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Weekend Recap: Walker and Thames

The Brewers completed a successful “away” series this weekend against the Miami Marlins, winning two of three games held at Miller Park. The weekend was defined by the bats, as the team scored twenty four runs across the series, highlighted by two eight run innings. Overall, Milwaukee went 4-2 on the week, but lost ground in the division race as the Cubs have not lost since the Brewers swept them last weekend.

Brewers Marlins
Friday September 15 10 2
Saturday September 16 4 4
Sunday September 17 10 3

The Brewers entered the 8th inning on Friday tied at two. Eric Thames opened the scoring with a solo home run, then five batters later Neil Walker hit a grand slam to start the avalanche. Walker looked at the first three pitches, then knocked a 99 mph fastball for the grand slam. That the home run came on a high velocity fourseam fastball would have been surprising to anyone who only looked at Walker’s season before the trade to Milwaukee.

As I noted at the time of the trade (shameless plug!), while Walker had shown some power against righties on pitches on outer part of the plate, his performance against fourseam fastballs had not been ideal. While it wasn’t a surprise that the grand slam was off an away pitch delivered by a righty, catching up to that kind of velocity certainly was.

Walker has seen a shift in his performance since coming to Milwaukee, and it’s been for the better. Specifically, it’s his performance against fourseam fastballs:

BAA SLG ISO
Pre-trade .224 .342 .118
Post-trade .342 .579 .237

Before the trade, Walker was showing nothing against fourseamers, which was a drag on his batting line and overall performance. Since arriving in Milwaukee, his numbers have taken off. Part of the uptick may be explained by his usage. With the Mets, Walker was in the lineup every day, which has changed since the trade. Using pitches seen as a measuring tool, we can see the following numbers:

Right handed pitches Left handed pitches Righty Percentage
Pre-trade 788 276 74.01%
Post-trade 374 48 88.63%

By effectively making Walker a platoon player, he’s turned in more value than he would if forced to face left handed pitchers. He’s also been helped by pitchers still thinking he’s the old Walker. Looking back to that at bat on Friday, Brian Ellington threw fourseam fastballs on three of the four pitches Walker saw. Pitchers as a whole are now throwing Walker more four seam fastballs now, as compared to before the trade. Normally, this would have been a good adjustment. Walker handled sinkers and more off speed stuff while flailing against velocity. Now Walker is catching up to those pitches, and until pitchers realize, he has the advantage.

Eric Thames homered in three straight games last week. Somehow it was only his third longest streak of games with a home run this season. Lingering injuries aside, one of the biggest red flags as Thames struggled was his increasing swing percentage. When he struggled in his initial go around MLB, Thames was swinging at about half the pitches he faced, a figure he started to approach over the summer. Interestingly, even though Thames swings and whiffs the most against offspeed pitches, he’s still seeing a lot of fastballs.

Thames’s numbers show some success in cutting down on his swings this month, and by rate stats, September has been his most productive month since April. As the playoff push continues, a productive Thames adds a powerful element to the Brewers lineup, and a potential ceiling that no one else can match.

Up Next: It feels like the Brewers have played Pittsburgh every week this season, but I checked the schedule, and only nineteen were scheduled, twelve of which have come in the second half. The season series concludes this week with three games at PNC Park. Milwaukee’s last trip to Pittsburgh was right after the All Star break when the Pirates swept the Brewers. After the trip to Pittsburgh, the Brewers return home for a four game series with the Cubs, which will could decide the division for the Cubs, or set up an exciting final week.

Brewers Pirates
Monday September 18 Brent Suter (6.11 DRA) Jameson Taillon (4.44 DRA)
Tuesday September 19 Chase Anderson (4.39 DRA) Trevor Williams (4.07 DRA)
Wednesday September 20 Matt Garza (5.63 DRA) Steven Brault (6.91 DRA)

 

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch, USAToday Sports Images

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