The Brewers lost to the Reds in heartbreaking fashion yesterday, wasting a phenomenal start by Zack Greinke and failing to capitalize with runners on base in the bottom of the 9th. The Reds took the series from the Brewers, who receive a much-needed day off before hosting their friendly neighbors from Lakeview.
-Greinke dominated the Reds over 8 innings yesterday, only allowing two hits while striking out 11. The Cincinnati nine had no chance against his fastball, which Greinke selected in 63 of 104 offerings. Unfortunately (as of 5:45 AM ET), my searches at TexasLeaguers and BrooksBaseball yielded no data (perhaps I’ve not yet had enough coffee to work on this interconnected network of computers).
By my count, Greinke hardly threw a handful of cutters (according to pitch f/x), which is a significant development because he selected the pitch 25% of the time in April. That fastball served as an aggressive, contact-inducing pitch, and as Greinke’s start wore on, his fastball strikes increasing betrayed contact.
Overall, Greinke threw approximately 46 fastball strikes, splitting them between contact and non-contact strikes. However, 14 of his approximately 23 contact-strike fastballs occurred within the first 5 innings, against only 9 non-contact-strike fastballs. In the last three innings, Greinke spun those results around, yielding only 9 contact-based strikes against 14 non-contact based strikes. Not surprisingly, Greinke yielded 5 of his strike outs over those last three innings. Overall, his fastballs were the star of the show, yielding 15 of his 24 outs recorded.
Oddly enough, Reds batters LOOKED at 20 fastball strikes. I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I’d love to see the overall pitching line for starters that yield 20 or more called strike on their fastballs. I gather that if a pitcher throws that many fastballs around the zone, and they’re called for strikes throughout a ballgame, that’s a significant foundation for doing well (but who knows, I could be wrong).
-For more on Greinke’s dominant start, check out Jaymes’s article, which discusses Greinke’s WPA and game score (among other notes). Not surprisingly, this was one of Greinke’s best career starts.
-The Brewers are in the middle of a rough stretch of what one might call “predictable outcome” games. Over the last 8 games, the Brewers’ scored 0, 0, 6, 2, 3, 1, 8, and 1 runs, respectively. With that type of scoring ratio, one might expect the Brewers to lose at least 5 of 8, win at least 2, and have one toss-up game. Unfortunately, the Brewers were not able to turn any of their 1 or 2 run scored games into close, nailbiting victories, and they didn’t accomplish that in their 3-run game, either.
Not too long ago, I suggested that the balance between wins and losses in games where the Brewers score 3-to-5 runs will be a crucial component to defending their divisional title. Winning games within that range shows that pitching and batting are on the same page, that the team is scratching out wins any way possible, and taking as many opportunities as possible to win.
In April, the Brewers played a significant percentage of games within the 3-to-5 runs scored range, and they posted a poor winning percentage in those games (.300). In May thus far, the team is hardly playing any games within that range, which makes it even more difficult to win consistently.
Consistent winning requires consistent scoring, at least in some aspect. Obviously, MLB offenses cannot be expected to simply split their runs scored output between games; there’s no “saving it for tomorrow;” in a game like Tuesday’s, the Brewers bats can’t just say, “hey, we’ll only need 4 runs to win tonight, let’s stop scoring and save 4 runs for tomorrow.” Even if this is the case, teams need to score runs in a way that is consistent enough to win games, and that’s just not happening; it’s hard to envision or expect any ballclub winning, say, 3 times in 5 games with a total of four runs scored. And of course, no one can expect a club to score 6 or 8 runs on a nightly basis.
BREWERS BATS IN MAY
Weeks (36 PA): .100/.250/.133 (2 R, 0 RBI)
Morgan (20 PA): .222/.300/.222 (2 R, 0 RBI)
Braun (29 PA): .370/.414/.741 (5 R, 4 RBI)
Ramirez (33 PA): .233/.273/.400 (3 R, 7 RBI)
Hart (33 PA): .133/.188/.133 (2 R, 0 RBI)
Lucroy (30 PA): .400/.400/.500 (2 R, 4 RBI)
That’s the Brewers’ batting core, with Izturis, Green, Ishikawa, Conrad, Gamel, Gonzalez, and Gomez contributing in some way shape or form in limited time.
The Brewers’ record over their last eight really shouldn’t be surprising; it’s difficult to win ballgames when just about every key bat on a club is not producing.
CUBS VS. BREWERS PROBABLE PITCHERS
Matt Garza @ Randy Wolf
-Garza is showing flashes of brilliance this season, serving as one of the leaders of the Cubs’ pitching staff. He is absolutely leaning on his fastballs and slider, selecting one of his speedy deliveries nearly 60% of the time, with that hard breaking ball coming in nearly 26% of the time.
-One wonders how long Garza will keep it up, but it’s kind of neat to see a pitcher put everything together to start a season. Garza’s K%, BB%, HR%, LOB%, and BABIP-against are (respectively) the best of his career. If everyone in Milwaukee thought Greinke has a Cy Young season on the way, Greinke has some stiff competition within his own division.
-Wolf mentioned in a recent JSOnline interview that his issue is one of aggressiveness; the lefty feels that is stuff is the same, but he is not approaching batters as aggressively. Oddly enough, Wolf is throwing his fastballs much more frequently this year than last year, as his curve, slider, and change fade to the background. Believe it or not, Wolf is throwing fastballs in 6 of 10 of his offerings in 2012.
Chris Volstad @ Shaun Marcum
-Volstad is throwing his sinker and slider more than ever this year. The hard 83/84 to 90/91 pitches comprise more than 76% of the righty’s 2012 selections.
-While Volstad’s 21 K and 10 BB performance isn’t much to write home about, the Cubs hurler is limiting his home runs unlike ever before. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts in a division that features Wrigley Field, Miller Park, and Great American Ballpark.
-Wolf has lived on the margins of error for the last few seasons, and this year that razor thin line is nearly disappearing. Wolf’s walk and strike out rates are inching ever closer together, as his strike out rate descends toward 12% of his total batters faced. That’s a big drop off from his near-15% strike out rates as a Brewers pitcher.
-If Marcum maintains his 2012 pitch selections, I’m going to have to stop calling him a junkballer. The righty completely shifted his little slider and change up, throwing his slider more frequently than any season since 2008 (and his change up less frequently than any season since 2008). Marcum is also throwing his cutter at an extremely frequent rate, which leads me to believe that he is using his slider to change off of his cut fastball.
-If Marcum purchased a vanity plate, it might read MAXFIP, given that the slow-thrower is striking out batters at a high rate, walking batters at a high rate, but limiting home runs. A Fip-maximizer lives on the edge, maybe not limiting damage via low walk rates, but rather working on keeping those flyballs in the park. You go ahead, Shaun!
Jeff Samardzija @ Marco Estrada
-What’s going on down in Chicago? Samardzija is also leaning on his fastballs and slider more than ever. By Sunday, the Brewers’ bats are going to have their eyes worn out, looking at 85/92 or something like that.
-Can we take a moment to appreciate just how valuable a pitcher Estrada is? One of the reasons I’m not completely certain that I agree with league-wide replacement values is that replacements occur within organizational confines as much as league-wide waiver wires or minor league contracts or whatever. If the Brewers can go to a pitcher like Estrada to replace their first starting pitching injury, and then they have a guy like Wily Peralta (or even Michael Fiers) sitting in the minors, that gives the Brewers an entirely different view of replacement transactions than if they actually needed to scour minor league free agents or make a waiver transaction. Not all replacement values are created equally; I propose judging replacement value on a team-by-team basis, to correctly account for defensive efficiency blips and organizational depth (and even organizational philosophy; getting valuable replacement performances are way more important to clubs on the edge of competing for playoff spots than clubs that are either playoff locks or rebuilding entirely).
-While Estrada’s home run rate leaves something to be desired (influenced, of course, by the Reds’ derby Monday evening), he is largely limiting the damage in other areas of his approach. Fingers-crossed for his strike out and walk rates — if Estrada can keep limiting the damage in this area, he should once again be able to fill-in effectively for the Brewers.
MLB GameDay (MLB Advanced Media, 2001-2012), FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference (Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2012).