Brewers April Round Up | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

I have to admit, I was concerned about writing this morning. Now that we’re out in the eastern time zone, the west coast games practically start after we’re asleep. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I accidentally left my computer volume and GameDay window open, startled awake early in the morning by MLB’s automatic media clips to learn in a sleepy haze that Ryan Braun had the game of his career.

(Check out J.P. Breen’s recap of Braun’s career game, if you’ve yet to see it).

The Associated Press

Of course, Ryan Braun can boast several multi-home run games in his career, but last night’s 8-3 victory featured his first three home-run game (all his previous multi-homer games featured two round trippers each). I was thrilled to drift back asleep and dream of a Brauny hitting tear for the next 5-10 days or so, as Braun applied his power hitting acumen to knock around poor, unsuspecting pitchers.

Oddly enough, Braun is slightly less productive than average following multi-homer games in his career. “Well duh,” you’re saying, “if you take away his multi-homer games from those hitting stretches, he’s going to be less productive.” Fair enough; what I asked this morning: how does Braun hit in the 10 games following his multi-homer games?

Organized by batting average, just for kicks.

After multi-HR Games: 550 PA, 138 H, 22 2B, 8 3B, 27 HR, 75 R / 89 RBI
Career Average: 550 PA, 155 H, 32 2B, 5 3B, 28 HR, 87 R / 92 RBI

(1) September 17 to September 27, 2011: 39 PA, 14 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 R / 12 RBI (.400/.462/.771)
(2) May 12 to May 22, 2008: 45 PA, 15 H, 1 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 9 R / 12 RBI (.349/.378/.884)
(3) June 9 to June 19, 2009: 45 PA, 14 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 R / 10 RBI (.341/.400/.634)
(4) April 22 to May 1, 2009: 46 PA, 12 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 8 R / 7 RBI (.333/.478/.528)
(5) July 7 to July 20, 2007: 43 PA, 12 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 7 R / 8 RBI (.324/.419/.703)
(6) July 14 to July 23, 2007: 43 PA, 12 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 5 R / 7 RBI (.308/.372/.564)
(7) May 13 to May 23, 2008: 45 PA, 13 H, 1 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 6 R / 10 RBI (.295/.311/.682)
(8) June 18 to June 28, 2008: 43 PA, 11 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 R / 3 RBI (.282/.349/.359)
(9) September 10 to September 21, 2007: 42 PA, 10 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 R / 6 RBI (.263/.333/.421)
(10) May 20 to May 25, 2008: 40 PA, 10 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 1 R / 2 RBI (.263/.300/.368)
(11) August 15 to August 25, 2009: 48 PA, 11 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 7 R / 9 RBI (.262/.354/.452)
(12) September 29 to October 3, 2010: 26 PA, 4 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 R / 3 RBI (.200/.385/.300)

It honestly surprises me that Braun hitting multiple homers in a game does not necessarily mean he’s destined for a strong, immediate hitting performance in the next 10 games. Usually one might throw out cliches about homers meaning “Braun is putting it together,” or something, but it could be just as plausible that knocking out multiple round trippers is simply a product of that singular environment, that singular evening.

Whatever the case, Braun’s performance last night was a fantastic headline for an overall great game by the Brewers. I feel like they needed a game ,like this, so it’s great to see it.

It felt like forever since the Brewers’ bullpen produced a scoreless game, and last night’s game came as a breath of fresh air in that regard. Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, and Tim Dillard pitched 4 scoreless innings, producing the first set of scoreless innings by Brewers’ relievers since April 19.

April 7, 2012 (Jose Veras and Francisco Rodriguez, 2 IP)
April 11, 2012 (Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford, 2 IP)
April 12, 2012 (Manny Parra and Tim Dillard, 4.3 IP)
April 14, 2012 (Jose Veras, 1 IP)
April 18, 2012 (Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford, and Kameron Loe, 3 IP)
April 19, 2012 (Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, and Tim Dillard, 3 IP)
April 30, 2012 (Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez, and Tim Dillard, 4 IP)

I can’t be the only one that thinks it’s not a good sign that Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford combine two scoreless innings twice on this entire list. While it’s good that the Brewers’ bullpen is able to produce some scoreless outings, it’s not necessarily comforting to see Kameron Loe and Tim Dillard on the list of scoreless games more frequently than closer John Axford.

Obviously it’s not realistic to expect every hold and save situation to be clean, but it seems as though the Brewers’ well-documented bullpen woes come in the combination of garbage-time runs leading to last-minute save opportunities, or losses produced by the team’s top relievers.

Of course, when it rains, it pours (and maybe that’s how it should be with a bullpen?). The Brewers relievers allowed 45 runs thus far, which occurred in 56 innings pitched over 16 total games.

The 2011 Brewers made the playoffs thanks in part to the strength of a balanced pitching staff that stayed near average, if not producing exceptionally above average seasons. One month into 2012, almost all of the Brewers’ starters are below average — I know, I know, some of the runs allowed by Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo occurred in disproportionately awful starts. But, we’re looking big picture here.

2012 NL: 4.05 runs average, 0.56 FIPratio, 3.49 FIPIndex (.694 Defensive Efficiency)
2012 Brewers: 5.43 runs average, 0.85 FIPratio, 4.58 FIPIndex (.640 Defensive Efficiency!!!!)

Greinke (29.7 IP): 3.93 runs average, -0.67 FIPratio, 4.60 FIPIndex
Gallardo (26.7 IP): 6.06 runs average, 1.16 FIPratio, 5.74 FIPIndex
Wolf (26.3 IP): 6.84 runs average, 1.52 FIPratio, 5.32 FIPIndex
Marcum (24.0 IP): 4.50 runs average, 0.63 FIPratio, 3.87 FIPIndex
Estrada (17.0 IP): 4.24 runs average, 1.82 FIPratio, 2.42 FIPIndex
Narveson (9.0 IP): 8.00 runs average, 3.11 FIPratio, 4.89 FIPIndex

Shockingly enough, Zack Greinke is receiving his just share of the Brewers’ defensive support this year, while Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo are not. Over 30 starts, if Greinke keeps up his exceptional-as-always peripheral performance, and the Brewers’ defense improves to average for each of his following starts, one might expect him to finish with approximately 180 IP and 60 R, which would clearly place him in the Top 20 NL starters.

Marcum is receiving more than his fair share of defensive support, it seems, but he’s also the only pitcher besides Greinke that doesn’t have an inflated FIP (due to home runs or whatever else). Marcum is effectively limiting the damage, and if he continues to pull that off, one might expect him to steadily improve.

What can we say about Gallardo and Wolf that isn’t already covered by Murphy’s Law? Wolf isn’t limiting the damage in any regard, and Gallardo is serving as the Cardinals’ muse thus far. All I can think to say is, let’s hope things change for these pitchers, soon — Wolf and Gallardo were the slightly-better-than-average rotational links last year, one of the key segments in the Brewers’ ability to consistently perform in close games and keep losing streaks at bay.

Wolf’s 5 IP and 3 R performance came as a breath of fresh air last night (sort of), but he received almost no help from Brian Knight on his curveball and moving fastballs.

Wolf threw approximately 52 pitches that needed to be called. 5 of 6 wrong calls were called balls.

In St. Louis? Greinke threw just over 50 pitches that needed to be called. His zone was all over the place; of 6 wrong calls, 5 were balls. However, he also threw 3 borderline pitches, which included one strike and two balls.

Jaime Garcia threw just over 40 pitches that needed to be called. Of his 5 wrong calls, 4 went for balls. I guess one can say there wasn’t any home-field bias.

On Friday, Gallardo threw approximately 35 pitches that needed to be called. Of 8 wrong calls, 6 were called strikes! He also received 2 borderline calls, which were split.

Ron Kulpa must have had some sweet dinner reservations on Friday night, because he called a rather large zone on Jake Westbrook, too. Westbrook threw nearly 55 pitches that needed to be called. He only received 3 wrong calls, with two of them going for strikes.

For the starters, that’s approximately 90 pitches, 8-of-11 wrong calls going for strikes, and 2 borderline calls (split). Anyone know if any new American bistros opened in downtown St. Louis, or something?

Now that I’ve been tracking some strike zones for a while, what seems more clear than umpires consistently calling more balls than strikes on wrong calls is a basic penchant to get the strike zone, oh, right around 90% correct.Therefore, I now have a brand new question: if umpires are continually tracked and graded on their strike zone performance (do they still do this?), what is an acceptable success rate?

You know how most of us try out best during work, but our best soon morphs into some combination of hard effort and what we can get away with? (“Geez, there’s that Zettel jerk again, going on and on about the strike zone. When’s this schtick going to end?” Hey buddy, I can get, like, 600 words off the top of my head just recapping strike calls. That’s damn near 10% of my week-long writing output!) Well, anyway, part of me wonders if this is one of the side effects of the beloved “human element” in baseball.

Sure, not only does having umpires calling balls and strikes inject much-needed controversy into the game, give fans constant goats (“Our team did their best! The ump blew that game!”), and tickle our nostalgia fancy (“hey, we have technology everywhere else, keep it out of baseball, except for LED scoreboards, ribbon boards, running plumbing, catchers masks, kegs and taps, PA systems, rock music, and television!”); having umpires also ensures that there are two busy eyes behind the plate, traveling the road, calling, what, nearly 2 games a week? Umpires, just like everyone else, will perform in a manner that is acceptable, and morph their effort around those expectations. That’s not a knock; that’s not saying that umpires don’t work hard or that they have easy jobs; it’s an attempt to explain why pitchers can almost always bank on 10% of their called pitches going the wrong way.

If the umpires are consistently judged by a standard around 90%, does that explain how they enact their own preferred strike zones juuust enough to get it wrong around 10% of the time? That is, if umpires are held to a particular standard of getting their ball and strike calls correct, will their performance always hover around that level?


Resources: Baseball Reference game logs, Baseball-Reference, Sports Reference LLC, 2000-2012.

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