For the fifth start in a row, Randy Wolf was paired as a battery mate with Wil Nieves. Ron Roenicke insists that the current pairing is only temporary, but as most Brewers fans know, the lack of communication between Wolf and every-day starter Jonathan Lucroy isn’t exactly a new development.
The duo hasn’t been able to get on the same wavelength since Lucroy was called up early last year and Roenicke appears to be in no hurry to remedy the situation. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to pinpoint the source of the issue. Generally speaking, Lucroy regularly catches the most successful part of the Brewers’ rotation without incident.
However, there is no denying that Wolf is far more comfortable on the bump with Nieves behind the plate.
In his last five starts with Nieves behind the dish, Wolf is 1-0 with a 3-1 strikeout to walk ratio. More importantly, Milwaukee is 4-1 as a team in that stretch. In his last four starts with Lucroy, Wolf is 1-2 with a K-BB ratio of under 2-1 and the team carried a combined record of 1-3 during those starts.
So what’s a first year skipper to do? Regardless of strategy, Roenicke definitely needs to handle the situation with care. After all, the debacle represents Roenicke’s first public case of tension inside of the locker room.
For the time being, both Wolf’s individual success as well as the team’s hot streak will keep the naysayers at bay. But rest assured that if the offensive production begins to dip south, the critics will come calling and they will certainly be armed with some statistics of their own.
In terms of offense, the numbers point to Lucroy in a landslide. Though he may not exactly qualify as a major power threat, Lucroy’s six home runs in 49 games this season are more than Nieves has hit in his 282-game career.
Nieves, on the other hand, is currently one for his last 13 at the plate and has almost twice as many strikeouts as hits this season. His batting average sits at an atrocious .140 and starting every fifth day will do nothing to improve those numbers.
Wolf’s success may justify the temporary drop in offense on a weekly basis, especially if Wolf continues to turn in performances like his start on Monday. On the flip side, more hitless nights from Nieves will keep the pressure on Roenicke to search for other alternatives.
It would be absurd to blame Nieves for the lack of offensive production against the Cubs, but there are few fans out there that wouldn’t trade Nieves’ 0-2 performance for two more at-bats for Lucroy.
At first glance, it appears as though reunited this tandem is another instance of Roenicke pushing the right buttons at the right time. The move may not be a popular one, but until it starts consistently hurting the team, it is the right one.