The Milwaukee Brewers made two big acquisitions this winter, adding starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to their rotation in a bid to contend for the National League Central crown. Most analysis is focused on how well they're going to pitch, but another key question is this: Can they hit? These two should provide a significant upgrade on the mound, and having two quality arms behind Yovani Gallardo in the rotation may give the Brewers the lift they need to get over the hump. However, the chances of the Brewers' success hinges not just on how the new guys pitch, but how well they can adjust to life in the National League, where pitchers also have to bat.
Last season, the Brewers held a huge advantage over the rest of the league in offense produced by their pitchers. Led by Gallardo and his four home runs, the Brewers' pitching staff hit .207/.249/.280, or just a little bit worse than the worst-hitting regular position player in baseball last year, Cesar Izturis. Being less productive offensively than Izturis is rarely a compliment, but when compared to the futility of other pitchers, Milwaukee's performance looks positively Ruthian.
If you exclude the Brewers, the average line put up by an NL pitcher was just .137/.170/.167. Milwaukee trounced that, and its Weighted On Base Average of .239 was 83 points higher than the .156 wOBA of its competitors. With each team's pitchers accounting for about 350 trips to the plate, the differences can really begin to add up. Greinke and Marcum are coming over from the American League, so we don't know how they handle the stick. If they hit like typical pitchers, as opposed other Brewers pitchers, then Milwaukee stands to lose a decent amount of production on offense.
Below are the best and worst offensive performances from pitchers among NL teams in 2010. wRAA is Weighted Runs Above Average (or in this case, below average, since each team is in the negative compared to a league average hitting position player). Believe it or not, having a staff of good hitting pitchers can make an enormous difference.