Though it didn’t end the way we all had hoped it would with the Brewers being swept by the Mets, there are still reasons to be happy about the team’s performance. I reflected on some of them in this week’s comments to ESPN, where the Brewers moved up the ranks back to familiar territory at No. 26, one spot higher than last week:
A pair of dazzling performances from starting pitchers headlined the week for Milwaukee, which began with Chase Andersontaking a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Cubs. Junior Guerrafollowed that up with an 11-strikeout performance, pushing his record to 3-0 and allowing the Brewers to steal a series from the top team in baseball. — Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3), Disciples of Uecker
Yes, let’s first begin this piece addressing just how good the starting pitching has been as of late. These two are at the forefront of the last few weeks in terms of performance, but it has been a valiant team effort. In the last two weeks, the Brewers have had the fourth best team ERA in baseball, allowing a tick more than three runs a game (3.02).
We’ll start with Anderson’s near no hitter against the Cubs. Around the fourth inning is when I had the feeling something special had the potential to happen. I don’t know, it just seemed different, didn’t it? Well, unfortunately those feelings wouldn’t make it past the first pitch of the 8th inning, as Ben Zobrist put a spear through everyone in Brew City’s heart with a double off the wall. But anyways, let’s take a look at Anderson’s heat map of pitch frequency from that game:
Pretty solid command. Overall, the majority of his arsenal registered in the middle-to-bottom half of the zone, with him working high and inside to righties. High and inside is where some Cubs hitters struggle, such as Kris Bryant. Anderson did a terrific job getting into their heads with tough pitches.
The same goes for Junior Guerra on his 11-strikeout performance. Guerra did a magnificent job of putting the ball in areas of the zone where Cubs hitters encountered problems. Once again, this ended up being high and inside on right-handed hitters. Here’s his heat map below:
Junior Guerra really seems to be the real deal, folks. Not quite ace material, but reliable in this rotation. With his performance Thursday, his stat line moved to 3-0 with a 3.96 ERA and a FIP of 3.15. He’s been utilizing the ratio of fastballs and offspeed magnificently, as his K/9 comes in at an efficient 8.64. We all know how nasty his splitter is, and the heat maps back it up:
Absolutely ideal placement right there, folks. That’s some falling straight off the table trajectory.
Guerra’s talent (as well as Jimmy Nelson’s) hasn’t been going unnoticed by beat writers outside of Milwaukee either. Check out this tweet from Jesse Rogers, who covers the Cubs for ESPN Chicago:
I'd take those Mil starters over Peavy right now. Give them some credit, especially Nelson and Guerra https://t.co/Nhe8TWCKR1
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 21, 2016
Brewers fans should be pretty proud about those words. We’re all aware of how this season has been a tough pill to swallow, but the silver lining is that pitchers are receiving stellar development. Remember how Guerra worked the Cubs hitters inside? That’s only a microcosm of what he’s been able to do all season. Here’s his heat map of pitch frequency in all his starts made this season:
Shades of red dominate the inside part of the plate. Terrific work by Guerra not leaving stuff over the middle of the dish.
Now, the little bit of bad news that comes with this week. The main player that seems to be in a horrendous slump right now is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Captain Kirk hasn’t been really holding down the fort too soundly in the last week. In his last span of games, he’s gone a measly .130 in 27 plate appearances. Don’t be surprised if Keon Broxton begins to get a bulk of the starts in centerfield, especially with how he had been tearing it up with the Sky Sox (take those numbers how you’d like to regarding the altitude). I’ll save you from having to view his offensive heat maps (Spoiler alert: they’re bad).
Also, congrats to Ramon Flores on hitting his first career Major League home run! Flores had himself a day against Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, knocking in three RBI’s. Sure, deGrom hasn’t had his best pitches this season, but credit has to be given to Flores.
In a nutshell, we have to be content with how these Brewers have performed in the span of the last week. It’s no easy task taking a series from the top team in baseball and that offensive juggernaut that is the Chicago Cubs. And yes, I know, the Crew got swept by the Mets. But two of those were one-run losses. In fact, 7 of the Brewers last 11 games have been lost by one run. All that comes down to is being able to break through the mold in high tension moments, something Milwaukee has had trouble accomplishing this season. But I’ll end this week’s piece with the following: Things could be much worse. Let’s just hope that the tradition of the Brewers fluctuating between the No. 26 and 27 spots ends next week. Maybe they can crack the top 25.