Series Preview: Brewers @ Cardinals | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

2014:
Brewers (150 G): 625 RS / 625 RA
Cardinals (150 G): 578 RS / 568 RA

The Cardinals offense looks bad considering the full 2014 season, but lately their bats have come around. In the second half, the St. Louis bats have scored nearly 10% more runs than expected (based on their first half tally). This improvement is extremely well-timed, for the Cardinals pitchers have fallen off: despite being 35 runs better than average for the season, the second half Cardinals have allowed nearly 30 more runs than expected (again, based on the first half). By contrast, Brewers bats have completely disappeared in the second half, having reached only 85% of their expected production after the All-Star Break. Ironically, Brewers pitching has improved slightly in the second half, which makes that offensive decline much more problematic.

2014 vs. League / Ballpark
Brewers +25 RS / -16 RA
Cardinals -28 RS / +35 RA
  + better than / – worse than avg

One should not read this as an exoneration of the pitchers during the recent 3-16 collapse. Rather, the pitchers have performed quite unevenly for the second half Milwaukee club. From July 21 through the series sweep at Chavez Ravine, Brewers arms allowed 65 runs in 26 games (2.50 RA/G). No stretch of nearly 30 games was as solid for Brewers pitchers during the 2014 season; even during the famed 20-7 season opening, the Brewers allowed 86 runs (which is still quite good). Unfortunately, the Brewers did not play their best baseball during these excellent 26 pitching performances. Despite allowing fewer than three runs per contest, the Brewers went 16-10, including five losses when an average output (four runs scored) would have earned a win.

Now, 16-10 is an excellent record, but in light of the collapse, the offensive failures take on added significance. Although the pitchers are to blame for allowing 118 runs during the 19 game collapse, that 3-16 stretch would not look as bad if the offense had capitalized on more low-scoring games. In this regard, the five low-scoring losses from July 21 through August 17 foreshadowed the collapse, for the bats would lose another trio of games that could have been won by an average output. Convert even half of those low-scoring losses into wins, and a 29-25 second half looks a lot different than the current 25-29 effort.

Bad Timing Losses Opponent Score
July 20 @ Washington 4-5
July 25 vs. Mets 2-3
July 27 vs. Mets 0-2
July 28 @ Tampa Bay 1-2
August 2 @ St. Louis 7-9
August 3 @ St. Louis 2-3
August 6 vs. Giants 4-7
August 12 @ Cubs 0-3
August 20 vs. Blue Jays 5-9
August 27 @ San Diego 2-3
August 30 @ San Francisco 1-3
August 31 @ San Francisco 5-15
September 4 vs. Cardinals 2-3
September 8 vs. Marlins 4-6
Total 0-14 39 RS / 73 RA

On the other hand, the Brewers have also lost six second half games when the offense scored an average number of runs (or more). Which basically goes to show that few elements of the Brewers club have worked on the same schedule during the second half. In fact, it would be an understatement to suggest that the Brewers’ fielders, pitchers, and batters have failed to work on the same script: 25% of the Brewers’ second half games have been losses in which either the bats scored an average number of runs, or the pitchers allowed three or fewer runs. If the Brewers flipped the script in even half of those games, they would boast a scorching hot 32-22 second half. The elements were present for the Brewers to win, but they simply were not aligned.

Last Series:
Brewers: Series Victory vs. Reds
Cardinals: Series Sweep vs. Rockies

If you thought the last series between the Brewers and Cardinals was tense — well, before the series ending blowout at Miller Park, this trio of games in St. Louis should prove to be even more tense. Runnin’ Ron Roenicke and Mike Matheny both managed “all in” during the first three games of that series, lending a taste of the playoffs to the regular season. Both teams have lined up their rotations to exclude struggling pitchers (like John Lackey) or pitchers with poor head-to-head records (Yovani Gallardo). St. Louis boasts the advantage with Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright in the first games, but Fastballer Mike Fiers has a chance to offset Wainwright with his hot streak of starts. In the closing game, Kyle Lohse can battle the Cardinals’ young top-of-the-rotation righty that took Lohse’s spot in 2013, Shelby Miller.

Rotation Runs Prevented Brewers Cardinals
#1 Gallardo (0) Wainwright (30)
#2 Lohse (-4) Lynn (16)
#3 Peralta (-4) Wacha (6)
#4 Garza (-5) Miller (4)
#5 Estrada (-12) n/a
Replacement Fiers (13) Garcia (0)
Replacement Nelson (-7) Gonzalez (-1)
Replacement   Martinez (-3)
Replacement   Kelly (-3)
Replacement   Lyons (-7)
Replacement   Lackey (-10)
Replacement   Masterson (-11)

The Brewers ought to be out for blood given their simple dictate: they simply cannot lose as the season closes. It’s not enough to consider which Pirates scenarios give the Brewers a chance to steal the last Wild Card spot; Pittsburgh has been red hot, and it’s not enough to hint that if Pittsburgh somehow goes 5-8 or 6-7, the Brewers “only” need to go 7-5 or 8-4 in their last twelve games. The Brewers simply need to take care of their own business, and they can do so by exacting revenge on the Cardinals, who won seven of the clubs’ 10 meetings since July.

Brewers Runs Prevented August 19 September 14
Gallardo 10 (0)
Lohse 1 -4
Peralta 5 -4
Garza -2 -5
Estrada -12 -12

In case you were shocked by the Brewers’ runs prevented numbers above, you read that correctly: the Brewers collapse knocked each solid starter out of “better-than-average” territory. Or rather, the Brewers collapsed because their 16 runs prevented rotational leaders imploded. If you’re looking for reasons to blame the players instead of management during this rough stretch of play, look no further than veterans like Gallardo and Lohse. For different reasons, both pitchers were unable to work effectively for a couple of weeks, and those weeks cost the Brewers at least 15 runs. Adding in Peralta — who could understandably fade, as he is working his second full season in his career — and Garza, and the Brewers starting core fell by 27 runs in less than a month’s time. This is quite a sad occurrence, for at the end of the season, it will appear that the Brewers did not have good pitching in 2014. The Brewers did have solid pitching throughout the season, but they derailed in August. Unfortunately, this isn’t simply a case of “regression,” for no one would argue that runs prevented seasons of 10, 5, and 1 are so great as to be unsustainable. Instead of analyzing and breaking down an entire season during the offseason, the Brewers front office arguably needs to look solely at four weeks of the season. “What went wrong?” will be the key question this offseason.

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

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