StaTuesday: Brewers’ Claudio piling up games, limiting hard contact

There’s been a lot of fluctuation this season with the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen – 23 relievers have thus far taken the hill (including position player Hernan Perez twice).

One constant, though, has been left-hander Alex Claudio.

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Picked up in the offseason for a competitive balance draft pick, Claudio has appeared in more games than any other major-league pitcher this year, 63, with the nearest reliever trailing him by five games (both the Dodgers’ Adam Kolarek, who began the season with Tampa Bay, and Oakland’s Yusmeiro Petit have pitched in 58 games).

Claudio could become just the second Brewers player to singularly lead the major leagues in games pitched, joining Ken Sanders, who did it in 1971 (Chuck Crim tied for the MLB lead in 1989).

Needing just seven more appearances, Claudio is a near lock to reach 70 games, which would be the 41st time in franchise history a pitcher has reached that mark. It’s happened every year this decade, including multiple times each season except 2016.

But Claudio can reach even rarer heights. He’s appeared in roughly 53% of the Brewers’ first 119 games. If he continues that pace, Claudio will pitch in 23 (rounding up from 22.7) of Milwaukee’s final 43 contests.

That not only would make him the third Brewers pitcher to ever reach 80 appearances – joining Sanders and Ray King in 2001 – but also the 86 games would set a franchise record.

Sixteen pitchers have reached 75 games in Brewers history. Here’s the list:

Ken Sanders 1971 83 136.1
Ray King 2001 82 55
Will Smith 2014 78 65.2
Francisco Rodriguez 2012 78 72
Todd Coffey 2009 78 83.2
Derrick Turnbow 2007 77 68
Corey Knebel 2017 76 76
Will Smith 2015 76 63.1
Luis Vizcaino 2002 76 81.1
Ray King 2002 76 65
Chuck Crim 1989 76 117.2
Mike Gonzalez 2013 75 50
John Axford 2012 75 69.1
Luis Vizcaino 2003 75 62
Mike DeJean 2001 75 84.1
Doug Jones 1997 75 80.1

While Claudio has come under fire from some fans this season, there’s a reason he’s appeared in so many games. Hitters just don’t make hard contact off of him.

According to Statcast, of the 151 batted balls against Claudio this season just five have been barreled. His 3.3% barrel percentage ranks in the top 2% of MLB and is 16th overall (min. 50 batted balls).

The exit velocity Claudio allows is even better, in the top 1% of the league at 84.3 mph.

Julio Urias LAD 83.6
Justin Wilson NYM 84.1
Rich Hill LAD 84.2
Steve Cishek CHC 84.2
Ryan Yarbrough TB 84.2
Alex Claudio MIL 84.3
Kenley Jansen LAD 84.3
Tyler Clippard CLE 84.4
Hunter Wood TB/CLE 84.5
Tyler Olson CLE 84.5