2014 Preview: Brewers vs. Reds | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

The Reds have quietly dominated the Brewers over the course of four seasons, winning 37 of 63 contests from 2010-present. It seems strange to think about the Reds as having the Brewers’ number, simply because the focus for Brewers fans has always been placed on other rivalries. The Upstanding Citizenry of the Cardinals think the Brewers are Bush League; the upstart Pirates are knocking the Brewers off their throne for best rebuilding effort in the division; and the Cubs are the perfect geographical rival. This leaves the Reds in competitive limbo with the Brewers. Despite their relative dominance over the last four seasons (including three playoff trips), it’s difficult to hate the Reds like Brewers fans hate the Cards.

2014 Reds Preview

This could all change in 2014, as the Reds are one of the divisional teams that the Brewers face more than once in September. If the Brewers are going to prove themselves winners in 2014, it won’t be without running through the Reds late in the year. Here, the Brewers split home and road series against the Reds in September. One can expect that the Reds will be working for another division championship, which means that at worst, the Brewers can play spoiler. But, if Mark Attanasio‘s investment in winning stays on track, there is a good chance that the Brewers will need to test that investment against Cincinnati. (Frankly, It’s tough to look at these series in March and not get excited for a close divisional race.)

May 1-4: Brewers @ Reds
June 13-15: Reds @ Brewers
July 4-6: Brewers @ Reds
July 21-23: Reds @ Brewers
September 12-14: Reds @ Brewers
September 23-25: Brewers @ Reds

I focused so much on September above that I did not mention July. It is worth noting that if the Brewers are floating around .500 into July, and have strong series against the Reds, that could potentially impact their trading deadline perspective.

Distance to 90 Wins
Reds: 698 RS / 589 RA, -3 (-30 RS / — RA)
Brewers: 640 RS / 687 RA, +14 (+90 RS / -50 RA)

Despite the different scenarios of RS / RA I wrote about at the end of my Reds preview, a simple fact prevails: the Reds can decrease by 30 runs produced and still keep a 90-win pace. For this scenario, I took those 30 runs from their offense, but the point remains the same; even if the offense remains consistent and the pitchers falter by 30 runs, this club has a fighting chance at 90-wins. In fact, they may have the roster that is most suited for 90-wins of any NL Central team.

Previous Series (Reds lead, 27-23)
2013 Reds d. Brewers 10-9 (Brewers 66 RS / 81 RA)
2012 Reds d. Brewers 9-6 (Brewers 49 RS / 46 RA)
2011 Brewers t. Reds 8-8 (Brewers 83 RS / 81 RA)

Best Rotation / Worst Rotation (2012-2013)
After 2013, the Brewers’ rotation looks much more volatile than the Reds’ group of starters. A steady season by the five regular starters for the Reds sets them up for solid expectations in 2014. Kyle Lohse‘s 2012 and 2013 dominate the top five pitching seasons among both teams, but that does not provide an accurate picture of how these rotations actually compare.

2012 Cueto, 217 IP, 38 runs prevented
2012 Lohse, 211 IP, 24 runs prevented
2012 Latos, 209.3 IP, 20 runs prevented
2012 Gallardo, 204 IP, 16 runs prevented
2013 Lohse, 198.7 IP, 16 runs prevented

2013 Estrada, 128 IP, 4 runs prevented
2012 Garza, 103.7 IP, 1 run prevented
2012 Leake, 179 IP, -5 runs prevented
2013 Gallardo, 180.7 IP, -7 runs prevented
2013 Peralta, 183.3 IP, -21 runs prevented

It is worth pointing out that the Reds’ rotation is so good, these are their “middle seasons” that are not reflected in this best / worst listing:

2013 Latos, 210.7 IP, 14 runs prevented
2013 Bailey, 209 IP, 11 runs prevented
2013 Cingrani, 104.7 IP, 11 runs prevented
2012 Bailey, 208 IP, 10 runs prevented
2013 Leake, 192.3 IP, 10 runs prevented

Meanwhile, if you’re skeptical about the improvement that Matt Garza brings to the Brewers, it should be worth noting that Garza does not even need a full season to help the Brewers improve. 156.3 IP at a league average rate could help the rotation improve by THIRTY runs, given the dreadful performance by the worst Brewers replacements in 2013. If Garza displaces Tyler Thornburg, Donovan Hand, and Tom Gorzelanny (a combined performance of 220.3 IP / 16 runs prevented for the 2013 Brewers), it transfers those excellent replacement seasons into the bullpen.

The benefits of having Garza on the Brewers are clear: not only does he (1) decrease the probability that the Brewers will have to go 9, 10, 11, or 12 starters deep, but he also (2) increases the chance that the Brewers’ best replacement starters might get to work in the bullpen instead of the rotation. This is a potential double whammy: both the rotation and the bullpen have a shot to improve by 30 runs apiece (at best).

Resource: 2011-2013 NL Rotations with Runs Prevented.

Batting Advantages
In the following list, it appears that the Reds offense is equal to the Brewers offense. This really is not the case. Although both teams can rightfully claim approximately four advantages, the advantages that the Reds have at 2B, 1B, and LF potentially outweigh the Brewers’ advantages at CF, 3B, and SS. Even if you scoff at Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker, they have track records that are easier to project for success at LF. Khris Davis might be the better player in five years, but it’s tough to call LF for the Brewers to open 2014.

Brewers Advantages: CF*, 3B, C, SS
Reds Advantages: RF, 2B, 1B, LF
New Faces: Scooter Gennett, Juan Francisco, Mark Reynolds, Davis, and, of course, Billy Hamilton.

*I bet Carlos Gomez steals more bases than Billy Hamilton in 2014. (Sorry, it’s the preseason, and it’s really fun to make claims like this).

2012 Brewers LF 725 115.5 0.159        
2012 Brewers 3B 702 108.6 0.155 2013 Reds RF 713 100.0 0.140
2012 Reds RF 682 98.8 0.145 2013 Reds 2B 719 92.1 0.128
2012 Brewers 1B 678 87.0 0.128 2013 Brewers CF 677 86.5 0.1278
2012 Brewers C 655 81.0 0.124 2013 Brewers LF 674 79.5 0.1179
2012 Reds 1B 695 84.4 0.121 2013 Brewers 3B 663 77.1 0.116
2012 Reds 2B 707 85.4 0.1207 2013 Reds 1B 742 85.4 0.115
2012 Reds LF 682 81.6 0.1196 2013 Brewers C 670 77.1 0.115
2012 Brewers RF 740 86.5 0.117 2013 Brewers 1B 638 70.7 0.1108
2012 Brewers 2B 713 78.1 0.1095 2013 Reds SS 687 73.3 0.1067
2012 Reds 3B 662 72.1 0.1089 2013 Reds 3B 688 72.9 0.106
2012 League Average 700 76 0.1085 2013 League Average 700 72.0 0.103
2012 Brewers CF 700 75 0.107 2013 Reds LF 697 68.3 0.098
2012 Brewers SS 626 62.6 0.100 2013 Reds CF 765 74.0 0.097
2012 Reds CF 723 68.7 0.095 2013 Brewers SS 707 67.8 0.0959
2012 Reds SS 732 58.0 0.079 2013 Reds C 632 56.2 0.089
2012 Reds C 623 49.0 0.0786 2013 Brewers 2B 668 56.9 0.085
        2013 Brewers RF 736 58.6 0.079

I know I said I’d choose Jay Bruce over Ryan Braun as an act of fairness for not picking Nate Schierholtz as an advantage for the Cubs. But, even this is a stretch. Just in case you were doubting Braun’s presence and ability within the Brewers’ batting order, the outfielder easily produces more than 100 runs and RBI while healthy:

RRBI Bruce Braun
2010 74.7 102.0
2011 90.0 110.0
2012 93.7 110.0
2013 98.0 33.5*
    *partial season

I think it will be popular for some fans and analysts to question Braun’s ability to perform “without PEDs.” But, I think that train of thought will only be so much speculation, good for headlines and barstool bravado, but nothing more. One might legitimately raise the point that Braun could encounter more injuries or have difficulty recovering from aches and pains throughout the season, and that might impact his performance somewhat. But, let’s not kid ourselves — the man can hit, and when he hits, he produces runs like crazy. Even Bruce’s very best season over the last four years remains 4% shy of Braun’s lowest run producing pace (and, 12% off Braun’s best pace). So, Bruce gets the advantage based on 2013, but a healthy Braun could be a solid bet to add at least 15-20 runs to the Brewers’ outfield production.

Reds Bullpen
On Tuesday, I cited the Reds bullpen’s runs average for 2013, which does not paint an accurate picture of the overall success of their bullpen. It would be more accurate to say that their core of “key” relievers shrank in 2013, given key injuries and other personnel losses at the big league level. While their total number of 10-50 IP relievers increased in 2013, their number of key relievers decreased:

Reds Pitchers 2012 2013
Total P 17 20
10-50 IP Relievers 8 11
Key RP Core 7 5

Specifically, Jonathan Broxton, Jose Arredondo, and Sean Marshall were not as prominent in 2013, which impacted the total number of relievers that the Reds needed to use. Yet, the Reds’ group of five 50+ IP relievers were still quite good last season:

Reds Bullpen Cores (Relievers) Leads Converted (%) IR / IS (IS%) G entered w/in 1-run (%)
2012 (7) 126 / 141 (89.3%) 166 / 34 (20.4%) 161 / 413 (38.9%)*
2013 (5) 82 / 93 (88.2%) 114 / 29 (25.4%) 125 / 315 (39.7%)
      *includes Broxton’s KC appearances

Ultimately, relief analysis is a coin flip, but it would be a mistake to count out the Reds’ bullpen. They have the potential for working Broxton and Marshall for another season, along with their solid 2013 core of five relievers: closer Aroldis Chapman, along with J.J. Hooever, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, and Alfredo Simon. This group of seven relievers (adding Marshall and Broxton) gives the Reds quite a deep relief reserve.

It’s difficult to project an edge for the Brewers against the Reds. Their middle rotation is deep and potentially above average. If they continue to receive healthy seasons from Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mat Latos, the Reds could have three Number One starters; they are one of only a few NL clubs with a solid claim for such pitchers. Their offense features fewer newcomers and a solid veteran presence, and their bullpen looks deeper, too. It is clear that if the Brewers are to upset the Reds late in the season, they will need to maximize every slight advantage they can gain from their roster. Perhaps it will be a new story in 2014, one of the upstart Brewers finally earning a series victory against the bigtime Reds.

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