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Brewers boosted by bases on balls

Brewers boosted by bases on balls

MILWAUKEE -- Who picked the power-hitting Brewers to lead the National League in plate patience? Certainly not the hitting coach.

"Going into the season, you wouldn't expect that we would be almost to the All-Star break and be leading the league in walks," Dale Sveum said.

Yet the Brewers did lead the pack in that category entering their Wednesday series finale against the Mets, with 311 walks. The Nationals were second with 310.

At the same time, the Brewers had the third-highest strikeout total of the 16 NL teams, with 604 whiffs. But they also ranked third in the league with 90 home runs, fourth with a .339 on-base percentage and fourth with 368 runs scored. Most important of all, only one NL team -- the Dodgers -- had more wins than the Brewers' 42.

"If you're walking, you're getting on base, you're making the pitchers throw more pitches and getting into the bullpen more quickly," Sveum said. "Those things mean you're likely to score more runs. But mainly, it's about getting a good pitch to hit."

Last season, the Brewers ranked ninth in the league with 550 walks. In 2007, they ranked 14th with 501, and the team has not ranked seventh in that category since the Miller Park era began in 2001.

"Some of the questioning in the interview process," said Brewers manager Ken Macha, referring to his chats with general manager Doug Melvin before he was hired in October, "were about plate discipline and what we tried to do in Oakland. It's not like you come in and say, 'Everybody, get a walk.'

"It's a credit to the players, and that's what I told them in a meeting we had the other day. They have bought into not getting a walk, but trying to get a good pitch to hit. That's been a theme from Willie [Randolph, the bench coach], Dale and myself. Get a good ball to hit, don't [just] take a walk."

Macha believes that the Brewers' increased walk rate is behind another key stat: Heart-of-the-order hitters Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder entered Thursday with 131 RBIs, more than any duo in the Majors. The Phillies' Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard were second with 119 RBIs, and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena led the American League with 118 RBIs.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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