Repeat After Me: These Are Not The 2011 Brewers
And no team ever will be.
After tonight’s 8-0 win over the Mets (who by the way, are 20-16), Milwaukee sits at 16-20, 5 games back of St. Louis. While fans including myself are unsatisfied with this record, I implore yo not to compare the 2012 Brewers and the 2011 Brewers, particularly in regards to offense.
Make no mistake, to say that whatever record the team had through 36 games last year means absolutely nothing in terms of their chances this year. Simply too much went right for that 2011 squad, one that significantly outplayed its Pythagorean record (based on runs scored and runs allowed, using a formula similar to the Pythagoras’ theorem), partially explaining a .625 winning percentage in one-run games. Expecting those feats from any team is asking far too much.
Furthermore, while some might say this year’s squad has been the victim of some bad luck injury-wise, remember that at this point last year, LaTroy Hawkins, Hart, Lucroy and Greinke had all returned from the DL, and aside from Rickie Weeks and his sprained ankle, after May 15th the 2011 squad lost no every day starters to DL time or a starting pitcher for more than three starts. Unfortunately, this year’s Brewers have lost three such players for the rest of the season. Luck? I’d say it’s merely regression to the mean after last year.
Though much has been made about their offensive woes against mediocre pitchers like Miguel Batista, Bronson Arroyo, and some dude named Jeff Suppan (ignorance is bliss), the numbers show that the 2012 Brewers are in fact above average—though only slightly—in terms of runs scored in this year’s run-depressed National League. With tonight’s 8-run differential the team is averaging 4.17 runs/game, good for about .1 runs/game above the NL average*. Similarly, their record coming into tonight’s game of 15-20 is just barely above their Pythagorean record of 14-20. Those who say the lineup is under-performing are likely basing their expectations against last year’s 96-win Brewers, and ignoring the fact that the NL is without a doubt much weaker in 2012, with the Fielder/Pujols exodus.
This is not to say that the Brewers are performing well offensively, however. I would not dispute that the offense is under-performing given the expectations many of us had on Opening Day. As I wrote last week and maintain even after tonight’s win, the current composition of Milwaukee’s roster is probably not one that will contend for the postseason, and may not even crack .500. Roster moves are in the club’s future: even minimal ones like the impending return of Carlos Gomez will boost the Brewers’ chances (yes, even offensively). Potential transactions are a subject that we will explore increasingly in the coming weeks and months, but I expect that any team-wide offensive improvement will come as a result of several smaller moves as opposed to a Sabathia-sized blockbuster.
*At the time this article was written, games were still in progress so I could not provide an exact number. Regardless, Milwaukee’s runs/game will still be above league average tomorrow morning.