While the National League runs scored fluctuate throughout the season, the Brewers’ run environment will probably continue to fluctuate between 4.30 R/G and 4.50 R/G. Given the heightened run environment at Miller Park over the last few years, we can judge the Brewers’ batting and pitching performances against those heightened R/G averages.If it sounds like I’m banging my head against the wall over the last few weeks, it’s probably because that becomes as appropriate a gesture as any when we discuss the 2012 Brewers. After last night’s frustrating 3-1 loss in Cincinnati, the Brewers are 10-12 in June, despite scoring 95 runs and allowing 94 runs. I know, I know, we’re talking about one win swinging in one direction — one wouldn’t expect a 95 RS / 94 RA team to post an exceptional winning percentage — but I feel like that theme is repeating itself from May (12-16, despite 121 RS / 119 RA).
Ron Roenicke addressed the Brewers about the significance of this Cincinnati Reds series, calling on the Brewers to play better baseball because they have a chance to take some games directly from the division leader. On the field, even if it does not seem that the Brewers are destined to be the bottom dwellers they were throughout May, it now seems that the Brewers are going to continue their theme of consistently playing .500 baseball without matching their wins to their losses.The picture is more extreme when one looks at May and June: 22-28, 216 RS / 213 RA. By contrast, the Brewers’ ability to go 11-12 in April despite scoring 102 runs and allowing 122 runs appears downright impressive. Overall, the offense might seem frustrating, but they’re producing a solid 4.36 runs scored; while that seems less impressive when the Brewers’ run environment swings closer to 4.50 R/G this year, the Brewers’ offense just about matches the current National League/Miller Park environment. While the Brewers’ overall runs allowed are influenced by their rough April campaign, their 4.26 RA/G during May and June look much more impressive.
Lessons from 2011 show us that even when teams play legitimately great baseball, they still require those little things, seizing every close ballgame, getting everything perfectly timed, to push their winning percentage to the next level. The Brewers won 96 games last year because they won a disproportionate percentage of their one-run games, aside from the fact that they did a lot of other things very well. That should serve a valuable lesson each time the Brewers squander a winning opportunity this year; an average club is average not simply because of their ability to score or allow runs at a certain rate, but also because of their inability to seize those one-run victories or to get multiple cylinders firing at once.
If the Brewers seem like a better club than they were a few weeks ago, it’s because they are better. That makes the difficult reminder that they’re simply not as good at seizing the moment as they were in 2011 that much more frustrating. If they continue their May/June pace, the Brewers are on track for approximately 702 RS / 714 RA this season.
Earlier this year, I made a lot of noise about a “Great Strike Zone Conspiracy.” I haven’t written about that in a while, simply because it’s daunting to sit and look at called strike zones for such a long time. However, when I saw Yovani Gallardo’s called strike zone last night, I had to comment on it here.
Last night, Gallardo received a huge strike zone from Tim Timmons (which seems to be the norm for Timmons this year). The Cincinnati Reds laid off 71 of Gallardo’s 107 pitches. Timmons rewarded Gallardo with 8 wrong calls (all strikes) and 1 borderline call (a ball).
Why am I writing about this?
(1) Sometimes the strike zones go in the direction of favoring pitchers. My previous comments this year suggesting that umpires are encouraged to call small strike zones to help jump start scoring were at least somewhat misguided; you will find strike zones that favor pitchers (sometimes).
(2) It simply amazes me how frequently umpires call a zone that is between 87% to 93% correct. Which leads me to ask, once again: is the accuracy of umpires’ strike zones related to their overall performance rating? That is, if strike zones that are around 93% (or so) are acceptable to Major League Baseball and the Umpires Union, is it more likely that umpires will call strike zones near that rate? (I.e., if umpires were actually judged on their overall accuracy, and not against a specific percentage, would their strike zone calls be more accurate?)
There must be a reason that so many pitchers receive strike zones that are around 90% accurate. Is that simply the limit of human cognition when judging balls and strikes? (Mind you, I don’t mean to suggest that umpires have easy jobs. They most certainly do not.) Or, is the function of MLB called strike zones equivalent to the performance expected of MLB umpires and the judgments of their systems?
Al Behrman, AP Photo (Gallardo): http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/775323d3328742858cf83f60a55a1a4f/BBN–Brewers-Reds
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast (Axford / Maldonado): http://gazettextra.com/news/2012/jun/23/greinke-brewers-beat-white-sox-1-0-10/
Gallardo strike zone: Trip Somers, 2009-2012.
Baseball-Reference. Sports-Reference, LLC., 2000-2012.