The Brewers inch toward the middle of their stretch of 19 consecutive games against NL Central opponents. Depending on one’s point of view, the clubs’ efforts against the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates are an opportunity for the club to take their young, competitive roster to the next step (while wreaking havoc on the positioning of those teams in the standings). On the other hand, one might note that the Brewers’ success against those clubs (17-31 thus far) does not bode well for a late season spoiler role. The Cardinals have especially beaten up the Brewers this year, winning three one run games against the Milwaukee Nine (not to mention another three wins with margins of five or more runs). Stated simply, the Brewers have their work cut out for them.
Due to a series of injuries, the Cardinals have used ten starters over the course of the 2013 campaign. Oddly enough, even though their FULL pitching staff is approximately 30 runs better than the 2013 NL and Busch III, that mark is not due to a dependable rotation. Rather, the Cardinals have benefited from an exceptional performance by swingman Joe Kelly (15 runs in 64.3 IP since July began) and a consistent performance by newcomer Shelby Miller. The 2013 Cardinals present a solid example that a five man rotation is not always necessary to compete for a division championship.
Tuesday, September 10
Wily Peralta @ Shelby Miller
On August 18, it looked as though Wily Peralta‘s successful stretch of starts was over, as the righty allowed at least 7 runs for the second time in five starts. Since that start against the Reds, however, Peralta boasts a 17 IP / 7 R stretch, including a 14 K / 4 BB / 3 HR fielding independent line. Most recently, Peralta is dividing rising and riding fastballs rather evenly. However, he is also increasing his slider usage, culminating in a 40% slider outing against the Pirates at Miller Park. That slider is jumping, to say the least; over his last three starts, Peralta is throwing a slider that breaks down and away from righties more than his 2013 average for that pitch.
One must wonder if the Cardinals’ starters have a contest rewarding the hurler who throws the most fastballs. Miller’s last start against the Reds featured 68 fastballs, against 12 “cutters,” 11 curves, and 4 change ups. Oddly enough, those 12 “cutters” are apparently the only cutters pitch f/x has tracked all season; on the other hand, BrooksBaseball notes that Miller has thrown more than 70 cutters this season. MLB.com reported in late August that Miller added the cutter to keep batters off of his fastball.
Wednesday, September 11
Marco Estrada @ Lance Lynn
This season, Marco Estrada has distributed 18 home runs over 12 of his starts. Of those 12 starts, he managed to allow fewer than 3 runs three times. In his other five starts, he allowed more than 3 runs once. This isn’t that surprising; I’d be willing to bet that most pitchers are more likely to allow more than 3 runs when they surrender a homer during a start. However, this dichotomy always seems to be sharpened with Estrada, given the extreme divide between his HR and non-HR starts. Estrada’s strike out and walk rates are typically so good that his home runs define his profile as a starter; specifically, Brewers fans, writers, and analysts continually frame his potential for success as an equation involving the longball. Not surprisingly, those five starts where he did not allow a homer become more extreme, almost maddening, examples of Estrada’s potential as a starter.
If Kelly’s story from July onward foreshadows a successful conclusion, Lance Lynn‘s last 13 starts raise questions about his campaign. Since July began, Lynn is at least 15 runs below average, having allowed 3 or fewer runs in only five of those 13 starts. Not unlike some of his teammates, Lynn relies heavily on his fastballs — during his solid first three months, Lynn selected his fastballs more than 3/4 of his offerings. Now, that percentage dropped below 70% since July, and despite throwing a secondary fastball that sinks more, Lynn is lately soliciting more swings and more batted balls in play on his fastballs.
Thursday, September 12
Tyler Thornburg @ Joe Kelly
After being yanked around the bullpen and rotation, Tyler Thornburg gets his chance to start in September. If his recent start against the Pirates is any indication, Thornburg is developing a knack for limiting the longball damage, even when the strike outs don’t come. Fittingly, the young righty threw more than 37% change ups during that start, a key offering for achieving any prolonged success as a starter. The Pirates swung at 19 of 39 changes offered by Thornburg, missing on eight of those swings.
Kelly is a nasty fastball pitcher, and fittingly, during his current masterful stint as starter he has selected his sinking offering more than 2/3 of his deliveries. Neither his curve, slider, nor cutter receive more than 15% of his selections over that time, which enhances the feeling that Kelly can succeed without relying heavily on any particular secondary offering behind his sinker. Kelly pounds the zone with his primary pitch, and when batters swing, they are almost as likely to foul the 94+ MPH sinker as they are to put it into play.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2013.
BrooksBaseball. BaseballProspectus. Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC., 1996-2013.
MLB Advanced Media, LP, 2013.
TexasLeaguers. Trip Somers, 2009-2013.