Series Preview: Brewers @ Diamondbacks | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Earlier this season, the Brewers faced the Diamondbacks amidst a storm of roster moves, injury issues, and shorthanded contests. Now, the Milwaukee club is rather hot, despite a series loss to Cincinnati — the Brewers are now 5-1-1 during their series following their four-game series loss at Atlanta. By contrast, the Diamondbacks used their earlier series victory against the Brewers to begin to correct their season, as they surrounded that victory with solid series against the Padres, White Sox, and Dodgers. That 9-6 stretch helped the Diamondbacks produce a relatively effective May, and the club has basically hovered around .500 since their dreadful April.

Ten Game Sets RS / RA W-L
March 31-Aprill 11 50 RS / 26 RA 8-2
April 12-April 21 35 RS / 38 RA 6-4
April 22-May 2 34 RS / 37 RA 6-4
May 3-May 14 40 RS / 43 RA 4-6
May 15-May 24 33 RS / 40 RA 4-6
May 25-June 4 62 RS / 44 RA 6-4
June 5-June 15 46 RS / 52 RA 6-4

Perhaps the best aspect of the Brewers’ recent performance is the offense’s ability to pick up the pitching. Brewers arms are in the middle of their worst 20 game stretch of the season, but the club is 12-8 in those games, thanks to the bats. This is a promising sign — once the Brewers’ arms improve, they will have the chance to carry the offense. If the offense slumps, it will be quite all right, for the arms can once again lead the team (as they did at the end of April). This is the sign of a solid, well-balanced ballclub.

2014:
Brewers (70 G): 300 RS / 282 RA
Diamondbacks (72 G): 296 RS / 350 RA

It will be interesting to see how the Brewers fare in Arizona, where the run environment is slightly inflated. The Diamondbacks’ pitching staff is nearly 60 runs below average, but it feels that the Brewers’ staff is just as bad with recent struggles. Of course, the Milwaukee hurlers are nowhere near that level — even after a few recent blowouts, Brewers arms are still an above average squad. In their last series against a below average pitching staff, the Mets and Pirates arms generally kept the Brewers from causing grand damage with their bats. However, Milwaukee still escaped CitiField and PNC Park with victories.

Last Series:
Brewers: Series Loss vs. Reds
Diamondbacks: Series Loss at Los Angeles Dodgers

In case you’re feeling bummed about the Brewers’ tough series finale against the Reds, note that the Brewers are in the midst of one of their best stretches of the season. It is important to keep focusing on these trends, for as bad as one loss might seem, a club’s overall performance and ability to win close games will be more important than participating in blow out losses. While the Brewers have not had an extended winning or losing streak since heading to Minneapolis, the club’s close-game skills have helped them to a 6-6 stretch over their last 12 games (despite a 54 RS / 64 RA run differential).

Of course, another reason to feel good about the Brewers’ organization is their recent ability to sign the bulk of their talent drafted with an aggressive approach earlier in June. According to BrewCrewBall‘s draft tracker, the Brewers have signed 11 of their top 14 picks, including every pick from the first six rounds. Moreover, with several of their picks in the Top 10 rounds, the Brewers are using signing bonuses to compensate for the high offers that lured their second and third picks to professional baseball. Tracking draftee bonuses and the Brewers’ slot allowances, it appears that the Brewers front office have successfully executed their coup.

As the Brewers keep winning, they have the chance to execute a series of win-now moves for the trade deadline, while also immediately improving the farm system. If some of scouting director Bruce Seid’s recent picks continue their organizational development, the Brewers could be on the verge of a Cardinals-style “rebuild while winning” campaign. While some Brewers fans clamored for the Brewers to enter a rebuilding phase, the Milwaukee front office appears poised to reposition the farm system while the big league team contends. 2014 potentially offers Brewers fans the best of both worlds.

Previous Performances:
2013 Brewers: 74-88 (640 RS / 687 RA)
2013 Diamondbacks: 81-81, 685 RS / 695 RA

2011-2013 Brewers: 253-233 (2137 RS / 2058 RA)
2011-2013 Diamondbacks: 256-230, 2150 RS / 2045 RA

Wily Peralta (2-3, 28 IP. 15 R (22 K / 12 BB / 4 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 29.3 IP, 19 R (24 K / 6 BB / 5 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS)
Kyle Lohse (2-1, 36.7 IP, 14 R (23 K / 1 BB / 3 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Wade Miley (0-2, 31.7 IP, 16 R (36 K / 7 BB / 6 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS

In the Brewers and Diamondbacks series, both clubs’ best-supported and worst-supported pitchers will face one another. In tonight’s series opener, the least-supported pitchers take the mound in what will surely amount to a battle of wills. Meanwhile, the second game of the series features a “support mismatch,” although this mismatch is arguably not as bad as the closing game of the series.

In order to judge team support, I simply counted each team’s Total Runs Scored and Bullpen Runs Allowed in each starter’s games. I then produced a quick-and-dirty index that measures the number of runs each starter could allow per start in order to reach a .500 record. For example, since the Arizona bats and relievers produced a 38 run margin in Chase Anderson’s starts, Anderson could have allowed more than six runs per start to reach .500; on the other hand, since Brewers bats and relievers left Wily Peralta a margin of 24 runs, the young righty needed to allow 1.86 R/GS to reach .500.

Along with the starter’s “Index,” which measures the number of R/G each starter can allow and still reach .500, I’ve included the Runs Average of that index per 6 IP/ GS. This should provide an easy-to-read stat that shows whether a pitcher’s runs average needs to above average, average, or below average to maintain a .500 record. Notably, Anderson is receiving absolutely absurd support; he could have allowed more than one run per inning (on average) and reach .500. Josh Collmenter, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Marco Estrada could also be below average pitchers and maintain a .500 record in their starts. Not even Clayton Kershaw could go .500 with Brandon McCarthy’s support:

Pitcher GS Team RS Bullpen RA SPIndex (RunsAvg)
Anderson 6 48 10 6.33 (9.50)
Collmenter 12 61 14 3.92 (5.88)
Bolsinger 4 18 7 2.75 (4.13)
Miley 15 55 15 2.67 (4.01)
Arroyo 14 54 17 2.64 (3.96)
McCarthy 14 36 26 0.71 (1.07)
Pitcher GS Team RS Bullpen RA SPIndex (RunsAvg)
Garza 14 70 11 4.21 (6.32)
Lohse 14 74 17 4.07 (6.11)
Estrada 14 66 25 2.93 (4.40)
Gallardo 14 43 15 2.00 (3.00)
Peralta 13 40 16 1.86 (2.77)

Of course, these averages are measured across the full season, so it does not amplify specific bullpen blow-ups or slugfests. A great example of this phenomenon is Yovani Gallardo’s bullpen support; approximately 60% of the bullpen runs allowed during his starts occurred in a single Pittsburgh debacle. However, by averaging support across the season, one can get a basic idea of how each team performs for each starter.

The biggest difference between the Diamondbacks and Brewers, perhaps, is that while the Brewers generally support their pitchers when they need it, the Diamondbacks do not. Is this the most straightforward explanation of a losing ball club (or, a contending one)?

Matt Garza (2-0, 32.3 IP, 18 R (20 K / 13 BB / 3 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Chase Anderson (4-1, 28.3 IP, 14 R (20 K / 10 BB / 5 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS)

This is perhaps the most interesting match-up of the series, for it pairs both clubs’ best-supported pitchers against one another. However, both of these pitchers serve different results to their support. Garza has needed all the support he can get from the Brewers bullpen and bats, given his inability to reach his career averages in Milwaukee. In this case, Garza’s support is crucial — despite a 10-runs below average mark, the Brewers can boast an 8-6 team record in Garza’s starts. Meanwhile, Anderson is a breath of fresh air for the struggling Diamondbacks, pitching at a solid level since entering the Arizona rotation. In this case, Anderson’s support is more of a luxury than a necessity.

Yovani Gallardo (2-2, 29 IP, 14 R (29 K / 12 BB / 5 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Josh Collmenter (2-2, 33 IP, 16 R (19 K / 7 BB / 2 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS)

It’s a good thing that Yovani Gallardo has pitched 10 quality starts thus far in 2014; the Brewers have hardly averaged three runs scored per game in his starts. If you told Gallardo that the Brewers’ offense is quite good, you might forgive him for his skepticism: Milwaukee bats have only scored above average run totals in two of his starts, and they’ve scored three or fewer runs in eight of his starts. Thanks to Gallardo’s strong pitching performances, the Brewers have managed a 3-5 record in those eight starts (which is rather impressive when one considers the total of 14 RS in those starts). If his last two starts are any indication, Gallardo is only getting better — and he’ll need that improvement, for Josh Collmenter gives him the biggest support mismatch of the series. If you see Gallardo and Collmenter talking at any point this series, Gallardo is probably saying, “Josh, what’s it like to get five runs per game?”

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

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