The 2013 Wild Card races are producing drama in the Junior Circuit, as the Indians, Rays, and Rangers fight for their chance to enter the one game playoff. In the older league, the Reds and Pirates face off to determine home-field for their likely playoff game (unless the Pirates can go on a tear and unseat the Cardinals from the division lead). Since the Rays knocked out the Yankees, New York’s top club joins their friends from Queens on the sidelines; with both Chicago clubs, as well as the Angels, out of the playoffs, this year’s playoffs have a slightly smaller-market identity.
After knocking off the Braves and playing spoiler in the race for the NL’s top record, the Brewers head to CitiField to complete their season against the Mets. Five years after these two clubs closed their respective seasons in a wild wild card race, their franchise fates have fluctuated. In some way, this series provides the opportunity for a strange “race to the bottom.” While the Mets are currently tied for the 11th worst record in the majors, the Brewers own the MLB’s 7th worst record. What such records lack in on-field success, they compensate with a chance at one of the Top 10, compensation-protected draft picks.
|Astros||51||3 vs Yankees|
|Marlins||59||3 vs Tigers|
|White Sox||62||4 vs Royals|
|Cubs||66||3 @ Cardinals|
|Twins||66||4 vs Indians|
|Mariners||70||3 vs Athletics|
|Brewers||71||4 4 @ Mets|
|Blue Jays||72||@ Orioles / 3 vs Rays|
|Phillies||72||4 @ Braves|
|Rockies||72||3 @ Dodgers|
|Giants||73||vs Dodgers / 3 vs Padres|
|Mets||73||4 vs Brewers|
|Padres||74||vs Dbacks / 3 @ Giants|
It feels strange going into a series and saying, “It might not be beneficial for the Brewers to win every game in this series.” Yet, the balance of the draft slot standings is such that a Brewers sweep could knock the Mets into a protected draft slot, moving the Brewers out of that Top 10 range. Some drama could also occur from series outside the Brewers’ control; if the Phillies, Rockies, Blue Jays, and Giants lose out, the Brewers could fall out of the Top 10 even if they split the series with the Mets. Of course, the Brewers cannot worry about this, and the basic idea of tanking is wrong with this young club — they are playing well, and shouldn’t stop now, as Jimmy Nelson and Johnny Hellweg have starts this series. Rather, this tension in / analysis of the Draft Slot rankings is mostly a nod to Brewers fans looking for a strong chance at rebuilding with a solid draft pick and higher draft budget (it’s also a nod to a front office that could have a chance to supplement a rebuild with an elite free agent, without losing a draft pick).
Ultimately, if a Top 10 Draft Pick and solid free agency signing converge, the Brewers could use their strong lessons from their late season youngsters to compete while their farmhands advance.
Thursday, September 26: Johnny Hellweg @ Dillon Gee
Johnny Hellweg improved on his earlier starts, gutting out seven hits and five walks against the Cardinals in his best start of the season. Hellweg has had a tough time missing bats at the big league level: as a starter, or as a reliever, Hellweg has not tallied more than one strike out in any of his appearances. Closing the season, there are a lot of narratives that Hellweg could create with a strong start, but none is more important than that balance between his control and his ability to strike batters out.
27-year-old Dillon Gee is having the best season of his career, and he enters tonight’s game one win shy of his career record 13-victories (he was 13-6 in 2011). After pitching an injury-shortened in 2012, Gee’s knocking on the door of 200 IP for the first time in his career. Along with his IP totals, his walk rate improved significantly from his 2011 full season to impact his 2013 performance. While the Mets have questions about Matt Harvey‘s future health and impact, Gee answered a question about his role in the organization’s rotation with his 2013 success.
Friday, September 27: Yovani Gallardo @ Carlos Torres
Since his mid-August return to the rotation, Yovani Gallardo has quietly pitched at a high level for the Brewers. He’s nearly 10 runs better than average in that short period of time, which is quite a shift from his early season performance. Gallardo is currently throwing his slider more than 29% of his selections, and he’s basically eliminated his change up. His velocity is solid on his primary and secondary fastballs, and his differential between his fastballs and slider is also stronger in his recent starts. Overall, this late season surge by Gallardo completely changes the spin on 2013 from “Near-Replacement” to “Slightly Below Average.” Ultimately, his first below average season may not raise as many questions as we expected midseason.
Carlos Torres deserves some kind of award. The journeyman righty has put together his best season of his career as a true swingman. Sure, there are “swingmen” who might start the season in the rotation and finish in the bullpen, or the other way ’round; Torres is the real deal, splitting his starts between July, August, and September, and pitching extended bullpen stretches between clusters of starts. The righty is a kitchen-sink thrower, but his bread and butter are fastball/cutter pairings (74% of his selections in 2013). The other 26% of his selections are split between a gang of changes, curves, sliders, and secondary fastballs.
Saturday, September 28: Jimmy Nelson @ Aaron Harang
As if fans of the Brewers Farm needed any more reason to be excited, Jimmy Nelson takes his scoreless MLB record into his first career start. The Brewers drafted Nelson with their 2nd round pick in 2010, and his ascent in the minors arguably makes Nelson the organization’s best pitching prospect. DoU ranked Nelson #4 in the system at midseason.
When I saw that Aaron Harang would be pitching against the Brewers, I immediately thought, “Brewer killer.” And yet, I am surprised to learn that in his career, Harang’s 4.30 ERA in 146.7 innings against Milwaukee’s club is pretty much average for his career (his career ERA is 4.29). Overall, Harang is 6-6 against the Brewers for his career (with no-decisions in 12 of his appearances against Milwaukee).
Sunday, September 29: Marco Estrada @ TBD / Jon Niese
This may seem academic, but Marco Estrada stands approximately five-to-six innings and three-to-four runs away from an average season in 2013. Of course, Estrada’s overall profile is already well-known, and his spot in the rotation should be safe for 2014. Yet, it seems like being able to say, “Estrada was an average pitcher” during the offseason reflects the quality of his starts after his DL-stint. Ultimately, this doesn’t make much of a difference in one start, and more than anything, Estrada will look to continue his streak of strong starts. Behind Kyle Lohse, Estrada may have a claim as the team’s second best pitcher in 2013.
According to the New York Daily News, the Mets may shut down southpaw Jon Niese. Neise rehabbed a partially torn rotator cuff, and missed a portion of the season because of that. There are several factors that may influence the Mets’ decision, but Niese’s victory on Tuesday may have been his last start of the season.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2013.
MLB Advanced Media, LP. 2013
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2013.