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Inbox: Will Brewers' offense heat up?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

At what point do you begin to accept that this is how the Brewers' offense is going to be, rather than saying they are not living up to expectations?
-- @nbohunk77, on Twitter

Travis Shaw, who is particularly good at telling it like it is, brought up the possibility of regression on the final day of the 2017 season in St. Louis. He'd had his best offensive season, along with Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and even outfielders Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips in shorter stints. None of those players had long Major League track records, so it was not far-fetched to worry about a step back.

At what point do you begin to accept that this is how the Brewers' offense is going to be, rather than saying they are not living up to expectations?
-- @nbohunk77, on Twitter

Travis Shaw, who is particularly good at telling it like it is, brought up the possibility of regression on the final day of the 2017 season in St. Louis. He'd had his best offensive season, along with Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia, Manny Pina and even outfielders Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips in shorter stints. None of those players had long Major League track records, so it was not far-fetched to worry about a step back.

And here we are, with one-fifth of 2018 in the books, and Shaw is fighting a 4-for-42 funk, Thames is sidelined following left thumb surgery, Santana's OPS is down nearly 200 points, Arcia is the worst offensive shortstop in the National League and Pina is one of the league's least productive catchers. Second base, meanwhile, remains a problem, with Jonathan Villar's batting average up but his OPS down from his miserable 2017 season, and Eric Sogard in an 0-for-27 slump while splitting time between second base and shortstop. Even with ballyhooed additions Lorenzo Cain (.358 wOBA) and Christian Yelich (.348 wOBA) performing at or above their career levels, the Brewers are the NL's worst scoring offense (3.77 runs per game) outside of Miami (3.42 runs per game).

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Is this who the Brewers are? I'm still betting not, in part because I've seen the offensive conditions at Miller Park change year after year as April turns to May and May to June. Compared to last year, the Crew is walking at the same rate, striking out a bit less and making the same amount of hard contact (34.5 percent last year, 34.4 percent this year), but batting 24 points lower on balls in play.

Milwaukee needs more production from the bottom half of the order, no doubt. General manager David Stearns and skipper Craig Counsell seem to think they'll get it in time.

Tweet from @derekknorr_40: How long do you think the Brewers stay content with their 2nd base and catching contributions at the plate before they start making changes?

Pina has homered twice in his past five starts, so there are some positive signs at catcher. With Jett Bandy struggling to produce anything at the plate, Stephen Vogt would have had a good chance to join the catching tandem had he not had a setback with his right shoulder on Saturday night in a Double-A game. Vogt was examined in Milwaukee on Monday afternoon. Jacob Nottingham, who already got a taste of the Major Leagues this season, or Triple-A teammate Christian Bethancourt are other options, but calling either of those players up and cutting ties with Bandy would cut into the organization's depth at a key position.

At second base, it just feels like some kind of change is coming. Sogard started all weekend against the Pirates, in part an effort to get him going at the plate. It didn't work. But here, too, injuries are a factor after No. 10 Brewers prospect Mauricio Dubon was summoned to Milwaukee on Monday to have his injured left knee examined. The Brewers could promote Nate Orf, but I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect him to come up and suddenly become an offensive force in the Major Leagues.

Tweet from @slosayre: When Knebel comes back is it a lock he regains the closer role? Or will he join the committee with Hader and company?

This is going to be so interesting. Both Boone Logan and Corey Knebel are on track to rejoin the Brewers' lights-out bullpen this weekend in Denver, and Counsell has not said exactly how he envisions working Knebel back into the late innings. Considering how well Josh Hader, Jacob Barnes and the rest of the relief corps have fared in the sort of "all-hands-on-deck" strategy Counsell has employed in Knebel's absence, and that Knebel is capable of multi-inning outings himself, there's a pretty strong argument for continuing the "no set roles" approach. It's worked so far.

Only the D-backs, whom the Brewers face six times in May, have a better bullpen ERA than Milwaukee's 2.59.

Tweet from @THEKID_: Keston Hiura can rake...no doubt. And albeit still under a year...this is two seasons now where his primary position has been DH...which doesn't bode well for an NL team. Realizing its still very early but...is his future still at 2B or is he destined to be a trade piece? Thx

Brewers officials have been adamant since last year's MLB Draft that Keston Hiura will play second base in the Major Leagues. He just needs to clear his injury. I would suggest patience; the fact is logging professional at-bats while they work on that elbow means his development won't be slowed by any significant amount.

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

Milwaukee Brewers