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Measuring the Brewers’ Outfield Unit

Baseball is less of a unit-based sport than, say, football. For example, a defensive lineman’s ability to pressure the quarterback has a clear and straightforward effect on how the rest of the defense performs. In contrast, in baseball what one outfielder does has a relatively small impact on what the other outfielders do. Yet it is still worthwhile to see how any one of the Brewers’ units, such as their outfield, compares with the rest of the league. As a whole, the Brewers’ outfield ranks among the best at hitting for power, but struggles in other facets of the game.

Milwaukee has one of the most powerful outfields in all of baseball. The Brewers outfielders compile the third-highest slugging percentage in the majors (.472), and the second-highest isolated slugging percentage (.200). This places the Brewers in some pretty good company. The only outfields that compete with Milwaukee in these categories are the Marlins – with the dominant bat of Giancarlo Stanton– and the Coors Field-aided Rockies. Further, the Brewers’ outfielders have belted 33 home runs, the sixth-most in the league. With Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee’s prolific power should come as no surprise. But the club has quietly gotten underrated power from Khris Davis as well. Incredibly, Khris Davis has hit just as many homers as the more highly touted Chris Davis of Baltimore. Overall the Brewers have one of the best power-hitting outfields in the league.

However, aside from their power, Brewers outfielders struggle at most other aspects of offense. They have difficulty in reaching base, as Milwaukee’s outfield on-base percentage (.330), ranks a mediocre 14th in baseball. In fact, the outfielders’ on-base percentage is just about the same as the Rays’ (.329), who currently have the league’s worst record. Further, the Milwaukee outfield does not contain particularly good base stealers. As a unit, their 21 steals places them in the middle of the pack, standing at 17th in the league. The offensive production provided by Brewers outfielders is basically one-dimensional, relying solely on power.

The Milwaukee outfield has been underwhelming defensively as well. The unit has seven defensive runs saved over the entire season. To put that number into perspective, the Reds’ Chris Heisey – hardly known as a Gold Glover – has personally saved seven defensive runs. The fact that the entire Brewers outfield is getting shown up by the likes of Chris Heisey is certainly cause for concern. Further, the Brewers outfielders have been unproductive at throwing runners out. While it is difficult to objectively measure if a player has a good arm, the Brewers have managed only eight outfield assists this season. This paucity of assists stands as the ninth-worst in baseball, trailing even the hapless Cubs. Defensively, the Brewers outfield is mediocre at best.

Yet despite any struggles they have had, the power from the Brewers outfield is enough to carry the lineup. The Brewers’ entire roster has managed a 99 wRC+, just a notch below the league average. Yet the outfielders’ wRC+ is an astounding 120. Therefore, it is clear that the outfielders have been picking up the slack for the rest of the lineup. Yes, fans can be irritated that the outfield contributes nothing besides power. However, at least this level of power is sustainable. First of all, the outfielders’ HR/FB rate stands at a reasonable 13.7%, indicating that the power is unlikely to regress. Further, Gomez and Braun are both established stars, making a radically severe drop-off unlikely. While the Milwaukee outfield only provides one tool, that tool should be enough to keep the Brewers competitive.