If you’re a cynic about baseball, the Giants and Brewers series is a non-starter between two choking, declining, collapsing clubs. Forget the fact that both clubs share one of the best records in the National League; the trajectories of both clubs shows that these records are not reflective of either team’s contending chances.
Giants (102 G): 441 RS / 408 RA
Brewers (102 G): 487 RS / 458 RA
Even if you’re not a cynic, you must admit that the Giants and Brewers share remarkably similar developments in 2014:
Writing a “collapse” narrative for the Brewers is difficult because the Milwaukee Nine alternated between great and tough months as early as April and May. By contrast, the Giants experienced an extended stretch of losing baseball through June and July. Now, both teams made modest trades at the deadline, and they both have somewhat advantageous spots in the playoff race: the Brewers lead the NL Central by one game, the Giants have the top Wild Card spot by one game. Certainly, the Cardinals, Pirates, Braves, Reds, or even the Marlins won’t make this an easy trip for San Francisco and Milwaukee. Yet, both clubs maintain their advantageous spots despite their “collapsing” tendencies.
Giants: Series Victory @ Mets [four game series]
Brewers: Series Loss @ St. Louis
The Brewers are coming off of what must be their most frustrating 10-game stretch of baseball in 2014. For the first time in 2014, the Brewers scored more runs than they allowed during a 10-game stretch without posting a winning record:
|Ten Game Stretch||Run Differential||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|
|June 16-June 26||65 RS / 41 RA||7-3|
|June 27- July 8||33 RS / 47 RA||3-7|
|July 9-July 22||41 RS / 52 RA||4-6|
|July 23-August 2||42 RS / 29 RA||5-5|
Following this trend, since the Phillies series blowout loss finale, the Brewers are 9-10 despite posting a run differential of 83 RS / 71 RA (including five bullpen losses). Each of the losses from July 23 through August 2 seems worse than the last:
- July 25: Francisco Rodriguez promptly blows the game after Yovani Gallardo and Will Smith shutout the Mets through eight.
- July 27:Jacob deGrom shuts down Brewers bats, leading to a 0-2 Brewers loss.
- July 28: Jake Odorizzi thoroughly shuts down Brewers bats, who fail to collect a hit after Odorizzi leaves the game.
- July 29: Will Smith and Marco Estrada turn a 1-1 game into a 1-5 beating, wasting seven excellent innings by Matt Garza.
- August 2: Kyle Lohse simply doesn’t have it against his former team, but the bats continually battle back during a wild 7-9 loss.
This sequence of games means that the Brewers have faced at least 10 contests since the beginning of July in which they lost a lead or a tie. Granted, it’s implausible and unrealistic to expect the Brewers to win every single close game, but the number of bullpen losses and close losses is piling rather high. From this series of events, the Brewers now have 17 series victories and 17 series losses or ties (counting the home-and-home vs. Minnesota as one series). Not surprisingly, the Brewers have played some of their least efficient baseball since the beginning of July:
|Series (Month)||Outcome (4 game series)||RS-RA||Note|
|@ Pittsburgh (April)||W (4)||18-23||BRAWL!|
|@ St. Louis (April)||W||13-16||2 wins in extras|
|@ Pittsburgh (June)||W||15-18||1-0 finale W|
|Vs. Yankees (May)||W||14-14||Walk-Off Finale W|
|Vs. Rockies (June)||W (4)||21-20||Braun hits walk-off single|
|Vs. Pirates (May)||W||10-9||Walk-Off Finale W|
|Vs. Cubs (April)||W||10-9|
|@ Mets (June)||W||10-8||5-1 W in extras|
|Vs. Padres (April)||W||10-7||1-2 Loss in Extras|
|Vs. Orioles (May)||W||21-16||Gallardo walk-off hit|
|Vs. Pirates (April)||W||11-5||First Home Series W|
|Vs. Cubs (May)||W||20-13||Lohse SHO in finale|
|Vs. Reds (July)||W||14-6||Walk Off W|
|@ Boston (April)||W||17-8||First Road Sweep|
|@ Miami (May)||W||17-8||First Replacement Start (W)|
|@ Colorado (June)||W||28-19||bases clearing wild pitch|
|@ Philadelphia (April)||W||25-10||Braun Multi-HR|
Notice that the bulk of the Brewers’ most efficient series victories are leftovers from their solid April and May stretches. Their only series victory in July was a decisive series sweep over Cincinnati — that’s not a bad thing, but simply a sign that the balance in close games was swinging in favor of Brewers’ opponents. Perhaps the most frustrating series in the recent losses-and-ties are those Cardinals series from July and August: despite matching the Cardinals with 35 RS / 35 RA, the Brewers are 2-4 in those series, including two bullpen losses:
|Series (Month)||Outcome (4 game series)||RS-RA||Note|
|Vs. Phillies (July)||L (4)||11-25||First Home Sweep Loss|
|Vs. Reds (June)||L||13-21|
|@ Reds (May)||L (4)||10-18||2 Bullpen Losses (Henderson/Thornburg)|
|@ Atlanta (May)||L (4)||13-20||Bullpen Loss (Kintzler)|
|@ Toronto (July)||L||5-11||Walk-Off Finale Loss|
|Vs. Cardinals (April)||L||6-11|
|@ Cubs (May)||L||6-10|
|@ Washington (July)||L||11-15||Walk Off Finale L|
|@ Cincinnati (July)||L||5-8||Garza SHO W|
|Vs. Braves (April)||L||4-6||Opening Day W|
|@ Tampa Bay (July)||L||7-7||Series Finale Staff Shutout W|
|@ St. Louis (August)||L||16-16||Bullpen Loss (Jeffress)|
|Vs. Cardinals (July)||L||19-19||Nelson takes Estrada’s SP spot|
|Vs. Diamondbacks (May)||L||15-13||Bullpen Loss (Kintzler)|
|Vs. Nationals (June)||L||11-9||Gennett hits Grand Slam off Strasburg|
|@/Vs. Twins (June)||T (2×2)||22-19||Bullpen Loss (Wooten)|
|Vs. Mets (July)||T (4)||16-8|
Ultimately, it’s not “generic sports talk” to say that now would be a good time for the Brewers to turn around their close game performance in order to win more series. The Brewers begin a wicked stretch featuring 11 series against contending ballclubs; 14 of their next 18 games are against teams in an AL or NL playoff race. Perhaps this will prompt Doug Melvin into a waiver wire trade for some additional bullpen and bench help; otherwise, the Brewers relievers will need to look back and capitalize on their early season approaches once more.
MLB Press Pass Probable Starters
Tim Lincecum (1-2, 1 sv, 22.3 IP, 14 R (21 K / 8 BB / 3 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 G) @ Jimmy Nelson (0-2, 17.3 IP, 13 R, 16 K / 5 BB / 2 HR since July recall)
Ryan Vogelsong (1-3, 29.7 IP, 14 R (20 K / 4 BB / 2 HR), 2 quality starts in last 5 GS) @ Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 33 IP, 11 R (25 K / 4 BB / 4 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS)
Jake Peavy (0-2, 13 IP, 8 R, 9 K / 2 BB / 0 HR since trade to SF) @ Wily Peralta (4-1, 30.7 IP, 15 R (19 K / 12 BB / 4 HR), 3 quality starts in last 5 GS)
On a final note, the Brewers management is apparently passing on the chance to have Kyle Lohse start 12 times prior to the end of the season (including twice during the last week, and the last day of the season). After Lohse jumped into Saturday’s start, he had another chance to work on Thursday — and the Brewers had another chance to skip Jimmy Nelson’s spot, given Monday’s off day. Depending on how both the Giants and Brewers rotate their starters during upcoming off-days, at least two of these pitching match-ups could repeat during their Bay Area meeting to close August.
Since the club failed to skip another starter’s spot and place Lohse in the finale against Jake Peavy, Lohse is on schedule to be available for the opening of a potential playoffs series. It might sound crazy to watch these things, but a club should have an idea about how they’re lining up their starters; now, instead of using their best starter as many times as possible to close the season, the Brewers appear to favor using their deep, consistent rotation and having Lohse ready and rested at the end of the season.
It’s amazing to think that one simple move can impact a starter’s potential match-ups that much, but that’s the case with the Brewers’ current rotational moves. On Saturday, it appeared that the club could push Lohse and give him as many starts as possible; now, it’s back to focusing on rotational depth.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2014.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2014.