Saturday, July 2, 2011

Some Brewer Observations

A break from my usual stuff, even as the political right is trying so desperately to keep the fat cats from going on a much-needed diet while simultaneously playing chicken with the debt ceiling and the global economy which depends upon it. No, this time I'm bringing my number-crunching powers of observation to bear on our Milwaukee Brewers, and why they can't seem to win a road game against any team other than the Florida Marlins.

First, let's recognize that the problem is offense. Par-value offense or defense is 3 runs. The Brewers meet or exceed par offense in Milwaukee, but not in other cities. At home at Miller Park, our offense is unbeatable. Six of our regular starters are batting over .300 (Lucroy, Braun, Rivera, Fielder, Morgan, Weeks) while two more are batting over .290 (Betancourt and Hart). Even most of our starting pitchers are batting over .300 at home (Narveson, Greinke, Gallardo). At home, the Crew hits the damn ball.

But something happens when the team goes on the road. Apparently, aliens come down and kidnap the regular team and replace them with mannequins that resemble them somewhat. Away, only two players bat over .300 (Nyger Morgan, and, of course, Ryan Braun). Even Prince Fielder's average drops to .272 on the road (down from .326 at Miller Park). But the biggest disappointment when the team travels is Jonathan Lucroy. That man bats a whopping .364 at home, and an appalling .216 on the road! Next up on the disappointment list would have to be Yuniesky Betancourt, who bats .295 at home, and flirts with the Mendoza line at .191 when travelling. Corey Hart, who bats .293 in the home court bats a disgusting .230 when away. We might be tempted to brand Braun as the only player who can hit on the road, and even he takes a slight dip, batting .338 at home, and .306 on the road.

Jesus, that fucking sucks!

But amidst these foul-smelling numbers, one shining star does emerge. Nyger Morgan! At home, he bats a very nice .316. But when away, he does even better! A .333 average on the road!

I say, Nyger starts every road game.

What about pitching? So far as I can tell, it's worse on the road as well, but not markedly so. Each pitcher gains one ERA point when travelling. Randy Wolf has the lowest downside, with an ERA of 2.78 at home and 3.75 away. Gallardo pitches 3.47 at home, and 4.39 in alien ballparks. Narveson does 3.91 at home and 4.93 on a road trip. But Zack Greinke is the biggest disappointment, showing 4.26 at home, and 7.77 while away. Granted, that's only because of a couple of bad outings, but they were road outings.

Inexplicably, the bullpen seems affected as well. Kameron Loe, the apparent go-to guy in the eighth inning, has an ERA of 4.22 at home, and 5.19 away. John Axford has a sparkling ERA of 0.82 at home, but 5.02 on the road (Most of that thanks to the Yankees debacle.)

But again, there are some nice exceptions. Sean Marcum pitches 4.13 at Miller Park, and 2.26 everywhere else! (If only he could start every road game!) Tim Dillard pitches 7.36 at home, and 3.38 when sleeping in hotels. But the biggest difference, making me wonder why the hell he doesn't get more time on the mound, is La Troy Hawkins. At home, his ERA is a fantastic 0.75. And on the road? His ERA is 0.00!!!

Okay, La Troy Hawkins is definitely our set up man on the road!

So what's going on here? Could it be that when these guys are away from their wives and kids and not getting laid that they do worse? It's certainly possible, and if so, plane tickets for player's families might be a relatively cheap investment in road wins, especially down the stretch. The other thing (and I don't have solid numbers to back me up on this, but it seems true) is that hitters seem to swing outside the strike zone on the road. The number of walks the team gets isn't significantly higher at home than on the road, but there are sure a lot more strikeouts when the Crew takes a road trip! Almost double, in fact! How to correct this? Well, chiding from coaches has never worked. In 30 years of watching baseball, I've learned you can never coach a player into being more disciplined at the plate if that S.O.B. is determined to swing at shitty pitches. But what a coach CAN do (which is entirely within Brewer tradition) is put a game within a game. On the road, any player who strikes out by swinging at a pitch outside the strike zone scores a "shitlist point." The three players with the most shitlist points after a road trip have to pay for the next team party.

The Brewers win when they play with good ol' fashioned Milwaukee gemutlichkeit. Let's add some of that to the game by making a game out of doing the right thing at the plate, and winning on the road, especially for the hitters.

Eric


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