Strength of Schedule in the NL Central, July | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

At the end of May, I wrote that the Brewers lineup was facing a significant opportunity in the month of June: terrible pitching, the same level of crap pitching that the Oakland A’s tore up over the first two months of the season. The previous two months had presented with the Brewers with some of the toughest opposing pitching in baseball.  So if the Brewers were looking for an opportunity to score some runs and create some distance in the NL Central, June was their opportunity.

And, that’s exactly what they did.  Brewers bats terrorized opposing clubs, and the combination of their hitting, above-average baserunning, and good defense made them the top-performing lineup in June baseball.  The club’s pitching continued to be somewhat mediocre, but the lineup’s success allowed the Brewers to finish June having stretched their divisional lead to 6.5 games: 2.5 games better than where they started on June 1.  Well done, team.

With 51 wins and the largest lead of any division leader, the Brewers entered July in excellent position.  But with the season only half done, there is plenty of work left to do.  The Cardinals may be stuck in the mud, but the Pirates lineup has been crushing the ball as well, and the Reds seem to be finding their footing. Although the odds of either team overtaking the Brewers are not great, the June collapse of the Giants — who squandered a 9.5 game lead in the NL West — serves as a reminder that a bad multi-week stretch can erase months of progress.

Last month, we found that the Brewers faced the easiest pitching staffs among NL Central teams in June; that the Cardinals and Cubs were facing roughly-average pitching; and that the Pirates and Reds were facing a brutal collection of rotations.  Will July be any different?  Well, July will be tougher than June was, but it could be worse.

As was the case last month, I looked at quality of opposing pitching staffs by SIERA, and this time I added the quality of opposing offenses as measured by Fangraphs.  I used season-to-date statistics for all teams, and then created a weighted average for each NL Central team by the net difficulty of the pitching staffs and offenses they would face.  Here’s what we end up with:

NL Central Team Opposing Pitchers Opposing Hitters
Brewers Above Average Above Average
Cardinals Difficult Below Average
Cubs Above Average Below Average
Pirates Average Above Average
Reds Difficult Below Average

Unlike in June, there were no drastic differences between team schedules.  But, you can see some clear distinctions as I sorted through them.  I sorted them into Difficult (for the best-quality opponents), Above Average, Average, Below Average, and Terrible.

Overall, the Brewers schedule is somewhat difficult in July.  They will face above-average pitching and above-average hitters as they match up against teams like the Nationals, Reds, and Cardinals.  On the other hand, while the Cardinals and Reds will benefit from facing below-average lineups, they will have their work cut out for them with opposing pitching staffs, as they face each other and the Cubs.  The Cardinals also have to find some way to juggle their suddenly unstable rotation, which will make it harder to profit from the easier opposing lineups.  The Pirates have it best, as their batters can face no better than average pitching, but their own staff will have to pick up the slack against fairly good opposing lineups.

So, I wouldn’t say the Brewers have their work cut out for them in July, but they certainly won’t have the Rockies and Diamondbacks to kick around anymore.  If they want to sustain their divisional lead, they will need to play well against contenders, not just the worst clubs.  There’s no shame in taking care of business against inferior competition, but now the Brewers need to show that they can compete against better quality pitching too.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @bachlaw.

All statistics from Fangraphs.


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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Evan (Maryland) says: July 2, 2014

    Great analysis yet again. I went into June nervous but came out with my expectations blown away.

    I see the Reds and Cardinals as some serious competition this coming month. Beating Strasburg last week inspired confidence but the combination of pitchers the Brewers may face could be pretty scary. The Marco experiment seems to be going strong (solo shots notwithstanding) perhaps building value for Jimmy Nelson in case they want to get into some crazy David Price sweepstakes. I’m not saying they will do it but I’ve seen crazier. My pipe dream aside, the massive amounts of interdivision games allows the Brewers the opportunity to build on this 6 1/2 game lead. I’m thinking this All-Star break will come in exactly when they need it to in order to ensure a few days off for some of their more battered players even if it includes an all-star game appearance for the likes of Lucroy and Gomez.

  2. Beep says: July 2, 2014

    All June I was following the standing with your previous prediction in mind. Glad to see the Brew Crew took advantage of the schedule. Let’s hope that the Cards struggle against the tough pitching this month!

  3. matt says: July 2, 2014

    The reds are the team that scares me, I dont think st louis, barring some kind of miracle turnaround, has the horses this year, and we can pretty much call it an anomoly year for them, next year they’ll be back to normal. Pittsburgh i dont know what to make of them, they had one good year and get talked about like they had a good 5 year run. I dont think pittsburgh’s pitching is what it was just last year, although the line up seems to be close to what they were doing last year minus a few hiccups here n there. but back to my fear, the reds. first off , lately the reds have owned the brewers, second they are putting it together at a crucial time where they could easily catch the brewers as they already caught the cards. third, there is still this sliver of doubt about milwaukee, maybe it makes me a debbie downer, but im waiting for the wheels to come off somewhat (not completely).

    with all of that I still think the brewers will lead the division by the all star break, but the lead will be slim, Im guessing it will be around the 2 or 2.5 range.

  4. Matt says: July 3, 2014

    Regarding David Price: I’m actually more worried about a short losing streak forcing them to get in on Price; as opposed to the mentality of “time to lock it up in July”. You can’t deny that the club feels that it is currently in the playoffs, and if they start slipping, they may go after Price as a way to “stay” in the playoffs. Basically, playing poorly with a lead might make them make a bad decision (as I don’t like giving up Peralta and/or Nelson for Price).


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