Series Preview: San Diego Padres @ Milwaukee Brewers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

After a 3-6 start, the Padres put together a 6-4 homestand, including series victories against Detroit and San Francisco (and a split against Colorado). Their ten game stretch at PetCo Park featured extremely low-scoring ballgames, as the Padres won the homestand by a 33 runs scored to 25 runs allowed margin (by contrast, the National League would be expected to go 41 RS / 41 RA over 10 games). Ironically, even though Miller Park is a much more active home field than PetCo, the Brewers have had similar home statistics thus far; their last six-game stand went 17 RS / 16 RA, which exhibits a scoring rate that is nearly 6% lower than the Padres’ most recent homestand. Will this series give both offenses a chance to explode?

This series is another test for this hot young Brewers season: as the Padres are taking their mini-hot-streak on the road (and look to extend that streak), the Brewers have a chance to show they can beat hot teams (as well as divisional teams). It is astonishing that the Brewers were able to go 7-3 during a ten game stretch against the Pirates and Cardinals. Now, can they keep their foot on the gas?

2014:
Padres: 53 runs scored, 60 runs allowed
Brewers: 81 runs scored, 63 runs allowed

Between talent and overall environment (Miller Park and NL Central parks vs. PetCo and NL West), the Brewers have scored 50% more runs per game than the San Diego Nine thus far. It will be interesting to see how the Padres top players’ home run potential translates to Miller Park (which has featured surprisingly few runs scored or allowed thus far). It would be rather ironic if Miller Park’s Environment corrected to form during a series against a team that plays in one of the most depressed environments in baseball.

Last Series:
San Diego: Series Victory against the Giants
Brewers: Series Victory in Pittsburgh [4 game series]

Previous Performance:
2013 Padres: 76-86 (618 RS / 700 RA)
2013 Brewers: 74-88 (640 RS / 687 RA)

2011-2013 Padres: 223-263 (1862 RS / 2021)
2011-2013 Brewers: 253-233 (2137 RS / 2058 RA)

Andrew Cashner (2-1, 28.3 IP, 5 R in 2014; 175 IP, 4 runs prevented in 2013) @ Wily Peralta (2-0, 18.3 IP, 8 R in 2014; 183.3 IP, -21 runs prevented in 2013)

Players like Andrew Cashner help make baseball an entertaining sport to follow. After cracking BaseballAmerica’s Top 100 prospects list before 2010 — and serving as the Cubs’ best pitching prospect — Cashner headed to San Diego in the blockbuster trade that netted the Cubs their first rebuilding piece and first baseman of the future (Anthony Rizzo). Prior to that trade, Cashner toiled in Chicago and overcame a rotator cuff injury, and he served as a swingman in preparation for his starting pitching explosion in 2013 (it is worth noting that Cashner started the 2013 season out of the bullpen). After a tough start in Cincinnati in early August of 2013, Cashner worked 51.7 innings to close the season. In those innings, he allowed 10 runs and produced 45 K / 7 BB / 2 HR. In this sense, his overall mark of four runs prevented against PetCo and the NL does not capture his development as a starter.

After his trade, his struggles, and his injuries, it now seems that Cashner could develop into an ace beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, weaving simultaneous narratives of potential and redemption. The hype you’ll hear about Cashner’s development in any broadcast is that he learned how to throw a sinker, and his actual pitch selection supports this hype. While Cashner still can rush a fastball to the plate, he has doubled his sinker selection (compared to his career mark). That pitch is no slowpoke, either, as his secondary fastball busts way-in on righties between 94 and 95 MPH. If Cashner throws 100 pitches, more than 70 will be fastballs of any type.

I’ve noticed some tracking errors lately in MLB GameDay, and it appears that pitch f/x was out for 30% of Peralta’s pitches during his April 16 start. If you listened to the Brewers Radio Network Broadcast, chances are you heard some rave reviews of Peralta’s change up. It’s impossible to tell how frequently he’s throwing it when pitch f/x is out, but the Brewers broadcasters swear that Peralta is working on the pitch — and apparently working it into his selections. Thus far, pitch f/x shows that Peralta is throwing his change of pace less frequently than in 2013, but this is definitely a trend to follow in 2014. Since Peralta is absolutely focusing on his super-heavy moving fastball more frequently, that change of pace could be a crucial step in his development. As long as Kyle Lohse is around the Brewers, one hopes that Peralta follows the elder righty’s trends and becomes a sinker/slider/change man (albeit at about 7 MPH harder than Lohse). That potential makes one salivate at gaudy ERA, but Peralta has his commanding work cut out for him.

Ian Kennedy (1-3, 24 IP, 11 R in 2014; 181.3 IP, -28 runs prevented in 2013) @ Yovani Gallardo (2-0, 24.7 IP, 4 R in 2014; 180.7 IP, -7 runs prevented in 2014)

Based on their 2013 performances, this start looks like a relative mismatch in Gallardo’s favor. In reality, both Kennedy and Gallardo have had similar trajectories over the last year. Kennedy’s top season (2011) is better than Gallardo’s, but Gallardo’s decline is also less steep than Kennedy’s (from 4 runs prevented in 2012 to -28 runs prevented in 2013). Ultimately, Gallardo boasts 15 runs prevented in 592 IP from 2011-2013, while Kennedy boasts 9 runs prevented in 611.7 IP during that same time frame. Pitching performances fluctuate so frequently that it makes it difficult to fully judge who might be expected to win one particular start; in this case, Kennedy and Gallardo are evenly matched foes that meet during a point where Gallardo might have the upper hand.

Kennedy’s best pitch in 2011 was his primary fastball, a pitch that he threw more than 60% of his selections (averaging around 91 MPH or so). During his decline years, Kennedy’s fastball velocity has remained steady, but his selection of the pitch increased 13%. In this case, one might not connect Kennedy’s performance to a lack of velocity, but rather a lack of command: between 2011 and 2013, his ability to locate pitches in the strike zone declined significantly. Instead of locating between 41% and 46% of his pitches in the zone, Kennedy threw between 33% and 38% of his pitches in the zone in 2013. Since his percentage of whiffs on pitches in the zone remained relatively consistent, Kennedy’s inability to command his pitches was detrimental to his overall performance.

Gallardo worked in what may be the most controversial Brewers game thus far, which is a pity. First, the game is a pity because manager Ron Roenicke is criticized for having to use more than three relievers in his bullpen (this seems to be quite a hot topic for Brewers fans on the internet). I cannot stress this enough: Roenicke simply will have to use his “secondary” relievers in close games over a 162-game season. It is strange that fans place so much emphasis on managerial bullpen moves, but really have no issue with Rob Wooten’s performance. Fan reaction suggests that Wooten did not fail to execute a gameplan, he was simply destined to allow runs that blew a close game open (and, Roenicke should have known that Wooten was destined to allow those runs). Furthermore, the game is a pity because of the Brewers’ lack of support for Gallardo. The “back-end bullpen debacle” in Pittsburgh has exaggerated the lack of support Gallardo has received from his teammates in 2014:

SUPPORT GS Team W-L Bullpen RA Team RS
Peralta 3 3-0 1 16
Lohse 4 3-1 3 21
Garza 4 2-2 1 17
Estrada 4 3-1 4 16
Gallardo 4 3-1 9 11

By far, Brewers bats have scored the fewest runs for Gallardo, and the bullpen absolutely had their worst performance during his last start. My previous comments aside, it is upsetting that a 2-2 pitcher’s duel resulted in an 11-2 laugher thanks to only two innings. It’s all hot and cold for Gallardo — in his first three starts, the Brewers relievers allowed no runs, so that nine-run tally is misleading. Thankfully, Gallardo is pitching better than ever, so he’s been able to will his teammates to a 3-1 mark. Of all the Brewers starters, Gallardo’s 3-1 mark is probably most attributable to the starting pitcher (rather than his teammates).

It is worth saying this, too: perhaps if the Brewers bats scored more runs for Gallardo, Roenicke would be able to make decisions that invite less scrutiny.

Tyson Ross (2-2, 25.3 IP, 12 R in 2014; 125 IP, 0 runs prevented in 2013) @ Kyle Lohse (3-1, 27 IP, 10 R in 2014; 198.7 IP, 16 runs prevented in 2013)

Tyson Ross appears to be the Padres’ version of Marco Estrada. After serving seasons in Oakland and San Diego as a swingman, the righty started this season in the Padres’ rotation. Unlike Estrada, who is a relatively soft-throwing change up artist, Ross is a hard-throwing, fastball-slider pitcher. In 2014, Ross is working primarily with two fastballs and a slider; he throws his 86-87 MPH breaking pitch more frequently than his sinker (and, nearly as much as his primary fastball). Like Estrada, however, Ross will have the task of defeating the opposing club’s ace starter; if Ross follows Estrada’s luck, this potential mismatch does not look good for Milwaukee. In fact, even Ross’s own track record is quite good this year: the righty has won two consecutive starts, against Max Scherzer and Matt Cain. (One wonders whether Estrada and Ross will convene in a Secret Meeting of Ace Slayers in the bowels of Miller Park).

During his start in Pittsburgh, Lohse laid-off his sinker in favor of his off-speed pitches. The transition greatly affected his slider selection, as the righty went to his favorite breaking pitch 33 times (out of 110 pitches). For all those sliders, Lohse was not able to use the pitch to retire Pirates batters; only four of his 19 outs were recorded on sliders. Lohse’s change up usage might be the most interesting element of his last start. Of his 18 change ups thrown, five resulted in outs recorded. One wonders whether Lohse’s change up serves as a strong out pitch because it follows the same plane as his sinker, but at a speed that is as much as 10 MPH slower. If batters are generally expecting sinker / slider from Lohse, a change up that gives a similar look as the sinker has great potential to disrupt batters.

Lohse’s ability to use his change up infrequently and extremely effectively (therefore, efficiently) leads one to clamor for him to take Peralta under his wing. If only Peralta can morph that change up into a brutal weapon that sees only 18 selections with five outs during a start.

Resources
BaseballProspectus. Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC., 1996-2014.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2013.
Brewers Radio Network. WTMJ 620. WTMJ / Journal Broadcasting Gorup, 2014.
FanGraphs.
MLB Advanced Media, LP. 2014.
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2014.
Wikipedia.

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