Monday, August 13, 2012

News and notes; Weeks is back, mystery strike zone in Houston, Fiers in Coors

Rickie Weeks is back
Weeks was comically bad to start the season, slashing a .153/.286/.288 line through May 29th and playing terrible defense while striking out at a prolific clip. Weeks seemed lost at the plate and in the field, was removed from the leadoff role, and fans began to wonder if Weeks was done as a player. However, since May 30th, Weeks has hit .263 with seven home runs while maintaining his stellar walk rate. His defense has also improved and he's added five steals in that time frame. It appears that his apocalyptic early season performance was more of a BABIP fluke (.189 BABIP in May) along with a propensity to stare at strike three a little too much. Manager Ron Roenicke moved Weeks back up in the order to the #2 spot on Sunday, a sign that the team has regained confidence in Weeks. Fans should do the same.

Houston's goofy strike zone
The Brewers are coming off an uninspiring weekend in Houston, where they lost two of three to a team that hadn't won a series since the Reagan administration. The bullpen didn't do the team any favors, but the offense in particular looked out of sorts against an awful Houston rotation. However, by looking at the called strike zones, it's not hard to see why.

Bud Norris

Dallas Keuchel

Jordan Lyles

These are just the called strike zones from the Houston starters, and Houston's relievers benefited from more of the same. The only thing I can add about this is that the strike zone all weekend was just bizarre. On the Milwaukee side only Marco Estrada seemed to get the same treatment (which he did nothing with), and Jordan Lyles is the only Houston starter that didn't get a primarily beneficial zone. I don't think that the home plate umpires were favoring Houston, but many hitters seemed to have no idea what was a ball or strike, and clearly neither did the umpires. So while Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez, and Ryan Braun looked bad during the series, this might help explain why. Oh, and here's Yovani Gallardo's called strike zone.

Somehow I don't think home plate umpire David Rackley will be getting a Christmas card from Yo.

Mike Fiers pitching in Coors
The Brewers start a series in Denver tonight, and despite how horrible the Rockies are as a team, this is an important test for rookie hurler Mike Fiers. Despite an unimpressive repertoire, Fiers has blown through the competition thus far to the tune of a 1.80 ERA with a 2.22 FIP and a 5.00 K/BB ratio. Fiers was outstanding in his last start against the Reds, pitching eight innings of one-run ball and took a perfect game into the seventh inning. That start was particularly notable because it's the first time he'd faced an opponent for the second time. Monday night's game in Colorado will prove a stiffer test.

Coors is and always has been an extreme hitters park in every sense of the word, as the thin air in Denver encourages home runs makes it harder to field sharp grounders and line drives. It also keeps breaking balls from breaking (curves and sliders tend to break 25% less than they do at sea level), which might negate Fiers' looping curveball and turn him strictly into a fastball-changeup pitcher - a dangerous proposition for a guy with a 31% ground ball rate. I wouldn't be surprised to see Fiers favor his cutter a little more in this game, and he may survive simply because the Rockies haven't seen him yet. Either way, it will probably take a bit more luck for Fiers to escape Coors unscathed.

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