Last night’s 4-3 victory over the Reds was excellent. The game featured a little bit of everything, from a Kyle Lohse quality start to a storm of extra base hits by Brewers bats to Carlos Gomez‘s phenomenal game-ending catch (I love when Gomez hands Francisco Rodriguez the ball when the Brewers are high-fiving).
Four on the Floor
Through May, the Brewers only had three wins when they scored 4 runs. More accurately, the Brewers won three games in April when they scored 4 runs, and did not win once while scoring 4 in May. Since then, the Brewers have doubled that total of wins while scoring 4, grabbing six victories in such games between June and July. In fact, the Brewers already claim three wins with 4 runs scored in July, accounting for almost half of the club’s games played in our current month.
Winning with four runs scored is a great sign for any ballclub. Those types of games are often key for competitive or contending clubs, as it is a sign that the game is close, which allows the offense to strike late or comeback from a small deficit (or shows that the bullpen and starting pitcher clamped down to support their offensive output). Four runs scored is not a great total for a game — in fact, it’s technically below average, depending on the park — but scoring four is one of the thresholds where a club can begin to have a few pitching hiccups and still win the ballgame. Therefore, winning with four runs scored shows a type of roster balance, where each element of the club can contribute in a way to either limit the damage or do whatever is possible to win.
Playing Up / Playing Down
One of the frustrating elements of following a struggling ballclub is that such clubs can give the impression of matching the level of their opponents. For example, after failing to seize an opportunity for a close-game victory against the struggling Mets on Sunday, the Brewers responded by winning 4-3 against the contending Reds. While these two games really only prove that regardless of a club’s contending or struggling status, certain match-ups can result in a close game (such as Lohse starting for the Brewers, or Homer Bailey having a rough night), overall, they mirror a trend that began in the middle of June for the Brewers.
Since the middle of June, the Brewers are 1-4-1 in the six series following their loss at Cincinnati. One of the strange features of these series is their distribution between losing, contending, and competitive clubs. While the Brewers played evenly against the Nationals and Braves, they were beaten handily by the Mets and Astros. Despite an even run differential against the Cubs, they lost that series, too. Perhaps the Pirates series loss is the only one on this chart that is not surprising, given the Bucs’ recent hot streak and overall performance.
Oddly enough, between June and July, the Brewers’ pitching staff is slowly heading back toward average. Currently, the Brewers’ hurlers are allowing 4.40 R/G between June and July — certainly not a great figure, but close to acceptable and inching toward average at Miller Park. Over the six series above, nine of the losses were concentrated in games where the club allowed 76 runs; in the other ten games, the Brewers went 7-3 while allowing 17 runs. While the bats exploded to help win a 7-6 game against the Mets, overall, the bats were quiet throughout this stretch; in those six series, the Brewers scored 67 runs.
While it’s frustrating to look at games against these six teams that include more than five runs allowed, resulting in a total of 76 runs allowed in nine games, it’s equally maddening to see 67 runs scored in 19 games. Beyond that high total of 76 runs, the other ten games of this stretch show a pitching staff that is moving their overall runs allowed to extreme ends of the spectrum. Their runs allowed totals are becoming less balanced, which means that while there are games where they still allow, say, 8, 10, or 12 runs, there are more games where they allow 0, 1, or 2 runs. This keeps the Brewers’ bats in the game, but they simply have not been able to capitalize on those opportunities — hence three 2-1 losses in the last ten games played.
It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the Reds series plays, if only to see if the Brewers can avenge their losses at Cincinnati and continue the trend of playing well against competitive ballclubs. Furthermore, if the pitchers continue to produce more balanced outings, that potentially shifts the organization’s trade deadline perspective. Improvements across the roster essentially give the front office another three weeks to assess potential trades against emerging areas of strength (or continued weaknesses). While it is almost inevitable that the club will trade at the deadline, it’s also good for the club to correct its course and play better baseball; it’s better for the future if the club can use their trades to address a couple of areas of the club, rather than working on a fullscale rebuilding process. A pitching staff that works toward the extremes by allowing 0, 1, and 2 runs more frequently increases the odds that the Brewers can address their midseason transactions with a competitive goal for the future.