Tagged: Brewers

NL Central

Note: a “straight run
differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and runs
allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA
without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and the multiplication
by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean Formula with an exponent of 1.83.

The NL
Central is currently a two-team race, with the Cardinals and the Reds
positioning themselves for their July sprint through the top of the NL
East.  The other four teams in the
division are, shall we say, flawed, though not all equally so.  Some, in fact, only resemble Major League



.366 win%, 5
th place, 13.5 GB, 14.5 GB Wild Card.  3.34 runs per game (15th in NL),
5.07 runs allowed per game (13
th in NL).  Straight run differential projection 55 wins
and a .339 win %; component run projection of 51 wins and a .315 win %.

Over the
past two weeks the Astros are 4-9, having played the Rockies, from whom they
took three straight, the Yankees, who swept three straight from Houston, the
Royals, who took two of three from the Astros, the Rangers, who swept the
three-game series, and the Giants, to whom they have lost the first game of
their three-game series.  Over those
games, the Astros have scored 48 runs (3.69 per game) while allowing 75 (5.77
runs per game).  While the scoring is up
by 0.35 runs per game over that stretch, their runs allowed are also up, by
twice that amount, 0.70 runs allowed per game. 
They have won exactly as many games over those 13 as could be expected
given that run differential.

finish the month of June, Houston will play two more home games against the
pitching-rich San Francisco Giants before they visit Arlington to tangle with
the red-hot Rangers, and they will then go north to Milwaukee to play the
Brewers (AKA Tons of Runs, but see below for more on that).

of the Rangers, club president Nolan Ryan has confirmed that
is interested in Roy Oswalt
.  Given
that the
farm system is loaded
with prospects, this could be one stepping stone
along the rebuilding path for the Astros. 

In promoting
catcher Jason Castro, the club’s top 2008 draft pick,
have the Astros
shown they are building for the future

as a team, have a negative value

in terms of
Wins Above Replacement.  They will not be lonely for long, though:
either they will climb their way out of the negative zone, or the Pirates will
join them soon.



.429 win%, 4
th place, 9.0 GB, 10.0 GB Wild Card.  4.87 runs per game (2nd in NL),
5.37 runs allowed per game (14
th in NL).  Straight run differential projection 72 wins
and .444 win %; component run projection 71 wins and .435 win %.

The Brewers,
AKA Tons of Runs, play high scoring games. 
The run scoring environment in 2010 is 4.47 runs per game per team, or 8.94
runs per game, total.  The Brewers, based
on their runs scored and allowed numbers, play games where 10.24 total runs per
game are scored, about 14.5% higher than the league average.  The Brew Crew scores lots of runs, and they
allow lots of runs in a variety of ways, combining substandard pitching with
substandard fielding, which amounts to very substandard run prevention.  On the other hand, they can really hit the heck
out of the ball: they are 2
nd in the National League in scoring,
slugging percentage, and OPS, and they are third in the National League in
on-base percentage.  The problem, of
course, is that the Brewers allow more runs then they score, which is kind of
like the debt spiral of owning more per month than one earns: it’s not really
going to get you anywhere good. 
Fortunately, the Brewers have a shot at the “first division” (top half)
of the Central Divisions since the Cubs may swoon at any moment, and the Astros
and Pirates aren’t really in much of a position to make a run past the Brew
Crew in 2010.

Now, the
past two weeks have been interesting. 
Despite the huge runs allowed numbers we just discussed, the Brewers
have improved that part of their game of late. 
They have played the Cubs, Rangers, Angels, and Rockies.  Milwaukee is 7-6 over those games, and they
have scored 63 runs (4.85 per game) and allowed just 52 (4.00 per game), which
is a
marked improvement compared to the data from the season as a
whole.  It almost makes me feel bad about
the previous paragraph, and I am at a complete loss to explain what is going
on.  Could it be small sample size?  Is their bullpen better?  Has their fielding improved? 

In order
to sort things out, I took a look at some statistics.  The Brewers have shown marginal improvement
in their Defensive Efficiency Ratio, though it just may be that the Dodgers
have had a tremendous falloff, for Milwaukee is no longer the worst team in the
Majors.  At one point this season, their
DER was .014 lower than any other team in the Majors, a degree of difference
larger than the differential between any two other consecutively ranked teams.  As it stands, their DER is the second worst
in the Majors, but they are “only” .020 worse than the Major League
average.  However, this doesn’t really
provide us with evidence that their fielding is all that much better, or, at
least, that their fielding has improved enough to account for their much lower
runs allowed figures in the last two weeks. 
It is more likely that their pitching isn’t as awful as it was earlier
this season. Their xFIP (their expected Fielding Independent Pitching
statistics) no longer sits in the bottom three in the Major Leagues, instead
sitting at a somewhat more respectable–but still bad–24
th in the
baseball, and their ERA is also declining. 
Though the Brewers’ pitching staff still allows the highest rate of line
drives in baseball, their home runs allowed to flyball rate is declining and is
actually lower than that of the Phillies, Yankees, and A’s.  Together with the fact that he Brewers are no
longer dead last in groundball to flyball ratio, we can infer that they are
allowing fewer home runs per batter than they were earlier this season.  And while it’s not a huge change, and while we’re
only talking about a two-week blip, and while they probably won’t compete for a
playoff spot, this is still something for Brewers fans to smile about,
privately.  Of course, the Brew Crew
just take game one of their series with the Twins
, so I guess the smiling
can be public.

The Brewers
finish June by playing two more games against the Twins before welcoming the
Mariners and Astros to Milwaukee.  To
First Pitch Strike, this looks like the Brew Crew’s chance to move back towards
the .500 mark.

what the Brewers should do
, concluding the Fielder and Hart are potential
trade-bait for better pitching.  As he
doesn’t analyze what could replace either of those two pretty good bats, I
wonder whether it just amounts to shifting the runs scored and runs allowed
numbers slightly downwards.  They Brewers
would need to get a proven stud back for either Fielder or Hart to make the
deal worth it, especially for Fielder. 
An analysis of the
organization’s own
potential pitching help
shows that while there’s some potential down in the
minors, it’s also wildly uncertain about how much help it will really be. 



.557 win%, 1
st place, 0 GB. 
4.50 runs per game (10
th in NL), 3.63 runs allowed per game
rd in NL).  Straight run
differential projection for 94 wins and a .580 win%; component run projection
for 91 wins and a .563 winning percentage. 

the Brewers play games where 14.5% more runs are scored than league average,
the Cardinals play games where 9.1% fewer runs than league average are scored.  Their scoring is right around the Major
League average, but their runs allowed per game is much lower. 

Over the
past two weeks, the Cardinals have played the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mariners,
A’s, and they have opened up a series in Toronto with a win over the Blue
Jays.  Over that stretch of games, the
Cardinals are 6-6, and they have scored 50 runs (4.17 per game) while allowing
42 runs (3.50) per game.  They have been
just a little unlucky over this stretch, since their run differential implies
they should have won seven games rather than six.  The Cardinals are probably better than they
have been playing, though their offense isn’t scintillating. 

finish the month, the Cardinals will complete their series in Toronto before
travelling to Kansas City and then returning home to play Arizona. 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Berni Miklasz
points out that
other teams in the NL Central are the Cardinals’ best friends
despite the recent mediocre stretch of play by the Redbirds, no other team has
stepped forward to seize the opportunity. 
(In some ways, the Cardinals should send the Mariners a nice thank you
card, since they swept the Reds over the past weekend to keep St. Louis firmly
in first.)  The larger point of Miklasz’s
column is that the Cardinals have been pressing a little, which tells me that
they themselves think they should be doing better than they have been and aren’t
satisfied with simply leading the division, particularly by only a slim margin. 

hitting a bit of the doldrums, the Cardinals have to remain the favorite in the
division, with perhaps the best balance between run scoring and run prevention
of any of the Central’s teams. 

It is amusing to visit the Post-Dispatch website and see that there’s
a “
Wrong with Albert?
” thread in the fan forums.  The only thing wrong with Albert is that he’s
human and not divine and thus not perfect.



.443 winning percentage, 3
rd place, 8.0 GB, 9.0 GB wild card.  4.20 runs per game (12th in NL),
4.44 runs allowed per game (9
th in NL).  Straight run differential projection for 75
wins and a .461 win%; component run projection for 78 wins and a .481 winning

Over the
past two weeks the Cubs have played the Brewers, White Sox, A’s, Angels, and
they opened a series in Seattle last night;
Mariners shut the Cubbies out
.  The
Cubs hold a 5-8 record in games over the past fourteen days; they have scored
54 runs (4.15 per game), and they have allowed 59 runs (4.54 per game).  Chicago has been somewhat unlucky, as that
run differential implies they should have won 6 of their 13 games.  This stretch of games surely can’t have been
all that encouraging to Cubs fans other than Ted Lilly’s near-no-hitter against
the White Sox. 

The Cubs
just have displayed no consistency in any part of the game, not in the lineup,
not in the rotation, and certainly not in the bullpen.  They are a very average team in the
field.  They can’t pitch like the
Cardinals, and probably not even like the Reds, who can throw Johnny Cueto,
Mike Leake, and Bronson Arroyo at an opponent on successive days.  And Chicago can’t consistently hit on par
with the Brewers or the Reds.  All of
this adds up to the conclusion that they will not challenge for the Central
division title.

Over the
rest of June, the Cubs will finish two more games with the Mariners before
returning to Chicago to visit the White Sox in the Cell, and then to host the
Pirates in the friendly confines.  They
need to play well over this stretch to avoid falling into the Central’s “second
division” for the Brewers have a chance to pass them, and given the Brewers’
inability to prevent runs that would prove embarrassing for the Cubs,
particularly given the payroll differential between these two clubs.

sportswriters are tiring of this particular Cubs team, noting that
are tough
, more importantly, that the
Cubs just aren’t good
, and, finally–and this is music to my ears–the Chicago’s
baseball teams have
management at the top

truth, I have to agree that the Cubs are a poorly run organization, for I fathom
how the Cubs aren’t always a good team: they occupy a
big and major market, they have a solid fan base, and these facts
mean that their revenue stream is assured and large; and this leads to the
conclusion that their not being perennially good is a function of bad
management and, what is worse, indifference at the top, deficiencies keeping Chicago’s
National League team from being the powerhouse they should be. 



.357 winning percentage, 6
th place, 14 GB, 15 GB Wild Card.  3.30 runs per game (16th in the
NL), 5.50 runs allowed per game (15
th in the NL).  Straight run differential projection for 51
wins with a .314 winning percentage; component run projection for 53 wins and a
.328 winning percentage.

And now
we’ve reached a truly sad, sad case.

Here’s a nostalgia-laden story of lost youth to provide some background on what I will write about this team:  I grew up in Bradenton, Florida, the Spring
Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
On Little League opening day, Chuck Tanner, Joel Skinner, Birll Virdon,
Bill Madlock, Tim Foli, Omar Moreno, Bill Robinson, and Kent Tekulve came to
the ceremonies, talked to us, threw our first pitches, did all kinds of awesome
stuff for us.  They did this the two
years I played Little League, and when I moved on to Senior League, I got to play
at Pirate City, the Pirates’ Spring Training Facility, as well as in McKechnie
Field, the ancient but charming ballpark where the Pirates play their home
games in the spring.  As a result, I grew
up a Pirates fan. 

And thus
what is happening in Pittsburgh is painful.  Oh, I deluded myself at the start of Spring, I
thought the organization was moving in the right direction, and maybe they are,
and 2010 is what we have to endure before seeing something good emerge from GM
Neil Huntington’s machinations.  And then
again…wow does 2010 hurt to endure.  This
season, which follows seventeen straight losing seasons, appears like it could
be world historically awful.  The only
reason it isn’t being widely discussed in such terms is the open wound that is
the Orioles.  But they play in a tough,
tough division, while the Pirates play in…the NL Central.  The Pirates are currently at or just barely
above the bottom of the National League in both run scoring and run prevention.  They are, in fact,
allowing more than two runs per game than they are scoring.  How is that even possible?  I mean, they are going to surrender 330 or so
more runs than they score at this pace. 

why after 13 years of living in Minnesota and watching the Pirates, uh, “struggle”
I have transferred quite a bit of my loyalty to the Twins: they are a smaller
market, too, but they at least decided to be competitive.  (I feel a little guilty from time to time, as
though I’ve been cheating on my first love with a hotter, younger
mistress.  But then again, I don’t think
anyone would dispute the fact that my first love…has really let herself go.  I don’t think she’s even brushed her teeth
since Sid Bream slid home safely in ’92, to tell the truth.)

Over the
past two weeks…’zounds, but it’s just been terrible.  *Sigh* 
Over the past two weeks, teams playing the Pirates have been engaging in
a form of necrophilia scrimmages against the weaker competition of, say,
community college Double-A level. 
The Nationals, Tigers, White Sox, and Rangers have picked up 11 wins
against the Pirates.  Since the beginning
of June, the Pirates are 4-14, with a 12-game losing streak, and in the past
two weeks the Pirates have gone 2-11, scoring 44 runs (3.38 per game) and
allowing 65 (5.00 per game).  That run
differential is terrible, but both the runs scored per game and runs allowed
per game are better than their averages for the season as a whole.  The runs allowed figure is 9%
better than their season average, a full
half a run better, and they still managed to drop 11 of 13 games.  While they’ve been unlucky–their run
differential implies they’d win 4 rather than 2 of the last 13–at this point we’re
just quibbling about details.  Since
their run differential in the past two weeks implies a .329 winning percentage,
and since such a winning percentage would imply a 53 win season, what we’re
quibbling about is almost as meaningless as arguing whether the hole in the
hull of the
Titanic was twenty or
thirty feet below the waterline.  The Pirates
appear headed to the sub-cellar–to seventh place in a six-team division–and why
the Pirates trail the Astros despite Houston having a negative team WAR.  I’m beginning to think that Major League
Baseball should just give PNC Park and the Pirate organization to the Rays’
ownership and management group just to see what would happen if the Rays had a
nice park to play in and the Pirates had competent management.

finish a laughably awful June, Pittsburgh will finish their series with the
red-hot Texas Rangers before traveling to Oakland and then to Wrigley Field in
Chicago.  I have no confidence that any
part of this road trip will see the Pirates showing signs of life or even that
they can imitate a baseball-like substance.

nothing left to lose, the Pirates have
up their third base prospect, Pedro Alvarez
.  In turn, Aki
Iwamura was designated for assignment

You’d have to figure that manager John Russell would be
a lot of trouble
, but in a move that can only be described as “providing a
perverse incentive” the Pirates
the contracts
of both John Russell and general manager Neil Huntington.  The Pittsburgh media doesn’t maintain the
neutrality of the national media in assessing these moves,
calling out the “endemic
blundering” of the Pirates’ organization
, and with Pittsburgh sports
columnist Bob Smizik calling the Russell, Huntington, and the ownership “
worst management team in baseball
And Gene Collier argues that
the Rangers’ success
indicts the Pirates
.  Ouch.



.542, 2
nd place, 1.0 GB, 2.0 GB Wild Card.  4.82 runs per game (3rd in NL),
4.61 runs allowed per game (11
th in NL).  Straight run differential projection 86 wins
and a .530 win%; component run projection for 84 wins and a .518 win%.

The Reds’
flirtation with first place continued as recently as last Thursday, but then
they ran into the Mariners, who swept the Reds behind the strong pitching of
Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who allowed the Reds only
one run in the series.  Of course, the
Reds have moved south to Oakland, have taken the first two games of their
series with the A’s and are threatening to take out their brooms, leading game
three 2-0.

Over the
past two weeks, the Reds have played the Giants, Royals, Dodgers, Mariner, and
A’s.  They are 6-8 over that stretch, and
they have scored 52 runs (3.71 per game) while allowing 61 (4.36 per game),
meaning that their offense has let them down of late, for while their run
prevention has improved almost half a run per game, they still lost more games
than they won.

finish the month, the Reds will return to Cincinnati to host the Indians and
then the Phillies. July will bring lots of matchups with NL East teams; in
fact, both the Reds and Cardinals take on the NL East through the month of July
once interleague play mercifully ends. 
Those matchups will do a lot to sort out the leadership of both

Francisco Cordero has looked shaky of late–for example in
Monday night’s game
against the A’s, and June 6
th against the
, and…that’s enough for now–Arthur Rhodes has been a tower of
power for the Reds’ bullpen, again like fine wine and
a 29 inning scoreless streak
; Rhodes’s game log is here

The top
of the Reds’ rotation can be good, what with Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, and Johnny
Cueto, they could be getting deeper, to, as
Volquez is looking sharp in his rehab
work and is on his way back to



When Throwing Errors Kill

In case you missed it, Carlos Gomez doing something silly resulted in something good for his team thanks to a really, really terrible throwing error by the Cubs.  Knowing Gomez, he’ll interpret the outcome as proof that his silliness was fundamentally sound.  Thank goodness he’s in Milwaukee!

Twins Miss Sweep, Drop Last Game to Brewers

The Twins lost the last game of their 3-game series with the Brewers on Sunday, losing 3-4, as their bats went largely silent with runners on base against an odd assortment of Milwaukee pitchers.

In a strange way it fit: the Twins opened Saturday’s game against the Brewers by torching Milwaukee ace Yavoni Gallardo for four runs in the first inning.  While they lost that lead and had to rally to tie the game in the ninth, struggling to finally win that game in extra-innings, they still managed to pull out a win in a game Gallardo started.  On Sunday, however, the Twins struggled against to a cobbled together collection of Brewers’ pitchers (see the bottom left quadrant of the box score).  The irony is this: Manny Parra, who was originally scheduled to start against the Twins, but who did not as he pitched in Saturday’s long extra-inning affair, ended up earning the win for the Brewers on Sunday.  Hmm.
Meanwhile, WOW, did Corey Hart ever pound the crap out of the home run he deposited in the upper deck in left field.  HitTrackerOnline gives the distance as 440 feet.
In WPA news, first basemen Prince Fielder (.181) led  the way, and Brewers’ pitcher Zach Braddock earning .169 WPA for his two innings of work in his first Major League game. 
The Twins have Monday off (as do another 21 teams) before hosting the Yankees for a three-game series which will conclude the regular season meetings with the Bronx Bombers.  (Huh?  Six games?  All in May?  That’s it?   Why, oh WHY are interleague games so important as to deny American League fans the chance to see the best ballclubs in the AL compete against one another over the course of the season?)  

Twins-Brewers: Good, Bad, Ugly

The Twins again struck early and often before winning ugly in a game that included all the elements from the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone classic, being Good, Bad, and Ugly all at the same time.

Minnesota wasted no time in jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st inning against Brewers’ ace Yovani Gallardo, who is practically the only bright staff on Milwaukee’s beleaguered pitching staff.  
Gallardo, however, recovered beautifully, and shut down the Twins from the second to sixth innings.  The Twins struck in the first inning for four hits and drew two walks (one intentional), but Gallardo allowed only two hits and one more base on balls over the last five innings of work, striking out a total of five.
Gallardo drew repeated words of praise from the Twins’ broadcasting duo of Dick Bremer and Bert Blylenven, who compared him favorably to former Montreal Expos’ stud starter Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez, whose plus fastball and electrifying curve made him one of the two or three best starting pitchers in the National League in the early nineties.  (Yes, gentle reader, First Pitch Strike remembers him well.) 
Have no doubt, after the first inning, Gallardo was really, really good, much better, really than Kevin Slowey, the Twins’ starter, who once again could not complete six innings of work.  The Twins did themselves a big favor by jumping all over Gallardo in the first inning, for without that mini-explosion of runs, they would likely have lost this game, because..then the bad and ugly intervened to make this game close.
Though the Twins carried a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning, the Brewers’ bats arrived in the top of that inning and they scored five (5!) runs, against Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch and seized a 7-6 lead.  
It was quite the inning, full of good (for Brewers fans), bad (for both sides) and ugly (mostly for Twins’ fans) moments: Jody Gerut singled; Aldides Escobat singles; George Kottaras walked, still no one out; Rauch entered the game and proceeded to surrender a two-run double to Rickie Weeks; Carlos Gomez–yes, that guy–singles scoring both Kottaras and Weeks and tying the game; and then Ryan Braun hit a hot shot on a line that Casilla made a great play on, catching it and quickly throwing to first to double off Gomez (million dollar talent, five cent head), so two outs, which was a very good thing since the next batter, Prince Fielder walked; Casey McGehee smashed one off the wall in left that Delmon Young (surprise!) misplayed a little, and Prince scored from first; finally, Corey Hart struck out.  But the damage was done and the Brewers led 7-6.   
The Twins tied the ball game in the bottom of the ninth and almost won it, but for those pesky ground rules.  Morneau led off with a double, Cuddyer advanced him to third, and following a Kubel strike out, Delmon Young, in an attempt to redeem himself, hit a long flyball to left that bounced off the warning track and into the seats for a ground-rule double.  Cuddyer, who was at first, was held to advancing to third due to the ground rule double.  He may well have scored had the ball stayed in the field of play.  In fact, I think the game would have ended right there had the ball not entered the stands.  At any rate, the Twins tied up the game, and Carlos Villanueva, the new Brewers closer, did his job from there, intentionally walking Thome, then striking out Punto and getting Span to fly out to rightfielder Corey Hart.
The next two innings stayed scoreless, but were not without drama, including a spectacular two-out catch against the wall by Corey Hart on a hard-hit ball by Delmon Young that saved and extended the game for the Brewers.
Eventually the Brewers were forced to use tomorrow’s scheduled starting pitcher, Manny Parrai, in relief as the game dragged on longer than either manager obviously anticipated.  (Who will start tomorrow for the Brewers will be an interesting thing to see, though I don’t think we’ll see Dave Bush again in this series.)  
Jason Kubel finally ended the lengthy affair with a bases loaded sacrifice fly to right field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the twelfth, giving the Twins a 8-7 victory in a game they never should have had to scratch and fight for.  Seriously?  If you are the home team and lead by 5 in the top of the ninth, well that game has just got to be in the bag.  Especially playing a club who’s been down and appears headed to even deeper depths like the Brewers.
This game was more than ugly, no matter who you were rooting for, despite the pretty pitching from Gallardo and the thrilling moments in the late innings.
The Good:
Yavoni Gallardo, despite his negative WPA he was impressive once the bottom of the first ended; from that point on he was lights out.
Justin Morneau: .383 WPA
Michael Cuddyer: .286 WPA
Casey McGehee: And not just because the pronunciation of his last name makes no sense, but also for his .277 WPA and his clutch go-ahead double in the top of the ninth.
The Bad:
Span’s 0 for 7 and -.217 WPA, and for looking really silly when he flew out to right after leaving the batter’s box with arms held high thinking that the ball was leaving the yard.  He didn’t pull any Carlos Gomez crap, but *sigh* nonetheless.
The Ugly:
Ryan Braun’s -.432 WPA including two consecutive plate appearances that ended with Braun hitting sharply at Morneau who started double plays on each of those balls.  Tough luck, but still ugly stuff in the late innings of a tight and winnable game.
And the UGLIEST:
Jon Rauch and his -.621 WPA and a nasty, repugnant blown save.  Wow.  Easily his worst outing of the year, and maybe of his Twins’ career.
Only one more game to go in this series, and I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Twins Crush Brewers in Series Opener, 15-3

Well, my prediction was only half-right, but I am glad about the half I got right.  

In my series preview, I noted that Brewers’ starter Dave Bush’s tendency to nibble would likely lead to lots of Twins baserunners and scoring opportunities, and he didn’t fail to please, lasting 1/3 of an inning, as the Twins capitalized early and often, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first.  Bush argued with the umpire over a borderline call–but when you nibble how many of those do you expect to get, anyway?–and then “imploded”.

Blackburn performed much better than I had anticipated, carrying a shutout through seven innings, and scattering seven hits of 7 1/3 innings of work.
The Twins scored 12 runs over the first four innings of the game and cruised to victory.
More importantly, the Twins’ win, combined with the Dodgers 4-1 victory over the Tigers, gives the Twins a 1 game lead in the AL Central Division.
The Brewers, for their part, scored 3 runs on a Carlos Gomez homerun, committed an error, and finished the game with a Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .471 for the game, an astoundingly low number.  
The Wrap and highlights can be seen here.
WPA chart and data can be found here.
Game 2 tomorrow at 3:10 pm CDT.
Go Twins!
What the hell is up with Carlos Gomez, anyway?  He flips his bat into Mauer after hitting a long 3-run shot, when his team was down by 15 (!) then tells Mauer to zip it?  He ought not dig in too deeply next time he comes to the plate.  Apparently, he will apologize, which he ought to, as this is the account from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Minnesota right-hander Nick Blackburn dominated through seven shutout innings until he gave up a three-run home run to Carlos Gomez with one out in the eighth.

Gomez preened and posed as he walked out of the box and watched the bomb. Blackburn glared at his former teammate, and as Joe Inglett crossed the plate, catcher Joe Mauer told him to inform Gomez he needs to watch where he flips his bat because it hit Mauer.

When Mauer tried to say it to Gomez as he crossed the plate, Gomez thought he was talking trash and ignored him and motioned with his hands for Mauer to close his mouth.

After talking to Inglett about it, Gomez regretted his actions.

“I’m going to apologize,” Gomez said, referring to Blackburn. “It’s nothing personal. I just got so excited. Right now, I feel bad because he’s one of the good friends I have over there.”

Brewers v. Twins in Target Field For the Weekend

The Twins and Brewers hook up in a decent interleague matchup–at least they are geographic rivals–this weekend.  Entering this series we have to ask, are these ballclubs headed in different directions?  Well, the only reason to ask this question is that the Twins have lost three straight while the Brewers have a winning streak of one in a row, after finally ending a nine-game skid with a win over the Pirates.  Okay, so that last part isn’t so impressive, but it makes for some pseudo-dramatic reading doesn’t it?  Okay, so it doesn’t.

Anyway, it is the case that the Twins’ recent eastern swing wasn’t so successful: they went 2-5 and now find themselves in a first-place tie in the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers.  I’m not going to get all apocalyptic on anyone or start hyperventilating, if for no other reason that I don’t want to be a target for Erin of “Twinkie Talk” who gets nicely sarcastic on the East-Coast-like near-panic over three losses in a row (you, there, in the Boston and New York sporting press, yeah, you, you know who you are), so I’m simply going to say: “Go Dodgers!”
In Twins player notes, J. J. Hardy will not be available for the Twins for this series against the Brewers.  That kind of stinks, since he has been very good defensively, and, for some reason, Gardenhire is keeping his next-best shortstop, Nick Punto, at third, and instead playing guys at short who are significantly less good than Punto.  This makes First Pitch Strike very confused and wondering what the hell the deal is.  But First Pitch Strike needs to watch his blood pressure and will leave it at that.
Another quick note on Twins’ players concerns Michael Cuddyer’s astonishing number of double play groundouts, for, having already grounded into 12 double plays, he is on pace to break shatter Jim Rice’s record of 36 double play groundouts in a season (I mean, at this rate Cuddyer is looking at, say, 49 GDPs in a season; that’s breaking the previous record by, oh, 36% which is like breaking Hack Wilson’s RBI record by putting up 260 or something crazy like that).  Nick at “Nick’s Twins Blog” points to data that Cuddyer isn’t grounding into an unusually high rate of double plays, in fact, his groundball % is down this season, rather, it’s that the guys in front of him the lineup, Mauer and Morneau, are on base so damn much that sharply hit grounders off Cuddyer’s bat simply end up being converted into twin killings (pun fully intended).
In Brewers’ news, “Twinkie Town” presents us with two conversations with members of the Brewers’ faithful (Brewer Backers?  Brew Consumers?  Brewmeisters?  It turns out the correct answer is “all of the above”).
First, we have a Q&A with a Brewer Viewer, who expresses discontent with manager Ken Macha and closer Trevor Hoffman.  Second, in a different post, we get the following gem of a capsule summary of the Brewers’ season thus far:

Prince is having a tough year.  Braun is great, and Casey McGehee is a welcome addition to the team.  Our starters are okay, our middle relief is bad, and our closer is having the worst year of his Hall of Fame career.

The Brewers are having some real problems preventing runs, but they sure can hit the heck out of the ball.  On the hitting side, they are averaging 5.22 runs per game, the fifth highest total in the Majors.  Their team wOBA of .352 is third highest in the Majors, and first in the National League. So the offense is not their problem.  It is the other stuff about baseball–the pitching and fielding parts–that are the problem, and very large problems they have proven to be.  (You should check out that last link–“Brewers = Tons of Runs”–for while it is yet another self-referential link, I spent a decent amount a time–and a whole lot of words–tackling the Brewers’ lack of fielding and pitching prowess.)
Starting Pitching matchups for this weekend series are as follows.  
Friday has Dave Bush facing Nick Blackburn.  Bush was pretty good, once, but he’s turned into something of a nibbler.  Patience at the plate by the Twins will lead to many baserunners and long innings.  As far as Blackburn is concerned, he has been giving up hits in droves of late, but the Twins have winning those ballgames nonetheless.  The Brewers can really hit the longball, so I am a bit worried by Blackburn’s base-clogged innings, and I am looking for Friday’s game to be a long one with, with plenty of baserunners and RBI opportunities for both teams.
Saturday sees the Brewers sending their ace Yovani Gallardo out against the Twins’ Kevin Slowey.  While Gallardo’s first two starts didn’t go so well, he has shown true ace-like stuff and results since then.  He K’s a lot of guys (over 1 per inning), he walks a lot of guys (over 4 per 9 innings), but he give up a below average rate of homeruns, and this season his flyball allowed rate is less than 30%.  He’s misses bats and kills worms, the secret to success in The Show.   Slowey, on the other hand, is an extreme flyball pitcher, this season inducing groundballs at a rate of less than 30%, and even though his home run per flyball rate is lower than his career rate, he is still surrendering 1.43 home runs
per 9 innings.  Ouch.  I can guarantee a difference in style between these two pitchers, and maybe a difference in result, to, depending on the weather situation on Saturday, which looks to be warm and muggy.  Hmm.  This is probably the game the Brewers’ bats win in a big way.
On Sunday, in the series’ finale, Manny Parra will pitch for the Brewers against Carl Pavano of the Twins.  This may be a game with a score more reminiscent of a Packers-Vikings game, somewhere in the double digits.  Parra has been mainly pitching out the bullpen for the Brewers this season, with only 1 start so far.  His WHIP stands a shade over 1.5 for the season, which implies lots of baserunners and thus lots of chances for the Twins.  Pavano, for his part, has been hit hard by the Royals and the Blue Jays.  At first I first thought that these clubs were notoriously free swinging, as measured by the spread between team batting average and team on-base percentage.  Given Pavano’s control (only 1.25 BB/9), the hackers were getting pitches in the zone to swat early in the count while more patient clubs were falling behind in the count and hitting pitches Pavano wanted them to put into play.  However, when I actually checked the data the Jays and Royals aren’t significantly less patient–using the OBP-AVG measure, at least–than the other ballclubs Pavano has faced.   The Orioles throw a monkey-wrench into my hypothesis.
In the American League the difference between OBP (.330) and AVG (.258) is .072 for the league as a whole.  There is a standard deviation of .010 for all the ballclubs in the AL.   Here is a representation of the ballclubs, their OBP-AVG spreads–which we will call “SPREAD”–and where they stand standard deviation-wise from the league average (the formula = ((Team SPREAD – AL SPREAD)/standard deviation of SPREADS).  DfM means “Deviations from the Mean.”  From farthest beneath the league average to highest above:
TEAM          OBP      AVG     SPREAD DfM
AL                .330      .258      .072                
KC               .332      .275      .057         -1.50
BAL             .315      .255      .060         -1.20
LAA             .310      .249      .061         -1.10
OAK             .316      .252      .064         -0.80
TEX              .338      .271      .067         -0.50
TOR             .310      .242      .068         -0.40
TB                .333      .257      .076          0.40      
SEA             .311      .233      .078          0.60
BOS             .348     .270       .078          0.60
DET              .349     .271       .078          0.60
MIN              .350      .270      .080          0.80
CHA             .314      .233      .081          0.90
CLE              .331     .246       .085         1.30
NYA             .365     .279        .086         1.40                
Okay, so what did I learn?  The Yankees are very, very patient.  The Royals aren’t. See, Toronto and Kansas City are among the less patient teams that Pavano has faced, but the Orioles and the Angels also aren’t patient, and Pavano did fine against them, so the patience factor doesn’t explain the variation in Pavano’s results.
For those who care, but by this point no one does, the Brewers have a spread of .079 and the spread for the NL as a whole is .074, but I haven’t run all the NL numbers, so that means nothing.
Anyway, enjoy Brewers at the Twins.  
As always, Go Twins!

Brewers = Tons of Runs

Ken Rosenthal writes at FOX Sports that the Brewers “need a pitching makeover.”  He concludes that “[a]n awfully good offense…is going to waste.”  He is correct.  

As Rosenthal points out and then asks and answers:
Their 15-24 record includes 10 wins in which they scored eight or more runs. They are 5-24 — that’s right, 5-24 — in games in which they fail to score eight.

What does that tell you?

Their pitching stinks.

Although Rosenthal is quick to point out that the team’s defensive efficiency, uh, isn’t very efficient, I don’t think he’s even scratched the surface of how truly bad the fielding has been.
At a very minimum we must say that the Brewers’ efforts at run prevention, if that’s what they can be called, are not demonstrating much effect.
I mean, I knew that Milwaukee would hit the heck out of the ball but have problems preventing their opponents from scoring, but what is going on right now is close to travesty: they are allowing 5.7 runs per game, while the Major League average is 4.49 runs scored per game, which means they are allowing 1.2 more runs per game than the average, which is 26.7% more than the average.  
Clearly, when you look at the Brewers’ roster it just jumps out at you that their best players play the position “hitter”.  Unfortunately, they are a National League team, and every player who wants to bat also has to play the field.  Outside of Carlos Gomez, who is actually performing with the bat in a way he didn’t in Minnesota (.276/.321/.447, .356 wOBA), no one else is all that great with the glove.  Well, their shortstop, Alcides Escobar has a lot of potential, but…
Anyway, back to the point, the Brewers are giving up a ghastly number of runs because they have both bad pitching and a bad defense behind it.
The pitching is pretty impressively bad.  Their team ERA of 5.31 is the 3rd worst in the Majors.  The two teams that are worse than Milwaukee are Arizona, whose bullpen has been abysmal, and Pittsburgh, whose pitching was repeatedly lit up by Milwaukee in April, giving up something like 53 runs in the first four games with the Brewers.  The Brewers’ pitchers are giving up the highest number of baserunners per inning (1.606 WHIP against the MLB average of 1.373), though part of this is a function of their terrible defensive efficiency.  
The Brewers’ BABIP against is .338, also worst in the Majors, though, again, this is partly a function of their MLB worst defensive efficiency ratio.  Their FIP is, like their team ERA, third worst in the Major Leagues, sitting at 4.72 against a MLB average of 4.00.  However, the Brewers’ xFIP–their “expected” fielding independent pitching statistics–is “only” 4.45, which is only 20th out of the 30 Major League teams, which would seem to indicate that their pitching isn’t in an of itself the worst it could possibly be.  
Unfortunately, some of the Brewers’ other peripheral pitching statistics feed the argument that their pitching is terrible.  First their pitchers are giving up the second highest line drive rate in the Majors.  Since line drives turn into hits about 70% of the time, this, in and of itself, means that their pitchers would be giving far more baserunners than an “average” staff.  Secondly, the Brewers’ pitchers have allowed the highest home run to flyball rate (12.3%) in the Majors, a rate that is 1% higher than any other teams, and almost twice the rate of the best team in the Majors, the Tigers, whose HR/flyball ratio is 6.9%.  
So, indeed, as Rosenthal claims the Brewers’ pitching is terrible.
However, their lack of fielding ability makes is so much worse than it would necessarily be.  No matter what measure of fielding one uses, the Brewers come up as one of the three worst teams in the Majors, meaning that their gloves give their sorry arms no help at all.  For example, the Brewers’ UZR/150 is 3rd worst in the Majors.  They have made the 5th highest number of errors with 30.  They are 4th worst in terms of Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average at -20, while the best team, the Tampa Bay Rays, are at 22, for a net difference of 42(!).  
The Brewers are 5th worse in terms of (the wretched and lame metric) fielding percentage.  While they have turned an above-average number of double plays, this fact has a lot to do with the unbelievable number of baserunners they have allowed.  And, as Rosenthal noted, the Brewers’ Defensive Efficiency Ratio, the rate at which they transform batted balls in play into outs, is dead last in Major League Baseball, .650 compared to the Major League average of .690.  In fact, their DER trails the next worst teams by .014, which is the largest gap between consecutively ranked teams.  Ouch, now that is sucking.
No matter how you slice it, the Brewers are one terrible defensive team, meaning their gloves are hurting their arms, which are already painfully bad.  Improving their pitching can’t hurt, but even improvement in their actual pitching performance might well be drowned out by their incredibly bad fielding.  The gap between their xFIP and FIP sort of demonstrate this, though I can’t quantify the degree to which their spectacularly bad fielding makes their already bad pitching appear to be world-historically awful.  Lets just say that while their pitching sucks, their fielding makes it appear to really, really, really suck.
In support of Rosenthal, I have to admit that Trevor Hoffman hasn’t needed any, uh, help from his fielders to suck so far this year. He is grabbing some wood on the bench for at least a little while.
I’m not trying to criticize Rosenthal at all, but I just thought it was important to note that pitching and fielding are hand and glove, that is, their effects are interrelated and must be considered together.  To the extent we can separate out these effects, we have to conclude that the Brewers can’t pitch and c
an’t field.  The overall effect of these failures is pretty apparent, as they have a winning percentage of about .200 when they score less than eight runs.  Ouch!
The Crew needs help.