No, I’m not talking about Chris Carpenter, who the Brewers somehow torched for three home runs in five innings. I’m instead talking about the extremely shallow St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. We didn’t have to wait to see closer Ryan Franklin tonight – he of the projected FIP greater than 4.00 by all of FanGraphs’ projection systems. Blake Hawksworth pitched well against Milwaukee – projected FIP greater than 4.46, and so did Dennys Reyes – projected FIP between 3.86 and 4.06. Finally, in came Kyle McClellan – projected FIP between 3.82 and 4.09. When a team faces that many mediocre to poor pitchers in a series, they’re bound to score a run sometime, and that’s exactly what happened when, with one out in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, Casey McGehee took home a victory for the Brewers.
Of course, it wouldn’t even have mattered if it weren’t for Trevor Hoffman‘s inability to keep the ball in the yard. The harsh reality of it is that Hoffman is nowhere near as good of a pitcher as he looked last year, when only 3.1% of the fly balls he allowed left the yard. What we’ve seen this year is regression towards the mean hitting him hard – league average generally approaches 10% of fly balls going for home runs, and Hoffman is a fly ball pitcher.
There were a lot of bright spots with the offense. Of course, the four home runs by Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Casey McGehee created most of the offense. Weeks also showed his discipline with the two walks, and that combination of discipline and power is what could make him a star this season. Hart hit the ball hard all game, which was very promising – look for him to get more playing time after this game, and maybe for Jim Edmonds to get some more rest. Not only that, but the Brewers managed to do that against a bona fide ace in Chris Carpenter. Carpenter only allowed 7 HRs all last season – a talking point the entire broadcast, but worth repeating – and the Brewers got to him 3 times.
It’s still early, but today was a huge game for the Brewers. Entering the series against St. Louis, the Brewers were sitting at a 21.5% playoff odds and 16.5% chance to win the division according to CoolStandings.com. Before Sunday’s game, the Brewers odds for the playoffs and the division had fallen to 16% and 12%. These games have already had a major impact on the Brewers odds, and another loss likely would’ve pushed the Brewers division odds below 10%. Although this seems obvious at the time, the point may be lost this early in the season – this is one less game the Brewers will have to make up against the rest of the field. Thanks to Casey McGehee’s walk off home run, Milwaukee ends the first two series – against likely playoff teams – at .500. You could certainly do worse.