60-game breakdown: History of Brewers hitters

J.J. Hardy smacked 16 homers over his first 58 games of the 2007 season.

Strange things can happen on a baseball field in a 60-game span.

When Major League Baseball begins its 60-game schedule for the 2020 campaign in late July, expect the randomness and downright nuttiness of baseball to be on full display.

Random players who put together one monster month, like Eric Thames in April 2017, will be in the conversation for league MVP. Teams that get out to fast starts, like the 2019 Seattle Mariners who began 13-2 but finished with a 68-94 record, will be in the postseason hunt longer than they deserve.

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For context, Milwaukee played its 60th game last season on June 2. The Brewers were 34-26 and owned a 1.5-game lead over Chicago in the NL Central. Pittsburgh, which finished the year 22 games out of first place, was just five games back.

In 1982, the only Brewers team to ever make the World Series was 31-29 after 60 games and in fourth place in the AL East, 6.5 games behind Boston. The 60-game mark was only 13 games into Harvey Kuenn’s tenure as manager after Buck Rodgers was fired midseason.

Again, weird things are going to happen.

As we prepare for this 60-game venture on the diamond, we were curious to see which players in franchise history had excelled over the team’s opening 60-game schedule.

The criteria to qualify for this article was a player had to play at least 30 contests of the team’s initial 60. For example, infielder Eric Sogard logged a .396/.529/.623 slash line over the Brewers’ first 60 games in 2017, but he only appeared in 21, so he doesn’t qualify.

Make sense? Let’s get to it:

BATTERS

The first milestone that comes to mind when discussing statistics over a 60-game season is if someone can become the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. The last player to do so was Chipper Jones in 2008.

No Brewers player has notched the milestone through the team’s first 60 contests. Utility man B.J. Surhoff was closest in 1995, playing in 41 games and batting .367. In 50 games, Robin Yount hit .359 in 1986, and Paul Molitor registered a .358 batting average in 1980 (47 games).

Molitor’s .439 on-base percentage, by the way, is the best for any Milwaukee player through 60 games.

PLAYER YEAR G PA BA OBP SLG
B.J. Surhoff 1995 41 132 .367 .417 .483
Dave Nilsson 1996 30 118 .363 .432 .657
Robin Yount 1986 50 207 .359 .435 .503
Paul Molitor 1980 47 223 .358 .439 .484
Ben Oglivie 1986 42 162 .352 .398 .490
Kevin Seitzer 1996 59 266 .350 .453 .507

There aren’t many surprises when looking at the top of the charts for home runs and extra-base hits.

Christian Yelich mashed 22 taters through his first 53 games in 2019. Prince Fielder had 21 in 2007, the year he led the NL in homers and finished with a career-best 50.

Seven players have hammered 16 – Richie Sexson (2002), Jeromy Burnitz (2001), Ryan Braun (2008), J.J. Hardy (2007), Chris Carter (2016), Mike Moustakas (2019) and Corey Hart (2010).

Hardy would go on to hit just 10 more home runs over his final 93 games.

Other outliers include outfielder Glenn Braggs, who knocked 10 dingers out of the park in his first 59 games in 1989 but finished the season with 15. In 2003, Wes Helms had nine after 55 contests. It marked the only season of his 13-year career he finished with over 10 homers.

No Brewers player has come close to Lyle Overbay’s 27 doubles in 2004 (60 games). Yount (1980), Tommy Harper (1970) and Jonathan Lucroy (2014) are the only other three players to double 20+ times. They all had 21.

When it comes to triples, Jean Segura leads the way with eight in 2013. He tallied just two more over his next 87 contests and finished with a career-best 10 that year. Cecil Cooper had seven through 57 games in 1985, and Paul Molitor logged six to start the 1991 season.

PLAYER YEAR G 2B 3B HR RBI
Christian Yelich 2019 53 8 2 22 49
Prince Fielder 2007 60 15 0 21 48
Richie Sexson 2003 60 8 0 19 44
Carlos Lee 2006 60 10 0 19 46
Ben Oglivie 1980 56 11 0 17 46
Richie Sexson 2002 60 12 1 16 51
Jeromy Burnitz 2001 59 14 2 16 51
Ryan Braun 2008 59 16 3 16 46
J.J. Hardy 2007 58 12 0 16 47
Chris Carter 2016 58 14 0 16 39
Mike Moustakas 2019 53 14 0 16 37
Corey Hart 2010 52 9 2 16 39
Greg Vaughn 1993 60 9 1 15 47
Carlos Lee 2005 60 19 0 15 55
Prince Fielder 2009 60 13 2 15 55
Ryan Braun 2012 56 10 2 15 40
Gorman Thomas 1981 54 7 0 15 42
Eric Thames 2017 53 10 1 15 42