Now I’m warning you: I’m going to be complaining a little here. People always seem to get so excited about the Brewers offense, but I don’t like it. I particularly don’t like their batting order, it isn’t balanced. The Brewers have four guys who I would consider power hitters at the top of their order (Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder). It might seem like an odd thing to say, but this is too much. You don’t need four power hitters, and I’ll explain why.
For Mr. Average Fan who loves to see home runs, having a lot of power hitters might seem like a good thing. Well it’s not. Now the same Mr. Average Fan may not understand how a team puts a batting order together (it’s ok, I didn’t until I started playing baseball video games). What may seem like a simple thing actually takes a lot of thought and consideration. I’ll try to explain it to you the best I can.
The first batter in your order is your leadoff guy. For the Brewers this has been Rickie Weeks for the past few years. You want your leadoff hitter to do one thing: GET ON BASE. It may be a surprise but you don’t want your lead of hitter hitting home runs. The ideal lead of man has a high on base percentage and can steal bases. He’s meant to get on base and become a headache and a distraction for the pitcher. Your leadoff man should NOT be a power hitter.
The number two hitter is ideally in the same mold as your leadoff hitter. He would be batting first if the lead off guy wasn’t on the team. He usually has a little more power than your leadoff guy but is still more of a “just get on base guy”. This is the spot where I think Rickie Weeks would fit perfectly. This is also why I was sorry to see the Brewers trade away Lorenzo Cain. Having Cain leadoff and Weeks bat second would have given the Brewers a much more balanced lineup than they have now.
The number three spot is where you want your best pure hitter, a guy who has a high batting average but can also hit for power. Ryan Braun has held this spot for pretty much his entire career as a Brewer and it is ideal for him. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Casey McGehee here.
Your fourth guy is the cleanup batter. Here is where you want your best power hitter. They call it the “cleanup” spot for a reason. He is supposed to clear the bases. It’s that simple. Prince Fielder has also held this spot for most of his career and it is ideal for him. But at the same time there is a reason Casey McGehee (who bats fifth) led the team in RBI last year. Fielder strikes out too much. Now I don’t want to get on a whole Prince Fielder rant but since I started I might as well keep going.
I like Prince and I appreciate all that he has done, but at the same time I can’t help but think the Brewers would be better off without him. Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: Say the Brewers had just flat out traded Prince Fielder for Zack Grienke (I know that wasn’t an option but let’s pretend for a minute). They could then have had Lorenzo Cain bat first, Weeks second, Braun third, Hart fourth, and McGehee fifth. This is a much more balanced order than what they have now and I think it would have worked a lot better.
But back to the topic. . The number five guy is usually someone that will make a team not want to pitch around the number four hitter, the pitcher generally bats last and the catcher is usually before him. The six and seven spots are usually just determined by whoever is a better hitter.
This is the ideal model that many of the successful teams follow.
The Brewers don’t.
They do try the best they can. With their current roster the order they have is the one that works the best. What they need to do is focus less on the homerun and more on stringing hits together. Homeruns are great, but you can’t rely on them. People like to blame the Brewers’ lack of success the past few years on pitching, but the offense needs to take some responsibility and become more consistent. Pitching is no longer a scapegoat. Everyone needs to step up.
I would like to get excited about the Brewers this year. They did enough in the offseason that I should be excited, but at the same time I can see too many things that could go wrong. I’m hoping they won’t, but in the meantime I’m going to take a wait and see attitude. Whatever happens baseball season is always fun. If they do well that’s awesome. If not, it gives me something more to complain about.