2013 Preview: Brewers vs. Cardinals | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

After years of watching Chicago Cubs fans file into Miller Park during Brewers rebuilding seasons, exercising one of baseball’s strongest geographical rivalries, the on-field animosity and battles between the St. Louis Cardinals and Brewers were a welcome sight. Nothing against the Cubs or Cubs fans, it just never felt like the rivalry was all that real, perhaps with the exception of 2007-2008. Otherwise, it was one franchise going through some strong years against a nearby franchise rebuilding; and once the Cubs started rebuilding, it cooled. I don’t get that feeling between the Cardinals and Brewers; sure, they’re still relatively close in terms of geography, but the rivalry seemed to grow out of the different attitudes between both clubs on the field, as the veteran, traditional Cardinals tried to show the bush league, upstart Brewers how to properly play the game. For that reason, I suspect that a lot of Cardinals fans don’t like the Brewers, and that’s quite all right; I don’t like the Cardinals (although, not surprisingly, their club is much more likeable since they hired toughest-man-on-earth Mike Matheny as skipper, and lost their vocal, holier-than-thou superstar 1B).

Now that the partisan bickering is out of the way, both Cardinals fans and Brewers fans alike can revel in the similarities of their 2013 ballclubs. For the most part, both clubs return almost exactly the same bats to above average offenses, while putting together pitching rotations that largely rely on unproven or inexperienced starters. In this regard, the nameless, faceless gang of hard-throwing relievers in St. Louis represents the strongest difference between the Brewers and the Cardinals, as the Brewers largely overhauled their leaky bullpen. Both clubs underplayed their 2012 run differentials; both clubs feature aggressive, young, relatively new managers. Perhaps through the personalities of their managers, and the collective uncertainties of their starting rotations — or, the aggregate roar of their bats, the Cardinals/Brewers rivalry will morph into something resembling begrudging respect.

2013 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

Games
April 12-14: Brewers @ Cardinals
May 2-5: Cardinals @ Brewers
May 17-19: Brewers @ Cardinals
August 19-21: Cardinals @ Brewers
September 10-12: Brewers @ Cardinals
September 20-22: Cardinals @ Brewers

Interleague:
Cardinals: @/vs. Royals, vs. Rangers, @/vs. Astros, @ Athletics, @ Angels, vs. Mariners
Brewers: @/vs. Rangers, @/vs. Twins, vs. Athletics, @Astros, @Mariners, vs. Angels

The Cardinals have a strange distribution of games in their schedule. Their opening and closing months focus extensively on the NL Central, while their middle months focus on interleague play, and receive the bulk of their games against other NL clubs. In April the Cardinals play 14 games against the NL Central, and 10 in May; but, those totals pale in comparison to their August and September schedules, which combine for 38 total games against the NL Central (or, nearly 68% of their total games in August and September). In this regard, the Cardinals must have one of the best chances of anyone in the NL to influence their own destiny, as they directly play their own division to close out the final months of their season.

Distance to 90 Wins
2012 Cardinals: 765 RS / 648 RA (-3 wins; -15 RS / +15 RA)
2012 Brewers: 776 RS / 733 RA (+5 wins; +25 RS / -25 RA)

Recent Series
2012: Cardinals d. Brewers 9-6 (Brewers 49 RS / 80 RA)
2011: Brewers t. Cardinals 9-9 (Brewers 71 RS / 64 RA)
2010: Brewers d. Cardinals 8-7 (Brewers 62 RS / 68 RA)

Despite the Cardinals’ 2012 thumping of the Brewers in terms of runs scored/runs allowed, the Brewers managed to salvage some wins against the Cardinals by succeeding in four one-run games.

2011-2012 Best Rotation / Worst Rotation
Based off of their 2011-2012 performances, it appears that the Brewers have a stronger rotation than the Cardinals. However, those performances might be misleading, for a couple of reasons:

(1) Although both the Brewers and Cardinals are relying on young or inexperienced starters in 2013, the Brewers’ inexperienced starters either worked more innings in 2012 or had more successful campaigns in 2012. This is detrimental to the appearance of young Cardinals pitchers in the “Best” category, but it does not necessarily mean that those pitchers cannot outperform the 2013 Brewers youngsters.
(2) Both teams featured inefficient defenses last year, and as I noted on Tuesday, the Cardinals’ fielders were inefficient between 2011 and 2012. This specifically affected Jake Westbrook‘s expected runs allowed, Jaime Garcia‘s expected runs allowed, and Adam Wainwright‘s expected runs allowed. So, depending on your view of FIP, one might expect Garcia and Wainwright to notably improve in 2013, and even the “below-average” Westbrook should be a handful of runs better.

Best
2012 Gallardo (204 IP, 16 runs prevented)
2012 Fiers (127.7 IP, 8 runs prevented)
2011 Gallardo (207.3 IP, 6 runs prevented)
2012 Lynn (174.7 IP, 6 runs prevented)
2012 Estrada (138.3 IP, 6 runs prevented)

Worst
2012 Westbrook (174.7 IP, -4 runs prevented
2012 Wainwright (198.7 IP, -4 runs prevented)
2011 Narveson (161.7 IP, -6 runs prevented)
2011 Garcia (194.7 IP, -14 runs prevented)
2011 Westbrook (183.3 IP, -22 runs prevented)

Batting Advantages:
(Here I took the harmonic mean between R and RBI for each fielding position, which cuts out runs that are counted twice between R and RBI, and presents an approximate, at-a-glance value for each batting position. This also helps to capture the value of each fielding position in the context of each team’s batting order)

Brewers: 3B, 2B
Cardinals: RF, 1B
Too Close to Call: LF, CF, C
Unknown: SS

Brewers LF: 725 PA, 115.5 runs produced
Brewers 3B: 702 PA, 108.6 runs produced
Cardinals LF: 737 PA, 104.4 runs produced
Cardinals RF: 729 PA, 101.5 runs produced

Cardinals 1B: 716 PA, 98.6 runs produced
Brewers 1B: 678 PA, 87.0 runs produced
Cardinals 3B: 697 PA, 89.4 runs produced
Brewers C: 655 PA, 81.0 runs produced

Cardinals C: 678 PA, 80.9 runs produced
Brewers RF: 740 PA, 86.5 runs produced
Brewers 2B: 713 PA, 78.1 runs produced
(League Average for 700 PA: 76.0 runs produced)
Cardinals SS: 715 PA, 75.7 runs produced

Brewers CF: 700 PA, 75.0 runs produced
Cardinals CF: 720 PA, 72.8 runs produced
Brewers SS: 626 PA, 62.6 runs produced
Cardinals 2B: 661 PA, 63.8 runs produced

As much as I’d love to simply call Ryan Braun better than Matt Holliday, I am reluctant to do so because Holliday sits in the middle of a strong batting order. Even if Holliday’s abstract statistical value is less than Braun’s, in the middle of the Cardinals’ order, the veteran could have the ability to produce a strong number of runs. I’d also agree that Yadier Molina has a stronger track record than Jonathan Lucroy, but the combination of Lucroy/Maldonado was just as strong as Molina in 2012. Carlos Gomez / Jon Jay? Beats me. Same with the inexperienced shortstop options for both clubs.

Preview
The Cardinals have the strongest “control your destiny” schedule I’ve seen for 2013 NL Central. Since so many of their season-ending games occur against the NL Central, they will have a direct opportunity to influence their standing in the division. The Brewers benefit from this in way, as they boast nine match-ups against the Cardinals in the last six weeks of the season. If the Brewers are anywhere near the Cardinals in the standings (and that position is not simply a fight for 3rd and 4th place), the Cardinals might present the Brewers’ best opportunity to directly overtake the division. Of course, this scenario only happens if both clubs overcome their question marks and maintain their strengths from 2012; otherwise, we’re hyping August and September match-ups for nothing.

RESOURCES:
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference LLC, 2000-2013.
MLB Advanced Media, 2001-2013.

IMAGE (AP): http://www.newstribune.com/news/2012/apr/30/cardinals-blow-multiple-chances-3-2-loss-brewers/

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