or less, including the last four times out.
|Tom Lynn - Associated Press|
While many scoff at the idea that a batting order does much to change the offense, I still argue it matters more than one thinks due to the mindset of the hitters, as well as the importance of optimizing their unique skills.
There are three big reasons manager Ron Roenicke needs to adjust the top of his lineup and ensure every game features the 2-3-4 hitters of Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez - in that order.
Milwaukee's decline in offensive output has been gradual, but consistent over the previous 45 games. One factor in their drop was moving Gomez into the leadoff spot again and putting Braun back to third. Let's examine the various numbers involved with the top of the lineup and the impact on runs scored.
1) The 2-3-4 of Braun, Lucroy and Gomez Creates More Runs
For 33 games from May 25th to July 8th, the Brewers had Braun, Lucroy and Gomez hitting in the two through four spots in the lineup, finding consistent success during that time. Despite the leadoff hitters and number five guys changing, this core trio did the heavy lifting.
With the three holding those spots, the offense averaged 5.1 runs per game. Since July 9th, when Roenicke rearranged the lineup, Milwaukee has tallied just 3.9 runs a contest.
This season when the Brewers score five or six runs in a game, they're 27-12. When scoring three or four runs, they're 20-16.
Finally, during that 33-game stretch of quality lineup construction, the players enjoyed their roles as evidenced by their slash lines (Average/OBP/Slugging/OPS):
Lucroy - .329/.396/.564/.960
Gomez - .309/.360/.457/.817
Braun - .294/.355/.503/.858
2) Gomez "Sexy" as Cleanup Hitter - Not a Fan of Leadoff
On May 23rd, Roenicke moved Gomez down in the lineup, batting him cleanup with Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun out due to injury. He responded with a 4-for-5 day with three doubles, two runs and two RBI. From that date until July 8th - the last time he hit fourth - Gomez had a .309 average, .360 OBP, .457 slugging and an .817 OPS.
Since that time, when Roenicke placed him back into the leadoff spot, Gomez has a slash line of .240/.309/.423/.732 in 44 games. Clearly something has changed for him. Aside from the fact his approach is far from ideal as a leadoff man, there could be another mental component: He doesn't want to hit leadoff.
Following the first time he hit cleanup, Gomez said, "When you go to the plate (batting fourth), it's a sexy feeling. I've been doing the leadoff job, but for the future I don't want to be leadoff....it's my goal to hit third or fourth."
3) Scooter Gennett Thriving in the Leadoff Role
Whereas as Gomez isn't a fan of the top spot, Gennett seems to enjoy it thoroughly. Granted it's a small sample size, but Gennett owns some terrific numbers in his 21 career contests hitting leadoff. He owns a .363 average, .389 OBP, .538 slugging and a .928 OPS.
Though he doesn't take a bunch of walks or work the count too much, Gennett's goal is to find a way on base. He often goes the other way, shortens his swing with a pair of strikes, and focuses on putting the ball in play. Gennett's strikeout rate is about 10% lower than Gomez's, something I'd prefer from my first hitter.
|Ross D. Franklin - Associated Press|
Roenicke basically put Braun and Ramirez back in the three and four holes because that's where they "should" hit. Sound logic.
Nice to know he ignored the offense's actual output and opted for a "gut" type choice.
He also likes Gomez leading off a game because it's a threat to the pitcher. Well, it really hasn't been. When Gomez leads off the game this season, he's batting .217 with a .299 OBP. Those numbers aren't worth the five leadoff home runs he has.
A regular one through five of Gennett, Braun, Lucroy, Gomez and Ramirez may not solve all the club's struggles or inconsistencies, but there's a solid amount of evidence it could be the best option for the Brewers to succeed.