Out of order: Brewers have used 39 different lineups in 40 games
When it comes to their starting lineup, the only thing the Milwaukee Brewers have been consistent with is being inconsistent.
Entering Wednesday night’s series finale with the Detroit Tigers, the Brewers have used 39 different lineups, excluding the pitcher, in 40 games. Milwaukee used the same lineup in its second and third game of the season and currently is on a run of 37 consecutive games with a different lineup.
"My view of stuff like the lineup and bullpen usage is we make way too big a deal out of it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We put players in a position to succeed, and a lineup change here is not some signal that I don’t like the player or he’s not doing it. We’re just putting the best foot forward every day to win a baseball game."
A variety of factors have played into the numerous different lineups. Four of Milwaukee’s eight Opening Day starting position players have spent time on the disabled list, while Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez have also missed time due to injury.
Gerardo Parra has played more than most fourth outfielders, filling in for center fielder Carlos Gomez when he was on the disabled list and then sharing time with Khris Davis in left field.
Scooter Gennett has failed to seize an opportunity to play every day, which led to a platoon at second base before Gennett was sent to Triple-A on Monday. Both Ron Roenicke and Counsell have picked their spots to sit first baseman Adam Lind against left-handed starters.
"Every night, it’s going to be just putting the best group, the best tandems that can then help put runs on the board," Counsell said. "That’s what we’re going to do every night. And you’re cognizant of getting matchups later in the game and you’re cognizant of what we’ve got on the bench later in the game. That’s everything that goes into it."
The most-changed lineup spots for the Brewers are the eighth (12 players), sixth (11 players), seventh (10 players) and second (10 players) holes.
In his 15 games as manager, Counsell has used at least three different players in seven of the eight lineup spots, with the expectation being Braun hitting third.
Five different players have hit leadoff, with Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez at the top of the lineup for 37 of the 40 games. The second spot has been a revolving door since Jonathan Lucroy went on the disabled list, while Lind, Ramirez, Carlos Gomez and Davis have all hit cleanup.
"I’ve always believed that I don’t think hitter’s approaches (change in different lineup spots)," Counsell said. "You have to be yourself. You have to do what you’re good at. It’s the same message that I think is important for a lot of what we’re talking about. I want to put guys in positions to be the best player they can.
"And I want for guys to understand what they’re good at and how they’re good and how they perform at their best. Your at-bat is your at-bat. You take your at-bat and you take four good at-bats every night no matter where you hit in the lineup."
Under Counsell, the Brewers have faced five left-handed starters. Lind, who has struggled against lefties in his career, has been in the lineup to face just one of the five.
"There are numbers, there’s a track record — there are all sorts of things we can use," Counsell said. "You use a little bit of everything. Then you use your gut feel and a little bit about the other guys in the lineup that night. I can’t give you a definite on when it is going to happen, but I want Adam in there as much as I can.
"I’d rather look at how guys do in general against left-handers or right-handers. That’s far more important to me than individual matchups."
The franchise record for most different lineups used in a season was set in 1974 when manager Del Crandall used 140 combinations in 162 games. Milwaukee used 139 lineups in 1986, 134 in 1993, 133 in 1985 and 131 in 2004.
Milwaukee’s World Series team in 1982 used just 74 lineups and used its most common lineup 24 times. The 2008 Brewers that made the postseason for the first time since 1982 used just 77 lineups.
The Brewers will likely continue to rack up different lineup combinations, especially if they become sellers at the trade deadline.
"An important thing to understand is, I don’t know if we’ve put out the lineup that we’ve wanted to put out besides maybe four games this season," Counsell said. "We’re putting out the guys that we feel like give us the best shot that night. That’s how we are going to do it."
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