Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’17 — #10 Kirk Nieuwenhuis

I can count down to Opening Day with just my hands now.

A milestone among milestones as we wind our way to Opening Day, the #10 hasn’t ever had an entry in “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” before. This series began in 2010, when the player who wore #10 for the Brewers that season didn’t do so until September. Beginning in 2011 the number was worn by manager Ron Roenicke, and I only profile players in this series. As for last year…well, I didn’t finish the countdown last year. Sometimes life gets in the way of hobbies.

The point is that it’s a banner day for the countdown and I thank you for your continued reading. Now, on to business as I write/you read about…

Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

The journey in Milwaukee for Nieuwenhuis hasn’t been a long one. Coming off of an NLCS appearance two falls ago, Nieuwenhuis was waived by the New York Mets due to a roster crunch. On December 23, Nieuwenhuis’ contract was awarded to the Brewers via waiver claim.

The then 28-year-old former 3rd round draft pick was coming off of a tough season offensively in 2015, and the Mets had better and younger options lined up for 2016. It’s probably exactly what Nieuwenhuis will be going through again later this year. The Brewers have a highly touted crop of young and talented outfielders throughout the system.

And let’s face facts early in this column: Nieuwenhuis is already the fourth outfielder. There will be no 2018 BBtJN column on Nieuwenhuis. The Brewers will have Ryan Braun, Lewis Brinson, Keon Broxton, Michael Reed, Domingo Santana, and perhaps Ryan Cordell and Maverick Phillips in the mix for the four or five outfield slots on the 25-man roster. Nieuwenhuis’ greatest on-field contribution to the team this upcoming season is his defensive prowess in the outfield by which he can back up all three spots. And while Braun can’t play up the middle (and Santana shouldn’t), the rest of the options listed for 2018 can.

Before wrapping this column up prematurely though, let’s talk about the inexplicable aspect of the Nieuwenhuis’ 2016 season: The drastic home/road split.

Home: .290/.397/.556, 199 PA, 31 R, 49 H, 10 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 29 BB, 67 K
Away: .127/.249/.211, 193 PA, 7 R, 21 H, 8 2B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 27 BB, 66 K

That’s almost an even split in plate appearances with drastic divergence in results. It’s not all Nieuwenhuis’ fault, of course. His batting average on balls in play (BAbip) at Miller Park was a whopping .418 while it was a paltry .194 on the road. Neither number is traditionally sustainable and yet they lasted the entire season. 200 PA isn’t a huge sample but it’s also not an insignificant one. Still, you should expect the numbers to normalize a bit in 2017.

That being said, over his career (Nieuwenhuis made his MLB debut on April 7, 2012) the stadium in which he has hit the best has been Miller Park. He has better numbers in a tiny three-game sample at Tropicana Field and in 13 games at Marlins Park, but when you contextualize his numbers based on opportunities, Miller Park stands alone. It could be the batter’s eye, it could be the lighting, but whatever it is, he’s always hit well there. And no, funny guy, it isn’t because he was facing Brewers pitching.

I’m seriously looking forward to seeing how it plays this year, but regardless I do think it’ll be Nieuwenhuis’ last at-bats in Milwaukee while playing for the Brewers. Nieuwenhuis should get a decent amount of playing first though as he provides a left-handed bat off the bench for manager Craig Counsell.

#59 Carlos Torres
#57 Chase Anderson
#56 Ryan Webb
#54 Michael Blazek
#53 Jhan Mariñez
#52 Jimmy Nelson
#51 Damien Magnifico
#50 Jacob Barnes
#47 Jett Bandy
#46 Corey Knebel
#45 Tyler Cravy
#41 Junior Guerra
#38 Wily Peralta
#37 Neftalí Feliz
#35 Brent Suter
#33 Tommy Milone
#29 Yadiel Rivera
#28 Jorge Lopez
#27 Zach Davies
#26 Taylor Jungmann
#25 Michael Reed
#24 Jesús Aguilar
#23 Keon Broxton
#22 Matt Garza
#21 Travis Shaw
#18 Eric Sogard
#16 Domingo Santana
#14 Hernan Pérez
#13 Andrew Susac

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