The Shutouts

Getting shut out is never fun, and despite a successful season so far, the Brewers have been shut out a lot. It’s a bummer when this happens, and you can kind of see it coming most of the time with this team, but I wanted to take a deeper dive into why they happen. Getting shut out in 14 percent of your total games is an impressive feat, and it might lead one to believe that there is overarching factor that makes the Brewers more prone to being shut out.  I’ve compiled some shutout-specific statistics which you can view here.

The Basics
First, you should know that these shutouts are not caused because of platoon splits. The Brewers have been shut out by right-handed starters five times, and left-handed starters five times. Five have come at home, and five have come on the road. The only real standout is that five have come against the Chicago Cubs, all in the month of April. There are some good reasons for the early shutouts, but in terms of an overarching pattern…it’s a little tricky.

There’s only one way to really dig deep on this issue, and that’s to classify these ten games using arbitrary aesthetic criteria.

The Dominant
Chad Kuhl destroys the Brewers 9-0
Back on May 6th, Chad Kuhl of the Pirates pitched the most dominant game against the Brewers this year. Kuhl struck out eight over seven dominant innings, allowing only a single, which was wiped out by a double play. He also walked a pair. Reliever Richard Rodriguez finished off the game by striking out six in just two innings, while allowing a truly meaningless single to Hernan Perez.

Adam Frazier started the game with a home run off of Chase Anderson, and the Pirates would go on to put up a nine-spot. The Brewers were never even remotely in this game.

Kuhl is a fine pitcher, but hardly dominant. He’s 71st in DRA among pitchers who have thrown 50+ innings this year (4.43), and there’s really no reason the Brewers would be vulnerable to him in any given game. The much more likely culprit was the back end of the Brewer lineup which featured Santana/Sogard/Arcia/Bandy/Anderson. Yelich and Cain had rough days, each going 0-3, but they were also lifted late when the game got out of hand. A weak lineup and a blowout led to the starters getting a day off.

The Quintanas
Jose Quintana of the Cubs is the only pitcher to shut out the Brewers twice on the season, and on both occasions he was a stud. Over the course of his two shutouts he allowed five hits total, and walked three batters total. In the second game, he also picked off Domingo Santana for good measure.

In the April 8th game, Lorenzo Cain did his job at the top of the lineup, going 2-4. However Cain was also caught stealing as part of a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play, and this was a weak Brewer lineup overall. Domingo Santana hit second, and while Pina was playing over Bandy, Perez started at third, and Braun started at first over Thames and Aguilar.

On April 28th things were similar as Braun and Perez once again took first base and third base respectively, and the lineup after Cain and Yelich went Braun/Santana/Perez/Villar/Pina/Arcia. Without one of Shaw/Aguilar/Thames at the very least, this is simply a bad offense, prone to quiet nights.

The Frustrating
Kyle Hendricks, April 26th
This was just an infuriating game as the Cubs came away with a 1-0 win, and Hendricks outdueled Chase Anderson. Hendricks scattered 4 hits while walking none, working his ground ball magic to an absurd extent. Domingo Santana didn’t help things with a caught stealing, but the real killer occurred when Brandon Morrow got Christian Yelich to ground into a double play in the 9th. Braun followed that up with an infield single, and Shaw flied out to end the game, leaving a Kyle Schwarber solo shot as the difference.

This one involved some great defense by the Cubs, some bad Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) luck, and a subpar lineup with Braun at first and Bandy catching. Domingo Santana started a lot of these games.

Trevor Williams and the Pirates defeat the Brewers 1-0
This game was infuriating because the Brewers actually threatened in the 4th before Eric Kratz struck out looking, and the Pirates got their lone run on a Jordy Mercer double off Josh Hader, of all things. Williams pitched a dandy, allowing just one hit and one walk over seven innings. Felipe Vazquez allowed some hope in the 9th as Yelich lead off with a single, but the Crew couldn’t push one across.

Williams is a good, but not great pitcher with a Deserved Run Average (DRA) over 4.00. Hernan Perez played 3rd, but the lineup was pretty strong overall. I think we can chalk this one up to bad luck, and catching a pitcher when he’s hot.

The Chatwood Game
Tyler Chatwood of the Chicago Cubs has been garbage this year, posting a 7.09 DRA. He has also been a magician at working out of self-inflicted jams as his ERA sits at 4.54. If you want an explanation for the huge split, look no further than this ridiculous shut out of the Brewers in which Chatwood gave up two hits and walked three while striking out only four batters over seven innings.

Lorenzo Cain walked to open the game and stole second, but Yelich lined out hard, Braun reached on an infield single, and Travis Shaw grounded into an inning-ending double play. He would get another double play in the 7th, Counsell would lose a challenge when Lorenzo Cain was apparently not hit by a pitch in the 6th, and despite a ton of hard contact, they just couldn’t push a run across. The Cubs would win a 2-0 garbage fest.

Luck, evil, etc. Except for Jett Bandy it was a strong lineup for the Brewers, and they should have beaten and battered Chatwood much more than they did. Baseball is like that sometimes.

Jon Lester, April 5th
You could argue that this game should be in the “dominated” category, but Jesus Aguilar went 3-4 with a double, Ryan Braun hit a double, and Lester plunked Jett Bandy. Braun also walked and stole 2nd, but got caught trying to swipe 3rd while testing Lester. Brent Suter was beaten up early and this one was over before it really got going.

Malaise, ennui, and indifference, as well as Hernan Perez’s complete inability to do anything with Aguilar on base. Bandy started, Santana batted second. It was a weak lineup against a very good pitcher.

Steven Matz doesn’t miss any bats.
On May 24th the Mets beat the Brewers 5-0, but lefty Steven Matz didn’t do much to earn that 0. Matz pitched 6 shutout innings, striking out three and walking 3 more. In fact, over the course of this game every Brewer starter except Orlando Arcia and the pitchers reached base at least once. The big problem was two double plays, killing any potential Brewer rally. The lineup featured the big boppers except Thames, and while Hernan Perez hit absurdly high in the lineup, overall it wasn’t bad as far as Brewer lineups go.

Kyle Freeland allows eight baserunners in six innings, none score.
This stupid game. The Brewers lost to the Rockies in Colorado 4-0 despite a ground rule double from pitcher Brent Suter, and despite every starter reaching base at least once except Yelich and Arcia. Freeland really didn’t pitch that well, and he was lucky to escape unscathed as the Rockies’ bullpen allowed just one hit and no walks after they took over.

Milwaukee would strand nine runners, while going 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

This was almost entirely bad luck, as the Brewers hits and walks simply didn’t cluster properly. Suter and Cain led off the third inning with a walk and a hit, but Christian Yelich struck out, and Braun grounded into a terrible double play to squelch their best chance of scoring.

Carlos Martinez, April 4th
Martinez is a pretty good pitcher and he was pretty good in this game, but hardly perfect. He allowed 4 hits, 2 walks, and plunked Domingo Santana, and the bulk of the Brewer hits were clustered around the Brewer four-five-six hitters Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, and Jonathan Villar. In the bottom of the 9th Shaw, Santana, and Villar all reached to load the bases with only one out, but Manny Pina grounded into a game ending double play to preserve the shutout.

Martinez missed a lot of bats which allowed him to escape trouble, and some ill-timed double plays took care of every other threat. Milwaukee left seven runners on base, and committed three errors in the field. You know, your average Cardinal debacle.

The main problem with the Brewers, and the reason for all the shutouts, is simply the fact that outside of Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich, the team doesn’t have much talent or depth on offense. The team compounded this problem early in the season before it was clear that Domingo Santana wasn’t going to hit. Six of their ten shutouts came in April, and Santana started and hit high in the lineup in five of those. On the plus side, the Brewers seem to have largely addressed this issue as they were shut out only once in June despite constant injuries to their best offensive players. Creative use of Eric Thames in the outfield has boosted the offense (while costing a few runs on defense), and the Brad Miller/Tyler Saladino pair at shortstop have been massive upgrades over the struggling Arcia. Even Erik Kratz has been a small upgrade with the bat over Pina and Bandy, though I’m skeptical that will continue.

The Brewers won’t be a top offensive team, but they have once again proven to be smart and resourceful. They had a bad run of luck earlier, running into the Cubs’ buzzsaw in April with a weak lineup, but they’ve reacted quickly, taking shots on low-cost players to upgrade their major weaknesses, and it’s worked. They’ve weathered every storm the injury gods have thrown at them, and even if Jesus Aguilar cools off in the second half, the eventual return of Cain, and a healthy Yelich should buoy the offense.

The days of frequent shutouts are likely over, and that is more than enough reason to be optimistic going forward.


Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch, USA Today Sports Images

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