If it feels like the Brewers and Reds are always stuck in close contests, well, they are. From 2010-present, 17 of the 45 meetings between the Cincinnati and Milwaukee nine resulted in one-run contests. In fact, one might point to some of those wicked one-run contests in 2012 as one of the reasons the Brewers underplayed their run differential, while the Reds outplayed theirs; despite outscoring the Reds 49-to-46 in 2012, the Reds won their season series 9-to-6. Those 95 runs scored in 15 contests look particularly extreme, as the Brewers and Reds played ten contests with 7-or-fewer total runs scored in 2012. Despite the Reds’ dominance in the division, the teams were closely matched, and that was a theme in 2011, too. Even when the Brewers were on top of the division, they split 16 contests with the Reds (this time, the Brewers scored the Reds 83-to-81). These close contests make the 11-to-3 season series pounding by the Reds in 2010 a distant state of affairs; the Reds and the Brewers, for the most part, have been extremely evenly matched over the last two years.
How does this project for the 2013 season series? Obviously, we might look at the Reds’ roster and run differential from 2012 and expect them to be better than the Brewers again. However, if the games remain close, is a set of series between Cincinnati and Milwaukee the key to the Brewers’ improvement in the division? The Brewers might not need a grand margin to defeat the Reds — in fact, like the Reds in 2012, they could conceivably take the 2013 season series without outscoring the Reds. What the Brewers will need is stronger performances from their bullpen, which might be the most important element for turning around the Brewers’ fortunes in 2013 (especially against the Reds). While the Brewers might not dominate the Cubs and Pirates as they did in 2012, and St. Louis might still hold that dreaded advantage of playing-the-game-the-right-way against our beloved Bush Leaguers, the Brewers could maintain their ground by holding steady with the Reds.
SIDE NOTE: 2008-2012 NL Percentage of One-Run Games:
2012: 29.0 % (range per team: 41 to 57)
2011: 30.9 % (range per team: 43 to 55)
2010: 29.6 % (range per team: 39 to 58)
2009: 27.2 % (range per team: 38 to 52)
2008: 27.2 % (range per team: 35 to 52)
May 10-12: Brewers @ Reds
June 14-16: Brewers @ Reds
July 8-10: Reds @ Brewers
August 15-18: Reds @ Brewers
August 23-25: Brewers @ Reds
September 13-15: Reds @ Brewers
Reds: vs. Angels, vs/@ Indians, @/vs. Athletics, @Rangers, vs. Mariners, @Astros
Brewers: @/vs. Rangers, @/vs. Twins, vs. Athletics, @Astros, @Mariners, vs. Angels
Distance to 90 Wins
2012 Reds: 669 RS / 588 RA (-1 win; +0 RS / +10 RA)
2012 Brewers: 776 RS / 733 RA (+5 wins; +25 RS / -25 RA)
Recent Series (Reds lead, 28-17)
2012: Reds d. Brewers 9-6 (Brewers 49 RS / 46 RA)
2011: Brewers t. Reds 8-8 (Brewers 83 RS / 81 RA)
2010: Reds d. Brewers 11-3 (Brewers 53 RS / 77 RA)
2011-2012 Best Rotation / Worst Rotation
The Reds rotation dominates the Brewers rotation in terms of ace potential and previous “ace” performances. The Reds starters can claim five 10+ runs prevented performances in the last two years, from pitchers as diverse as Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos to Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. By contrast, the Brewers’ starters can only credit Yovani Gallardo‘s excellent 2012 campaign as a 10+ runs prevented season. Interestingly enough, in Bailey and Arroyo, the Reds also own two of the worst seasons between 2011-2012 in terms of runs prevented. In that regard, the best-and-worst is a list dominated by the Reds:
1. 2012 Cueto (217 IP, 38 runs prevented)
2. 2011 Cueto (156 IP, 23 runs prevented)
3. 2012 Latos (209.3 IP, 20 runs prevented)
4. 2012 Arroyo (202 IP, 17 runs prevented)
5. 2012 Gallardo (204 IP, 16 runs prevented)
(Honorable mention to 2012 Chapman and 2012 Bailey)
1. 2011 Estrada (92.7 IP, -1 runs prevented)
2. 2012 Leake (179 IP, -5 runs prevented
3. 2011 Narveson (161.7 IP, -6 runs prevented)
4. 2011 Bailey (132 IP, -6 runs prevented)
5. 2011 Arroyo (199 IP, -25 runs prevented)
Needless to say, the Reds rotation is one of experience, to the Brewers inexperience. It is also one of highs-and-lows, to the Brewers’ middle-of-the-road.
(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: LF, C, 3B*
Reds: 1B, RF, CF
Too Close to Call: Brandon Phillips vs. Rickie Weeks at 2B
Unknown: Zack Cozart vs. Jean Segura at SS; *Todd Frazier‘s impact at 3B.
Brewers LF: 725 PA, 115.5 runs produced
Brewers 3B: 702 PA, 108.6 runs produced
Reds RF: 682 PA, 98.8 runs produced
Brewers 1B: 678 PA, 87.0 runs produced
Brewers C: 655 PA, 81.0 runs produced
Reds 1B: 695 PA, 84.4 runs produced
Reds LF: 682 PA, 81.6 runs produced
Brewers RF: 740 PA, 86.5 runs produced
Reds 2B: 707 PA, 85.4 runs produced
Brewers 2B: 713 PA, 78.1 runs produced
Reds 3B: 662 PA, 72.1 runs produced
(League Average for 700 PA: 76.0 runs produced)
Brewers CF: 700 PA, 75.0 runs produced
Brewers SS: 626 PA, 62.6 runs produced
Reds CF: 723 PA, 68.7 runs produced
Reds C: 623 PA, 49.0 runs produced
Reds SS: 732 PA, 58.0 runs produced
The Reds’ offense was below average in 2012, but their acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo to man centerfield, a full season from Frazier at the hot corner, and a clean bill of health from their key veterans should help them improve their batting order balance. The Brewers can still claim the benefits of Aramis Ramirez at 3B, although one might question Frazier’s ceiling at that position (versus Ramirez’s track record; tough call, I’m inclined to favor Ramirez). Weeks and Phillips are both returning from tough seasons, and Segura and Cozart will be finding their sea legs. Whereas the Reds’ offensive fire will be concentrated in the power of their best bats, the Brewers will have a grand power/speed advantage.
If the Brewers catch the Reds, it won’t be in a heroic, last minute series. Their last meeting is the 15th of September at Miller Park, which is close enough to the end of the season; the Reds go on to close their year against the Astros, Mets, and Pirates (twice!), while the Brewers face the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, and Mets. The Reds have two days off in the final two weeks of the season, whereas the Brewers close their season with twenty consecutive games. Surely the Reds’ cushy closing calendar compensates for their early contests, as their April match-ups include 16 home games / 12 road games against the Angels, Phillies, Marlins, Cubs, and Pirates, plus the Nationals and Cardinals twice (each).
The story of the Brewers and Reds will be the grind of the middle of the season, series spread throughout the middle months of the year, and stacked together in August. More than the Cubs, more than the Pirates, even more than the Cardinals, the Reds hold the key to the Brewers’ 2013 fate, as the Brewers seek to continue their evenly matched play. As much as the most skeptical Brewers fan is concerned about the Brewers’ run differential, their ability to stay close during 19 contests against the Reds could define their season. Will their bullpen collapse against the Reds once more, or will the coin land in the other direction?
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference LLC, 2000-2013.
MLB Advanced Media, 2001-2013.
IMAGE (The Cincinnati Enquirer, Joseph Fuqua II): http://cincinnati.com/blogs/sports/2012/06/26/aroldis-chapmans-celebration-what-some-are-saying/