The Brewers suffered another week full of what ifs, as some blown late leads resulted in a 2-4 week and series losses to both the Padres and Braves. Even in futility, the team couldn’t stand out, as their nineteen hits in Sunday’s loss was the second time that’s occurred this season and 235th occurrence since 1901. While the offense hummed along and scored almost five runs a game, opposing teams averaged over seven runs a game. Milwaukee is now three games behind the Cubs for the division lead and percentage points behind Philadelphia for the first Wild Card position.
|Friday August 10||1||10|
|Saturday August 11||4||2|
|Sunday August 12||7||8|
Milwaukee’s acquisition of Jonathan Schoop was met with hesitation in some quarters. While twenty-six year olds coming off near five win seasons aren’t regularly available for anything less than a princely sum, there are offensive and defensive issues that make the trade difficult to process. Compounding matters is that Schoop has struggled since he arrived in Milwaukee. What’s happened in 2018 and can he get back to where he was in 2017?
Schoop has never drawn many walks. Over his career, he has a 3.6 percent walk rate compared with the MLB average of 8.1 percent. This year, it’s fallen by almost half from five percent to three percent. He walked for the first time as a Brewer during Sunday’s game. Unsurprisingly, Schoop has increased his swing rate. Schoop ranks eighth in MLB in swing rate among players who have seen at least 500 pitches. Out of those eight players, he has the seventh lowest True Average (TAv).
While it’d be unfair to imply that Schoop’s swing rate is the sole determiner of his offensive success, it is notable that his best full-time season came when he cut down on his swings. Though he’s swung more, his contact rate, both in and out of the zone, and swinging strike rate have remained virtually the same, so there has to be something that’s changed in his batted ball profile to explain why he’s been less successful in 2018.
Schoop’s ground ball rate is up three percentage points, his infield fly rate has risen by almost one third, and his line drive percentage has dropped about three percentage points. While none of those rates are positive trends, nothing there is so drastic as to explain what’s happened.
Looking at Statcast, Schoop is not hitting the ball as well and as hard.
|Barrel %||Hard Hit %|
His exit velocity has decreased by 1.5 mph and his launch angle has dropped almost two degrees. His expected batting average is in the bottom eight percent and his expected wOBA is in the bottom two percent of the league. He’s actually outperforming both numbers at the moment, which indicates that his numbers should actually regress from their current depths.
Compared with 2017, Schoop is seeing fewer fastballs, and he’s seen barely fifty percent of the hard stuff since July 1. He performed well against almost every pitch last year, but is struggling against everything but sinkers and cutters in 2018. While those BABIPs look like they’re ripe for regression, Schoop is making such bad contact that a bounce back isn’t automatic.
There currently isn’t much to love in Schoop’s profile. Other than his performance against fourseam fastballs, which has dramatically fallen off, there’s no smoking gun or easily correctable flaw. It’s just a bad approach getting a little bit worse, which is producing much worse results. Schoop needs to make better contact, which leads to identifying pitches he can drive. If the team saw something they can fix, then there’s hope, but this may take time.
Jordan Lyles made his first appearance as a Milwaukee Brewer on Friday night in relief of Freddy Peralta. He pitched 2.3 innings and allowed three runs on three hits, with a a walk and three strikeouts. Prior to the acquisition, Lyles was not having a great season. In twenty four appearances, including eight starts, he had a 5.71 Deserved Run Average (DRA), which would have been his third best DRA in his eight MLB seasons.
Coming into 2018, Lyles generally threw his fourseam fastball and sinker with the same frequency. However, through May, which encompassed five weeks in the bullpen as well as a month in the rotation, he deemphasized the sinker, even throwing multiple outings in which he did not utilize the pitch. However, in his first game with Milwaukee, Lyles threw twelve fourseamers as well as twelve sinkers. He combined that approach with almost thirty-three percent curveballs.
By using his fourseam fastball less, Lyles is focusing on his two best pitches by results, as batters have not been able to make great contact with either the sinker or curve, and they also swing and miss against those two frequently. The sinker is a pitch he’s looking to put in and low on his arm side, to both left and right handed hitters, whereas the curveball breaks down and away and is his to go pitch when there are two strikes. One interesting trend to note is that Lyles has thrown the sinker with greater frequency to left handed hitters over the course of the season, and even with his increased sinker focus on Friday, he didn’t throw a single inker to a right handed hitter.
While the overall results on Friday were probably not what the team was hoping for, partially thanks to two curveballs that probably didn’t break as much as Lyles would have liked, this new approach makes Lyles an interesting addition to the team. As Matt Albers and Joakim Soria were added to the disabled list last week, the team needs more effective relievers. If Lyles can go multiple innings, he will be a valuable addition for a team whose starters do not regularly go deep into games. To be clear, Lyles has never really had sustained success at the MLB level before, but there’s a chance the team has unlocked something here.
The Brewers will play only five games this week, but they are against the teams immediately above and below them in the Central Division, and they’re all on the road. The Brewers have lost all four games they’ve played at Wrigley Field this year and the Cubs have the second best home record in the National League. While their pitching has been mediocre, Cubs hitters are third in MLB in TAv. The Cardinals have crawled back into the playoff picture with a 9-2 record in August. They are 16-9 overall since Mike Matheny was fired, though their recent five game winning streak has come against two of the four worst teams in MLB.
|Tuesday August 14||Jhoulys Chacin (4.94 DRA)||Carlos Quintana (4.99 DRA)|
|Wednesday August 15||Junior Guerra (4.84 DRA)||Kyle Hendricks (2.99 DRA)|