Monday, April 15, 2013

Brewers/Cardinals series review - Well at least the bullpen was better

Friday, 4/12 Cardinals 2, Brewers 0
Saturday, 4/13 Cardinals 8, Brewers 0
Sunday, 4/14 Brewers 4, Cardinals 3

Win Probability Added stars (WPA explanation here)
April 14th, Yuniesky Betancourt doubled to right, Carlos Gomez scores (+.401 WPA)
April 14th, Jonathan Lucroy homered to left (+.385 WPA
April 14th, Carlos Beltran grounded out to shortstop (Burke Badenhop pitching) (-.166 WPA)

As you can see, all of the big plays for the Brewers happened on Sunday. That's because that's the only game they scored runs. If math is to be believed, it also bears reasoning that Sunday's game is the only game they won. The Cards clearly outplayed them in every facet during the weekend, with one lone exception; bullpen. That seems odd, but the Cardinals bullpen actually has a higher ERA than the Brewers bullpen. Most of that is thanks to Cards "closer" Mitchell Boggs, who was shaky on Friday and awful on Sunday. The Brewers relievers, on the other hand, pitched 7 2/3 innings and giving up two runs (zero earned), keeping them in two of the games. 

Friday's game was a pitching duel between Kyle Lohse and Shelby Miller, with Shelby Miller coming out on top as the Brewers' bats failing to show up. Saturday was more of the same, except Yovani Gallardo pitched poorly (as he does against St. Louis) while his counterpart Adam Wainwright threw a brilliant 4-hit shutout with a whopping 12 strikeouts. Both Miller and Wainwright were terrific, but for their part the Brewers' bats swung at too many bad pitches. No offense in baseball was getting to Wainwright on Saturday, but Miller threw a lot of pitches over the plate and the offense couldn't capitalize.

Sunday seemed like a variation on the theme, as the offense couldn't muster anything against Jamie Garcia's soft pitches (his fastball dipped as low as 84 mph during the 5th inning) and Brewers starter Marco Estrada couldn't keep the Cards' bats off the board. The offense finally woke up in the 8th against flamethrowing reliever Trevor Rosenthal, when Ryan Braun hit a two-run oppo-taco to score the first Brewers runs of the series. They added a run in the 9th to tie, and probably should have had more were it not for a series of poor management decisions that led to a popped-up bunt and a baserunning blunder. Lucroy's tater in the 10th gave them the lead, and the combo of Brandon Kintzler, Mike Gonzalez, and Burke Badenhop got through the bottom of the 10th with a big assist to the defensive shift that Carlos Beltran grounded into for the final out. 

All told, it was a pretty poor series for the Crew despite Sunday's win. The offense as a whole was pretty awful despite some solid pitching performances. The Cardinals are obviously a very good team and beating them at home is not easy, but even with how good St. Louis' pitching was it's hard to excuse how bad the offense played. But the bullpen pitching better was a good sign, and both Lohse and Estrada performances were impressive against a tough Cardinals offense. All told, there wasn't anything to be learned from this series besides the Brewers missing Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez a whole lot. That and the Cards are better at playing baseball.

MVP: Jonathan Lucroy

I almost gave this to Lohse, who threw an excellent game on Friday, but after some further research I had to go with Luc. Aside from his game-winning homer and an excellent tag to nail a runner at the plate, his pitch-framing was unbelievable. Just look at some of these called strikes (click to embiggen).

Obviously not all of it is Lucroy's framing, what with umpires being human and all, but the Brewers lead baseball in extra called strikes and we already know Lucroy is a pitch-framing wizard. Even with only one noteworthy game at the plate in the series, Lucroy's impact behind the plate was evident in every game.

LVP: Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo pitched poorly for the third start in a row. If he's trying to pitch to contact to be more efficient, it's not working. His fastball isn't moving enough at this point to get away with throwing it in the meaty part of the zone. He's still racking up high pitch counts and isn't getting enough whiffs. On the positive side, he's not had a big problem with walks and there's almost certainly some bad luck with balls in play, but he needs to pitch better. He had a tough task in facing a potent lineup on Saturday, but threw too many pitches over the plate and eventually it cost him. Three starts is a very small sample, so there's still plenty of time to turn it around.

Play of the Series
Luc's homer won Sunday's game, but it wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Braun's two-run shot. Extra points for going opposite field off a tough reliever. 

What's Next:

The Brewers begin a six-game homestand against the Giants and Cubs on Tuesday. San Francisco comes into town first, and are off to a good start. Milwaukee is fortunate to avoid Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, but there are some interesting pitching matchups nonetheless. Hey, we get to face Barry Zito! 

4/16 - Peralta vs. Zito
4/17 - Fiers vs. Vogelsong
4/18 - Lohse vs. Cain

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