Brewers Pitchers Are Attacking Hitters With an Unintimidating But Diverse Mix of Fastballs

 Brewers Pitchers Are Attacking Hitters With an Unintimidating But Diverse Mix of Fastballs

As the shape of the Brewers’ pitching staff has changed, so has the way they sequence hitters. Their current focus is variety, even if it means going against how many pitching staffs utilize their fastballs.

After losing co-aces Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff over the offseason, the Brewers entered the season prepared to deploy a mix-and-match approach to their pitching staff.

That mixing and matching quickly reached greater proportions than the Brewers were probably anticipating. They’ve had an entire rotation’s worth of pitchers on the injured list for much of the year, forcing them to deploy 16 different starters before the All-Star break.

The flexibility has extended beyond the number of pitchers Milwaukee has used. It also applies to the way many of those hurlers have attacked hitters.

Staffs led by Burnes and Woodruff could overpower hitters with velocity and plus breaking pitches. That’s not the case for a staff that has turned to Colin Rea and Bryse Wilson for many of its bulk innings behind Freddy Peralta.

“Our guys generally, if you just look at it, they’re average or below-average on their fastball,” pitching coach Chris Hook said.

Velocity alone would lead most observers to that conclusion, but so do more advanced pitch modeling numbers. Brewers pitchers registered an above-average 103 Stuff+ on their four-seam fastballs in 2023. This year, they’re near the bottom of the league, at 97. The staff’s sinker Stuff+ has dropped from 95 to 88, and its overall Stuff+ from 102 to 96.

Most of Milwaukee’s bulk pitchers can’t blow guys away with their fastballs, so the Brewers have adjusted their plans of attack accordingly. They’ve aimed to compensate for a lack of velocity and outstanding movement by mixing an array of fastball shapes to various locations.

“We’re not a ‘stuff’ club,” Hook said. “Obviously, there’s some guys that have elite fastballs on this club, but we have to balance it out, and we have to balance our attack plan, too.”

It’s not a new strategy. The Brewers applied it to a plethora of pitchers before this year, including Rea, Wilson, Julio Teherán, Hoby Milner, and Joel Payamps. They value pitchers who can throw multiple kinds of fastballs, and work with them to arrive at the best way to mix those pitches.

“I think that’s what we try to do and what you see as we acquire guys,” Hook said. “We try to spread out that spectrum, I guess is the best way to look at it. And I think that leads to good outcomes.

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