Game 100! Series Preview: Reds @ Brewers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Reds (98 G): 383 RS / 363 RA
Brewers (99 G): 434 RS / 421 RA

Previous Series:
Reds: Swept @ Yankees
Brewers: Series Loss @ Washington

Something must give — the Brewers and Reds enter this late July series with a chance to define their trade deadline outlooks, as well as the race in the National League. The Brewers lost a tough series in Washington, made tougher due to their continued trend of losing leads and blowing tie games. The Yankees swept the Reds, hurting a club that is seeking an identity with two of their core infielders on the disabled list. While the Reds have the pitching to carry their club, their offense is not proving strong enough to follow along. Once again, the Reds and Brewers meet as a complete test of opposing strengths, for the Brewers bats are the element carrying our beloved Milwaukee Nine.

What do these clubs’ batting and pitching strengths look like? More specifically, how are they distributed across each club’s roster spots? Currently, the Reds are approximately 11 runs below average on offense, and 31 runs better than average with their pitchers. By contrast, the Brewers’ arms are approximately 15 runs below average, while the bats are approximately 31 runs better than the NL and Miller Park.

R & RBI NL Cin Mil
C .0975 +9 +7
1B .1196 -9 -10
2B .0989 +6
3B .1081 +5 +7
SS .1003 -11 -9
LF .1097 -8 +7
CF .0989 +2 +11
RF .1158 +2 +6
P .0417 -2
PH .0896 +1 +4

This chart uses the “harmonic mean” between R and RBI, which creates a straightforward estimate of the production of a given position per PA. Therefore, these estimates show the value of a position within the club’s offense, rather than a player’s abtsract value (using OPS or other batting metrics). All estimates are park-adjusted for the Reds and the Brewers.

While the Brewers’ offense is significantly better than Cincinnati’s bats, Milwaukee’s above average performance is distributed throughout the entire field, rather than concentrated at one position. Notably, those clamoring for a new 1B in Milwaukee ought to note that the Milwaukee platoon equals an injury-replacement / ineffective situation in Cincinnati. Even when a club has Joey Votto, that club can have issues arise at 1B (this is not an argument against a trade deadline 1B in Milwaukee, but a note about the general uncertainties of roster construction. As a side note, could you imagine the reaction if Doug Melvin had predicted before the season that his Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay platoon would be as effective as Votto?). The Reds manage to match (roughly) four fielding positions with the Brewers, so in a head-to-head series LF, CF, 2B, and RF provide the material advantages for Milwaukee.

Runs Prevented Cin Mil
SP1 23 (Cueto) 7 (Lohse)
SP2 14 (Simon) 1 (Gallardo)
SP3 4 (Latos) -3 (Peralta)
SP4 3 (Leake) -9 (Garza)
SP5 -2 (Bailey) -13 (Estrada)
Replacement -10 -3
RP -3 8

Similarly, the Reds have an excellent pitching staff because they have several pitchers headed to #1/#2-starter-territory in 2014. Mat Latos should reach 100 innings in 2014 if he stays healthy in the second half, which is why I counted Jimmy Nelson as a replacement, but not Latos. While the Brewers distribute their excellent offensive performance throughout six positions, the exact opposite can be said about the pitching staff: the fourth and fifth rotation spots fully account for the club’s below average pitching performance. Two bad spots can really tank a rotation that would otherwise be serviceable.

The strength of the Cincinnati rotation can be seen at the bottom of the rotation, by contrast, which amplifies the benefits of Johnny Cueto’s strong return and Alfredo Simon’s stunning emergence in 2014. In any season, Yovani Gallardo’s track record shows that he’s the dependable, preferable starter to Simon, and yet in 2014, Gallardo is 13 runs behind Simon. (We all ought to be thankful for this, because if guys like Simon never bested guys like Gallardo, we’d never have anything to write or argue about).

MLB Press Pass Probable Starters:
Mat Latos @ Wily Peralta
Homer Bailey @ Jimmy Nelson
Mike Leake @ Kyle Lohse

For the third time since June, the Brewers face mismatches against both Latos and Bailey, which demonstrates the strength of the Reds rotation against that of the Brewers. On the other hand, it’s exciting to see a series at this point in the season with entirely new pitching match-ups between two divisional foes. Of these pitchers, Lohse faced Simon twice, and Peralta faced Mike Leake. Jimmy Nelson receives a slightly more manageable task than facing Adam Wainwright, although Homer Bailey is quite better than Randy Wolf (Nelson’s first opponent during his emergency injury-replacement start in Miami).

However, given the distribution of both teams’ strengths, these pitching match-ups serve as a wild card for the upcoming series. First, the Brewers do not face either of the Reds’ standout performers in 2014, although Latos, Bailey, and Leake certainly have solid-to-excellent track records over the last few years. Secondly, Milwaukee will send both of their young, organizational arms to the mound this series, as well as their veteran ace-of-staff. It may seem obvious to say that the balance of the series hangs with Peralta and Nelson, for the Brewers’ offensive strengths and Latos / Bailey / Leake could offer a stalemate. Both Peralta and Nelson have the chance to improve on their most recent performances against a struggling offense. Given the Reds’ pitching strengths, it’s never that simple; and the flipside of this equation is that the Reds bats will have a chance to breakout and build their confidence against two young starters.

Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2014.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2014.

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