Series Preview: Brewers @ Rockies | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

One must admit, the Brewers head to Coors Field under the best possible circumstances: our beloved Milwaukee Nine have been fantastic on the road recently, winning three of four at Arizona and going 5-3 on their recent trip through Minneapolis, New York, and Pittsburgh. Certainly, the 2014 Brewers are road warriors, but such a buffer of wins also protects them from disappointment at Coors — the Brewers have nothing to prove in the robust runs environment. Perhaps this signals a general “no pressure” feel for 2014; since many did not expect the Brewers to be in their current position, the club hardly has to reach expectations with their wins. Each win is another advantage, another step in the pennant race, or even vindication to a lukewarm national media.

If everyone expects the Brewers to drop back in the race, each win improves the Brewers’ staying power — as well as their ability to relax and tune out critics. One can imagine that it would be worse if the Brewers had to use their wins to meet expectations (as on the Nationals, Pirates, Braves, Dodgers, or Reds, for instance). However, the Brewers don’t need to prove themselves on the road, and they don’t need to face any pressure to win.

2014:
Brewers (74 G): 323 RS / 295 RA
Rockies (72 G): 360 RS / 358 RA

After their 5-1 winning streak ended during the Twins home-and-home series, the Brewers have played 16 consecutive games without a streak. However, this stretch of play finds the Brewers steadily staying in games and slowly piling up wins — don’t look now, but the Brewers are 9-7 from June 3 onward (76 RS / 77 RA).

Perhaps the most welcome occurrence in this stretch is the number of blowout losses the Brewers are suffering. Yes, I said it: the Brewers are benefiting from their blowouts because (a) it allows Runnin’ Ron Roenicke to give his top relievers days off and save them for close games, (b) it allows Roenicke to employ Wei-Chung Wang, and (c) it inflates the Brewers’ run differential and hides the actual strengths of the club.

Looking at the Brewers’ overall “Pythagorean W-L” (or, Run Differential W-L), one would argue that the Brewers have won approximately four more games than expected. However, isolating four losses of eight-or-more runs (good for 11 RS / 47 RA!!!!), the Brewers are otherwise 44-26 and 312 RS / 248 RA — in other words, pretty freaking good. In those games, the Brewers would have been expected to win 42 based on their run differential. So, the Brewers are not overplaying their potential as much as their overall RS / RA shows.

Last Series:
Brewers: Series Victory at Arizona [4 games]
Rockies: Swept at Dodgers

While Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter grabbed headlines, the Rockies generally had a rough time at Chavez Ravine. Dodgers starting pitching simply stymied the Colorado bats, breezing to a series sweep with a 15-run margin. The closest the Rockies came to a victory was Jhoulys Chacin’s duel with Zack Greinke; in the midst of a sweep, though, even a 4-2 game can feel like a laugher. However, the Brewers ought not to assume that they can kick Colorado while they’re down; the Rockies are a rather streaky club of late, having taken a 38 RS / 20 RA five-game winning streak into their series against Los Angeles (of course, they also had another three-game losing streak prior to those winning ways. Ultimately, the Rockies are 5-6 on their current stretch of winning and losing streaks.

Previous Performances:
2013 Brewers: 74-88 (640 RS / 687 RA)
2013 Rockies: 74-88 (706 RS / 760 RA)

2011-2013 Brewers: 253-233 (2137 RS / 2058 RA)
2011-2013 Rockies: 211-275 (2199 RS / 2424 RA)

I can’t explain it, but the Rockies are always a club that I expect to break out. They have an offensive core in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, and their pitching core of Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa presents a solid foundation — when healthy. Despite their basic core players, the Rockies simply have not been able to compete over the last few years, which is as much a reflection of their injuries as their own environment. While oppressive pitcher’s parks like CitiField and PetCo Park receive press for giving their home clubs difficulties, one has to figure that Coors Field equally impacts the Rockies. Yet, the Dodgers and Giants also play in somewhat extreme parks (the Giants moreso), and they have been able to compete — so, it can’t all be environment.

If it sounds crazy to call a club like the Rockies a potential contender with their core — should everything go right — one only needs to look at the development of the National League over the last three years. It’s amazing what a different one season can make — Doug Melvin’s and Mark Attanasio’s Brewers hung around the fifth spot in the league entering 2012, but their 2013 campaign knocked the Brewers to 9th. Yet, four wins per season separate the Brewers from the third best club (Cincinnati), and only a span of seven-and-a-half games separates five franchises (Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Giants, and Brewers):

2011-2013 NL W-L (RS / RA)
Braves 279-207 (2029 RS / 1753 RA)
Cardinals 275-211 (2310 RS / 1936 RA)
Reds 266-220 (2102 RS / 1897 RA)
Nationals 264-221 (2011 RS / 1863 RA)
Dodgers 260-225 (1930 RS / 1791 RA)
Diamondbacks 256-230 (2150 RS / 2045 RA)
Phillies 256-230 (2007 RS / 1958 RA)
Giants 256-230 (1917 RS / 1918 RA)
Brewers 253-233 (2137 RS / 2058 RA)
Pirates 245-241 (1895 RS / 1963 RA)
Mets 225-261 (1987 RS / 2135 RA)
Padres 223-263 (1862 RS / 2021 RA)
Rockies 211-275 (2199 RS / 2424 RA)
Marlins 203-283 (1747 RS / 2072 RA)
Cubs 198-288 (1869 RS / 2204 RA)

Even if you’re skeptical about the supposed revenue sharing and competitive balance victories gained through recent Collective Bargaining Agreements, this chart of teams shows the razor-thin margin in the National League. One might argue in favor of four tiers: (1) Braves and Cardinals, (2) Reds and Nationals, (3) Dodgers through Pirates, and (4) Mets through Cubs. Comparing win totals, 3% separates tiers (1) and (2) [5% from top to bottom], 1.5% separates tiers (2) and (3) [8% from top to bottom], and 8% separates tiers (3) and (4) [24% from the Dodgers to the Cubs]. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that a club like Cincinnati can both contend and struggle within a few years, and remain a top club; basically, two-thirds of the National League operates that way. Unfortunately, by this measure, the Rockies are not close to contending.

Friday Note: The Rockies recently optioned Juan Nicasio to the minors, which opens a void for their Saturday start against Wily Peralta. There are three basic options for Saturday’s start: the Rockies can make another roster move (in addition to the move that sent Nicasio to the minors) and dig into their organization for a spot starter, they can use a reliever for a spot starter, or they can bump-up Tyler Matzek’s and Chacin’s starts thanks to the club’s Thursday off-day. A new spot starter from the minors could produce the Rockies’ eleventh starting pitcher of the season. While MLB.com suggests an organizational option for the Rockies, as of Friday morning there hasn’t been an announcement for this start.

Marco Estrada (2-2, 29.7 IP, 23 R (24 K / 11 BB / 11 HR), 1 quality start in last 5 GS) @ Christian Bergman (0-1, 12 IP, 5 R thus far in 2014)
Wily Peralta (3-2, 30 IP, 15 R (23 K / 8 BB / 3 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ TBA Christian Friedrich / Tyler Matzek (1-1, 12 IP, 5 R thus far in 2014)
Kyle Lohse (2-1, 34.7 IP, 17 R (18 K / 4 BB / 3 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Tyler Matzek / Jhoulys Chacin (1-2, 29 IP, 14 R (23 K / 14 BB / 3 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS)

Watch Marco Estrada snap his home run streak at Coors Field. Estrada is the ideal pitcher to break a rough stretch of starts at Coors Field, because he can rely on his change up to beat batters. Estrada has a chance to work one of his most extreme starts of the season, and I hope he does it. If he works 100 pitches, I call for 50 change ups, 35 fastballs, and I even try 15 curves in the altitude.

Wily Peralta effectively limited the damage during his last start, and he stopped a streak of tough outings from forming. This, perhaps, is the biggest difference between 2013 Peralta and 2014 Peralta. In 2013, Peralta experienced at least two stretches of two-or-more starts with 4+RA; he also had approximately three stretches where he allowed 4+ RA twice in three starts. He allowed four or more runs 13 times. By contrast, Peralta has allowed four or more runs only three times in 2014, and May 31 and June 5 were his first consecutive 4+ RA starts of the season. This trend is evident in Peralta’s quality starts: in 2014, Peralta has pitched seven consecutive quality starts at his best, which is nearly double his best 2013 streak

In his last five starts, Kyle Lohse has effectively alternated between good-and-bad starts. In fact, this is probably one of the reasons the Brewers have been less streaky lately. It’s tough for a team to start big winning streaks when their ace allows four or more runs in every other start; however, it’s also tough for them to start big losing streaks when their ace throws a shutout or goes 8 IP / 1 R in every other start.

The Brewers will face two rookies in this series, in Christian Bergman and Tyler Matzek. Both are closer to organizational arms than reputed prospects, although BaseballAmerica rated Bergman’s control as the best on the Rockies farm. Should Jhoulys Chacin get bumped forward, the Brewers would face Colorado’s ace-in-residence. Chacin has yet to build on his previous success in 2014, but he has a chance to pitch consecutive 100+ IP, average-or-better seasons for the second time in his career (his 2010-2011 campaigns were his first feat of consecutive solid seasons). However, Chacin would take three consecutive quality starts into the Brewers series, if he was pushed forward; I do hope that the Rockies do so, as it would be exciting to see two relatively unheralded, top 2013 starters face off to close the series.

According to MLB.com, Christian Friedrich is the probable organizational starter for the Rockies. He last pitched in 2012, making 16 starts for the Rockies. Unfortunately, the southpaw lost time in 2013 due to back issues, and he’s allowed 62 runs in 67.3 innings at AAA Colorado Springs.

Resources
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2014.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2014.
Other news sources linked as cited.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Evan (Maryland) says: June 22, 2014

    Great Analysis and now the Brewers have won the series. Here’s hoping for a pretty big sweep. On another note… please go out of your way to ping ESPN on the incorrect listing for Wei Chung Wang’s salary. They have it listed at $5,000,000 when in fact it is only the league minimum of $500,000. I don’t want people to get even more upset at the Brewers choice to keep Wang based on incorrect information. He’s the Ruben Quevedo of this team but luckily for us we’re good enough not to need him very often as a garbage time pitcher.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: June 23, 2014

      Thanks for reading, and for the comment! Oh, if Wei-Chung Wang were earning $5,000,000….not even sure what to say.

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