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Counsell's focus on generating runs, not K's

Brewers break own MLB record for strikeouts, but also among HR leaders
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

ST. LOUIS -- While the focus was on a victory over the Reds that extended a late-season push for the postseason, the Brewers quietly broke their own dubious Major League record for strikeouts in a season Thursday, marking the second straight year they surpassed the all-time mark.

Last year, led by Chris Carter's 206 strikeouts, the Brewers whiffed 1,543 times. This year, after letting Carter go, they broke their own mark with nine strikeouts Thursday, pushing the total to 1,546 with three regular-season games to go.

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ST. LOUIS -- While the focus was on a victory over the Reds that extended a late-season push for the postseason, the Brewers quietly broke their own dubious Major League record for strikeouts in a season Thursday, marking the second straight year they surpassed the all-time mark.

Last year, led by Chris Carter's 206 strikeouts, the Brewers whiffed 1,543 times. This year, after letting Carter go, they broke their own mark with nine strikeouts Thursday, pushing the total to 1,546 with three regular-season games to go.

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The Brewers also have hit a lot of home runs -- 220, second-most in franchise history, led by 31 apiece from Travis Shaw and Eric Thames. They are not alone in that combination; the 30 Major League teams have combined to set the all-time marks this season for home runs and strikeouts. Entering Thursday, 13 of the 38 highest all-time team strikeout totals and seven of the top 36 team home run totals are from 2017 clubs.

"I think what we have to understand is, 'How much are the strikeouts affecting run-scoring?'" manager Craig Counsell said. "The team that won the World Series last year [the Cubs] struck out a whole bunch, and they scored a lot of runs.

"So I would say the focus is more on how do we score more runs? That's something we need to get better at. We need to score more runs. We're [11th of 15 teams] in the National League right now, and I think in our park, we have to be better."

One theory: The Brewers, unlike some other contenders, are populated overwhelmingly by players who entered the season shy of the 1,000 Major League plate appearance threshold Counsell mentions often in talking about experienced hitters. Instead of making wholesale changes, perhaps those players can get better at making contact when contact is required.

"Obviously, the young guy has the best chance to improve," Counsell said.

The Brewers will debate the matter during the offseason, general manager David Stearns said in a conversation earlier this month. Complicating the analysis is a second-half drop in the Brewers' run production that does not coincide with a significant increase in strikeouts.

Before the All-Star break, the team was eighth in the Majors with 4.96 runs per game and fourth with 1.52 home runs per game while striking out 25.1 percent of the time. Since the break, the Brewers are 29th with 3.88 runs per game (only the Rays rank lower) and tied for 19th with 1.21 home runs per game while striking out 26.5 percent of the time.

"It's a stark difference, and everyone is aware of that," Stearns said. "It's something we're going to have to look into."

The drop in home run production has played a role, since the Brewers score the fifth-highest percentage of their runs - 47.6 percent -- via home runs. Club officials have yet to find an answer for the drop in power.

"Clearly, we've had a season of extremes offensively," Stearns said.

Last call

Manny Pina's chances to play against the Cardinals are "very slim," Counsell said, despite Pina reporting more improvement Friday with his sprained left thumb. He might try to catch a bullpen session Saturday.

"If we can move this thing along, I think there is a chance for Manny to be involved," Counsell said.

• Right-hander Jimmy Nelson, traveling with the team in the wake of his season-ending shoulder surgery, is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles on Sunday night for a Monday follow-up appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Milwaukee Brewers