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Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

The Milwaukee Brewers have extended their domination of the Pirates into the 2014 season, sweeping a three-game set at Miller Park last weekend.

Carlos Gomez (.623 slugging percentage), Aramis Ramirez (.503), Ryan Braun (.500), Jonathan Lucroy (.472) and Mark Reynolds (.458) are providing serious power for the Brewers, who had baseball's best winning percentage (.733) entering play Thursday.

Milwaukee has managed to score at an above-average pace (13th in the majors in runs) despite drawing the third-fewest walks (6.1 percent of plate appearances) in the National League.

Such impatient teams rarely succeed long term, though, as opponents eventually take advantage of their free-swinging tendencies.

The Pirates should do just that, baiting the Brewers into chasing pitches thrown outside the strike zone that batters rarely hit hard.

Milwaukee has the second-highest chase rate in the majors this season, lunging at nearly 35 percent of would-be balls.

The Pirates, by contrast, have chased about 29 percent of the time.

Gomez (39.7 percent chase rate), Ramirez (38.7 percent) and Braun (38.1 percent) are the Brewers' three biggest offenders. Ramirez (29 percent career chase rate) and Braun (32.6 percent) are hacking much more than usual, while Gomez (36.9 percent) always has let it fly.

Taking their cuts

Team O-swing pct.

Orioles 35.1

Brewers 34.6

Giants 33.3

Rockies 31.7

Braves 31.3

MLB Avg. 28.8

Source: Fangraphs.com

Chances are, the Brewers' big sluggers will tighten up their strike zones or suffer the consequences. Major league batters are slugging nearly .500 this season when swinging at a strike but under .240 when chasing out of the zone.

The Pirates feature several pitchers who should be able to capitalize on the Brewers' impatience, including Mark Melancon (40.7 percent chase rate dating to 2013), Jason Grilli (36.7 percent), Bryan Morris (34 percent) and Gerrit Cole (30.6 percent).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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