If you’ve paid any attention to the Brewers’ last week, you’ve seen some crazy stuff. Take Friday night, when Yuniesky Betancourt and Carlos Gomez had what were arguably the two biggest hits of the game. Or Sunday, when the Brewers’ huge (chances of winning went from 19 to 87%) fifth inning was bookended by a Jerry Hairston double and a Betancourt homer. Or Monday, when Albert Pujols… OK, never mind.
This, in a nutshell, is why the Cardinals can beat the Phillies in a five-game playoff series and Zack Greinke can get shelled in back-to-back October starts: The sample size is small enough that anything can happen and usually does. Whether you attribute it to clutch ability, a hot streak, or random variation (the “Blind Squirrel” cliché comes to mind), the postseason is a crazy, unpredictable thing, and doesn’t even lend itself well to educated guesses more than five minutes into the future, but does mean you can pull up some of the top hitters through any given point in the postseason and find a very interesting collection of hot streaks, small-sample flukes, and stars shining in the moment.
Today, we’re going to look at the Brewers’ top three hitters this postseason, and what to expect going forward for each of them.
Ryan Braun (.483/.559/.897):
Neither words nor numbers really do justice to what Braun has done this postseason, but we’ll give it a try. Going by the old Bill James model, Braun has created almost this October, which would account for 40% of the Brewers’ scoring. (Please don’t take this literally. Anyone who tries to argue for the real-world truth of that last statement will be sentenced to a long conversation with Joe Morgan.) Also, Braun has had five multi-hit games this postseason while also chipping in six doubles and four walks. What he has done so far is unbelievable, and as hard as it is to see him keeping up, it’s worth remembering that even if he regresses significantly over the remainder of the postseason, there’s a good chance he’ll still be the best hitter on the field wherever he goes.
Yuniesky Betancourt (.367/.387/.600):
It’s hard to know what went on here. Maybe Betancourt felt a sudden surge of self confidence after seeing his huge face in the mirror, maybe he got sick of hearing the media make cracks about him, or maybe he’s just on one of the random semi-hot streaks that he has been known to show, but let’s say it: Betancourt is on his game right now, and at just at the right time. In addition to his sudden fit of slugging, Betancourt has managed to make at least a few plays in the field while likely saving the Brewers’ season on Friday night by ranging to his left and getting the force at second to bail John Axford out in the ninth. Also, wonder of wonders, Betancourt has drawn one unintentional walk! How long he can put off being Yuni is anyone’s guess, but a-week-and-a-half of hitting like Albert Pujols isn’t going to mean a lot in the grand scheme of things when you consider he’s spent five seasons hitting like the marginal player he is. Let’s hope his employers realize that, too.
Jerry Hairston (.357/.394/.464):
I’ve said this before, but Hairston has made Ron Roenicke look like a genius for starting him over Casey McGehee for the NLDS, combining small-sample magic at the plate with solid work at the hot corner. Having (hopefully) found his groove after a lukewarm September (.224/.345/.367), Hairston has recorded a hit in every game this postseason except for last Friday’s Game 5, where made one of the loudest outs in recent memory, a drive to the warning track in dead center that was caught thanks to an incredible effort by Chris Young. Hairston’s hot streak has also had the dual benefit of pushing (usually) weaker bats like Betancourt and Carlos Gomez further down the order. (On the other hand, if Hairston wasn’t playing at third every day, the “Kotsay in center” nightmare would have never happened.) As with Betancourt, an eight-game postseason tear doesn’t change who Hairston is: There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t love to have him on their roster, but making him your starting third baseman isn’t what you’d call a long-term solution.