The Giants have been treading water since they left Milwaukee, holding their road spot for the Wild Card game without making a move on the St. Louis Cardinals (for the home WC spot) or the Los Angeles Dodgers (for the NL West). Meanwhile, the Brewers have suffered largely the same fate, surging in Los Angeles and stumbling against the Pirates and Padres to complete an unremarkable three weeks.
The longer this race goes, the better it feels to see teams stay in their respective spots. While one would like to see some action, the lack of action in the standings is quite welcome. Certainly, one hot (or cold) week could change everything in this National League race. The question is, are any of 2014’s contending clubs ready to take the leap?
Brewers (133 G):572 RS / 534 RA
Giants (133 G): 526 RS / 488 RA
Currently, the Giants and Brewers share almost exactly the same profile. Offensively, both clubs have scored approximately 35 runs more than average; their pitching staffs have prevented approximately 10 runs against their respective league and park environments.
|SP Runs Prevented||Giants (SP)||Brewers (SP)|
|#1||7 (Hudson)||9 (Gallardo)|
|#2||6 (Bumgarner)||3 (Lohse)|
|#3||2 (Petit)||0 (Peralta)|
|#4||-2 (Vogelsong)||-2 (Garza)|
|#5||-18 (Lincecum)||-10 (Estrada)|
|Replacement||-1 (Peavy)||10 (Fiers)|
|Replacement||-9 (Cain)||-4 (Nelson)|
Notably, the Brewers have a stronger rotation than the Giants, even if Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner are a stronger top rotation than Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse (16 to 12 runs prevented). While the middle rotational spots match up quite well, the low rotation and replacement spots tell the true story of both rotations: the Brewers made their decision to replace Marco Estrada earlier than the Giants addressed Tim Lincecum’s performance, which gave Milwaukee a chance to improve their starting performance in July. As for injury replacements, the Brewers have received quite a jolt from Fastballer Mike Fiers, who has carried the team in each of his recent starts. The Giants, of course, made a deadline trade for Jake Peavy, who has basically been about as reliable for their rotation as a flip of a coin.
Earlier this month, I separated the 2014 NL race by month, in order to showcase the movement and development among National League teams. Since that point, enough games have been played in August to separate this month into its own category. While most of the teams have stayed on a steady pace during this time — including the Brewers, believe it or not! — the Braves, Pirates, Reds, and Nationals each adjusted their “winning threshold.” While the Nationals jumped to a 92-win pace (and are trending upward!), tying them with the Dodgers in a hot homefield advantage race, and the Braves climbed back to an 85-win pace, the Pirates fell off of their earlier 87-win pace. This is a crucial slip, for the Pirates could easily grab the road spot for the Wild Card game with a solid pace.
|March-May||W-L||RS / RA||Adjusted Pace||Current Pace|
|Giants||36-20||243 RS / 192 RA||104||87|
|Brewers||33-23||231 RS / 216 RA||95||89|
|Braves||30-25||190 RS / 181 RA||88||85|
|Cardinals||30-26||218 RS / 197 RA||87||87|
|Dodgers||30-27||247 RS / 247 RA||85||92|
|Marlins||28-27||253 RS / 234 RA||82||80|
|Nationals||27-27||222 RS / 206 RA||81||92|
|Reds||25-29||188 RS / 200 RA||75||79|
|Pirates||25-30||207 RS / 241 RA||73||84|
|June-July||W-L||RS / RA||Adjusted Pace||Current Pace|
|Dodgers||32-20||208 RS / 164 RA||96||92|
|Pirates||32-21||242 RS / 208 RA||87||84|
|Nationals||31-21||220 RS / 170 RA||91||92|
|Reds||29-25||216 RS / 193 RA||83||79|
|Cardinals||27-24||175 RS / 194 RA||86||87|
|Braves||28-26||225 RS / 216 RA||85||85|
|Brewers||27-26||240 RS / 226 RA||87||89|
|Marlins||25-28||190 RS / 229 RA||80||80|
|Giants||22-30||178 RS / 208 RA||81||87|
|August||W-L||RS / RA||Adjusted Pace||Current Pace|
|Nationals||17-9||121 RS / 86 RA||95||92|
|Dodgers||14-11||97 RS / 102 RA||92||92|
|Cardinals||14-11||103 RS / 117 RA||88||87|
|Brewers||13-11||101 RS / 92 RA||89||89|
|Giants||12-12||101 RS / 87 RA||86||87|
|Marlins||12-12||95 RS / 102 RA||80||80|
|Braves||12-13||93 RS / 87 RA||83||85|
|Pirates||12-13||114 RS / 103 RA||83||84|
|Reds||11-15||105 RS / 106 RA||77||79|
This is quite a good exercise to compare the Brewers’ streaky play with their rivals and other contenders. Although our beloved Milwaukee Nine have been quite streaky in 2014, there are other NL clubs that have experienced more extreme shifts in the standings. The Giants are arguably one of those clubs:
|Total||Pace 1||Pace 2||Pace 3||Trend|
Brewers: Series Loss @ San Diego
Giants: Series Victory vs. Rockies [4 game series]
It was great to see Runnin’ Ron Roenicke explode over the poor strike zone on Wednesday night, and it was even better to see the debate about Roenicke’s comments in the national media. Unfortunately, the debate about the automated strike zone still seems like a joke among national analysts. On MLB Network yesterday, during “MLB Now,” one commentator questioned whether an automated zone would increase the time of game to four hours. Another commentator noted that the umpires would simply get to show off their strike moves. It’s disappointing that this debate isn’t serious: first and foremost, running an automated strike zone need not be anything weird or intrusive into the game; something as simple as a scoreboard behind home plate could mark balls and strikes for the players and umpires.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, one should focus on the opportunity that an automated strike zone would provide for improving pace of game. In the debates about MLB’s pace of game, the focus always shifts to rules changes and oddball suggestions that are legalistic and intrusive, when the impetus is already with the umpiring staff to manage the pace of game. As Bill James notes in his New Historical Baseball Abstract, the umpiring staff has the discretion to offer “time” to a player. We’re certainly not used to seeing those requests declined, as fans, which is one of the reasons players feel inclined to step off the mound or out of the batter’s box so frequently: the umpires have granted “time” perpetually, which allows the players to take time whenever they like.
If home plate umpires were freed of the duty to call balls and strikes, they could serve more effectively as an extra set of eyes around the diamond (to help call close plays at first or third base), and keep the pace of game. Once the players have a strict, set, and predictable strike zone, the umpires can simply refuse to grant time, and keep pitchers and batters in the box and on the mound. It seems clear as day that using an automated strike zone would allow the umpiring staff to improve the pace of game, for their attention could be placed on those matters (instead of the strike zone).
Wily Peralta (3-2, 30.7 IP, 14 R (25 K / 13 BB / 5 HR), 4 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Ryan Vogelsong (2-1, 31.3 IP, 9 R (20 K / 10 BB / 5 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS)
Mike Fiers (4-0, 28 IP, 4 R (32 K / 4 BB / 2 HR), 4 quality starts since August recall) @ Jake Peavy (2-3, 33.7 IP, 13 R (23 K / 7 BB / 2 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS)
Kyle Lohse (1-0, 6 IP, 1 R (5 K / 4 BB / 0 HR), 1 quality start since spot skipped) @ Madison Bumgarner (3-1, 40 IP, 8 R (49 K / 2 BB / 4 HR), 4 quality starts in last 5 GS)
Although the Giants and Brewers played recently, a strange set of August circumstances — including a “skipped spot” by the Brewers for Kyle Lohse — leads to zero rematches in this series. Mike Fiers and Jake Peavy provide the Brewers’ fourth true replacement start of the season; thus far, the Brewers are 2-1 in games featuring two replacements. The last start of the series should be a treat, perhaps the single best pitching match-up the Brewers have had since Yovani Gallardo faced off against Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2014.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2014.