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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Both the Reds (19-16) and Brewers (15-17) enjoyed a day of rest to prepare for this important three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park.

A week ago, Milwaukee was only a game out in the NL Central. Then the Cardinals showed up to Miller Park and punched the Brew Crew in the mouth, sweeping a four game series. Smoking sausage casings were everywhere. (Yeah, I know, the wurst joke ever.) The Brewers then split a two-game series against the Texas Rangers.

Since 2012, the Reds and Brewers have essentially traded places on the team payroll chart. The Brewers slashed total salaries from $94 to $80 million, while the Reds have increased theirs from $82 to $101 million.

THE BREW CREW AT BAT

As always, it appears the Brewers can hit. They are second in the NL in OPS (Reds are 5th) but only a middling seventh in runs scored (Reds are second). But take Milwaukee out of the comfortable confines of Miller Field and it’s a different ball game. In road games, they rank only 12th out of 15 teams. Don’t gloat, the Reds are 13th in away games.

Here is the Brewers’ usual lineup. At catcher, they alternate Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.

1. Norichika Aoki (L) RF
2. Jean Segura (R) SS
3. Ryan Braun (R) LF
4. Aramis Ramirez (R) 3B
5. Rickie Weeks (R) 2B
7. Carlos Gomez (R) CF

Q. Without looking it up, who is leading the Brewers in HR?

A. Ryan Braun, former MVP? No, but that’s the logical first choice, he has seven.

A. Must be Ricky Weeks then, he’s always hitting it out against the Reds. Another reasonable guess, but the Brew Crew’s second baseman only has two and is mired in a slump that has local fans calling for his outright benching.

A. Corey Hart? Hardly, he hasn’t played a single game this year because of knee surgery. Due back in late May. Try again.

A. Cecil Fielder? No, that’s a terrible guess. You’re thinking of his son, Prince.

A. Oh right, Prince Fielder? Another bad guess. He hasn’t been a Brewer for over a year. Prince is now blasting homers for the Detroit Tigers. Seriously, you don’t remember this? I bet Bronson does.

A. How about Carlos Gomez, he takes a home run cut on every swing. Nope, but not a bad guess, he has six. And he might be the hottest player in baseball, batting .494 in his last 21 games and leads the major leagues with a .386 average. During his current 14-game hitting streak, Gomez is 26-for-53 (.491) with four home runs and nine RBIs. And it may not entirely be a fluke.

A. Oh, what about Jean Segura, their slick new second baseman acquired in the Zack Grienke trade with the Angels? No. Segura is sweet, and off to a great start, but he only has four homers. Keep guessing.

A. There’s that outfielder who popped a couple of home runs against us last year, his name is Aoki, I think. He’s the Brewers lead-off hitter, and he did hit well against the Reds last year, but keep guessing.

A. Robin Yount? Ha. No, and don’t guess Paul Molitor either.

A. Oh, I know, Aramis Ramirez, former Cubs 3B. A fair guess, but shockingly, he’s been hurt most of the season and only has 27 at bats.

Give up?

The correct answer is Yuniesky Betancourt, their shortstop first baseman who has eight.

Betancourt is famous, or probably better to say infamous, for being incredibly bad at professional baseball. Don’t believe me? Check out any of these: a Brewers blog, FanGraphs, another Brewers blog, even a Yankees blog. The best take down of Betancourt was by Joe Posnanski, who in 2009, systematically explained that Yuni was the single worst player in baseball. Sadly, that Posnanski blog and all its posts appears lost forever. But is it possible that Yuni is actually better now, suddenly, as a 31-year old? Probably not. Probably not.

MILWAUKEE ON THE MOUND

The Brewers might be able to swing the bats, but they’ve been awful at that other part of the game. They rank dead last, by a wide margin, in ERA in the National League (Reds are fifth) and next to last in FIP (Reds fifth, again). Milwaukee’s main problem has been giving up the long ball. Here are the probable pitchers for the series.

Yovani Gallardo (27) remains the ace of the Brewers’ rotation. He’ll be making his 16th start against the Reds, holding a 5-5 lifetime record. His strikeout rate this year (5.57 K/9) is far below his career level (9.03 K/9). Many aspects of Gallardo’s career are eerily similar to Homer Bailey’s. They were both selected in the 2004 amateur draft, Bailey was taken in the first round, Gallardo in the second. Their major league debuts both occurred at the age of 21. Bailey’s first game was on June 8, 2007, while Gallardo debuted ten days later. On the other hand, Homer has one more no hitter than Gallardo and if Gallardo has ever killed an African lion with a bow and arrow, I haven’t read about it.

Marco Estrada (29) has pitched much better than his record (2-2), ERA (6.05) or FIP (5.78) indicate. He’s given up fewer line drives and fly balls, but his luck on fly balls leaving the park has been poor. His xFIP (neutralized for home run luck) is 3.84, which is much more in line with his career ERA/FIP. He has a well above average strikeout rate 9.08 K/9. Estrada’s career record against the Reds is 1-3 in four starts. His matchup with Tat Latos should be a good one.

Wily Peralta (24) will be making his second career start against the Reds. The rookie right-hander from the Dominican Republic has an ERA of 5.54 and FIP of 4.45. So far, his strikeout rate is extremely low 4.62 K/9 but it has been considerably higher in the minor leagues. His one start against the Reds came in the last week of the 2012 season when he pitched 5+ innings, giving up only 2 hits and one walk while striking out six. The Brewers led that game 1-0 until their closer, John Axford (more on him in a second) blew the game in the ninth inning.

The Brewers’ starting rotation certainly doesn’t compare to that of the Cardinals, Nationals, Braves or the Reds. If you’re wondering why the Brewers probably can’t compete for the division title in 2013, look no further. Another reason is …

THE BREWERS’ BULLPEN

You may remember John Axford, the Brewers on-again, off-again closer. On Opening Day 2011 in Cincinnati, Axford gave up a two-out, walk-off home run to Ramon Hernandez. Since then, as Milwaukee’s closer, Axford has had both awesome and dreadful stretches. Right now, he’s not so good. This weekend, you’ll likely see him in the eighth inning setting up for hard-throwing Jim Henderson. Henderson (31) has converted all seven of his save opportunities so far, proving that even journeymen right-handers with one pitch can be relatively successful at closing.

If you’re worried about their lefty relievers (and given the state of the Reds’ bench, you should be), the Brewers have two decent ones. Tom Gorzelanny and Michel Gonzalez are both off to pretty good starts in 2013 and you can expect them to see plenty of late-inning action in any game the Brewers aren’t way behind or way ahead.

32 thoughts on “Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

  1. Reds could really use a sweep this weekend. So I hope they don’t take the Brewers lightly. They have got some hitters.
    Cingrani was getting the ball up too often in his last outing vs. the Cubs. He only gave up 3 hits and 1 BB but they all scored on the two dingers by Soriano. Hope he keeps it down against the Brewers strong RH hitters tonight. He can throw that high cheese on those two strike counts he gets.

  2. Betancourt’s numbers so far this year scream PEDs at the top of their lungs. Just sayin…

    I mean, what teammate could he have possibly gotten involved with that would have gave him that idea??

    • @BearcatNation: It’s sad that every time someone who’s been a mediocre baseball player has a career season, especially in terms of power numbers, that he will be assumed to be using PEDs. You’re the only one who said it here but I’m sure there are fans all over baseball that think it to be the case. I’m not very sure what MLB can do to stop this other than run a clean game for several years. It’s clear that he steroid era has severely damaged the state of our beloved game and it is a horrible shame.

      As for Yuni, he’s always had a little pop. He’s the kind of guy that can smack 10-15 HR over a full season. His first month so far this year has been out of character but it could simply be the product of him running into a few. If he has more than 20 HR by the end of the season, I’ll be surprised.

  3. This is a good series for the Reds. No Lohse, and there’s been some success against Yo. And, as Steve points out… their bullpen still is suspect. Take, take, and take. And remember, because of that bullpen, the Reds will always be in the game, short of a meltdown of their own pitching. Go get ‘em tonight Tony.

  4. Jean Segura is a stud, though he makes some hilarious baserunning gaffes.

    Anybody that hasn’t seen Segura’s adventures before, this is the best:

    On April 19, Segura stole second on a 2-2 pitch to Ryan Braun in the eighth inning of the Brewers/Cubs game. On the next pitch, Braun walked.

    Three pitches after that, Segura attempted to steal third, but broke before the Cubs pitcher started his pitch. The Cubs pitcher turned around and Segura was caught in a pickle between second and third. Braun smartly ran to second base, but Segura scrambled back to the bag to join him.

    The Cubs tagged both players, and the MLB rulebook provides that it Braun was out. But Segura thought HE was out and ran back towards the first base dugout.

    Along the way, realized that he wasn’t out after all, so he stopped at first base. 2 pitches later, Segura tried to steal second again (twice in 1 inning!!!!) but was thrown out.

    So Segura essentially stole second base, then stole first base, then tried to steal second base again… :D

  5. Since his promotion to the Reds starting rotation, Cingrani has been throwing twice as many fly balls as ground balls, and 4 of those fly balls have left the park. That won’t work in GABP. I’m sure Price has carefully explained that issue to him. The SO (12.4/9) are great and his WHIP (0.833) is excellent, but 1.5 HR/9 is a problem. The Kid needs to let his defense, especially his IF defense, help him out a little rather than trying to strike every batter out. He’s young and inexperienced. I’m sure he’ll learn, just like Cutoe and Bailey learned.

  6. Reds need to score a bunch this weekend. The Brewers will put some runs on the board and the Reds can’t afford to consistently fall behind like they did to the Braves.

    Starting 8 Hitting – Advantage Brewers.
    Bench – Advantage Brewers.
    Starting pitching – Advantage Reds.
    Defense – Advantage Reds.
    Relief Pitching – Advantage Reds
    Managing – Advantage Brewers (almost every team has an advantage over the Reds here).

    Should be an interesting series. It boils down to whether or not the Reds hit, especially guys other than Votto, Choo and Phillips.

  7. This is a series that really could go either way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds swept the Brewers. Nor would I be surprised if the Brewers swept the Reds. Both teams are wildly inconsistent. Both can be white hot when hot, and both can blue-ice cold when cold.

  8. I have tickets tonight, and plan on bringing my little sister. But I don’t know if I feel like making the drive from Columbus if it’s going to be cancelled or have multiple delays. Let’s hope the baseball gods allow a few hours for a glorious REDS WIN.

    • @WedgieSanders: I just looked at the radar and forecast and I went the other way. As much as I want to go down and see the game, I opted to cancel the drive and hope for a rainout. Good luck to you tonight.

    • @WedgieSanders: I just looked at the radar and forecast and I went the other way. As much as I want to go down and see the game, I opted to cancel the drive and hope for a rainout. Good luck to you tonight.

    • @WedgieSanders: Wow, it’s looking REALLY bad for a game tonight. The 4:05 start on Saturday appears to nix the chance of making it up as part of a dual-gate doubleheader (no time to clear the stadium between games). I really doubt they want to sacrifice a gate by making it a traditional DH.

      So, they’ll have to make it up as a day-night DH either this Sunday, or more likely when the Brewers come to town for weekend series in June or August, with June being more likely.

  9. Marco Estrada will have his next start pushed back from Saturday to Monday.
    Estrada has been lit up for 13 runs over his last two outings, so the Brewers want to give him a couple extra days of rest. They’ll give the ball to Hiram Burgos on Saturday against the Reds, while Estrada will now pitch Monday against the Pirates.
    Related: Hiram Burgos
    Source: Adam McCalvy on Twitter

  10. According to Reds Twitter Feed Hanigan off DL today and in the lineup tonight. Corky Miller DFA!

  11. Today’s lineup:

    1. Shin-Soo Choo (L) CF
    2. Zack Cozart (R) SS
    3. Joey Votto (L) 1B
    4. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
    5. Jay Bruce (L) RF
    6. Todd Frazier (R) 3B
    7. Xavier Paul (L) LF
    8. Ryan Hanigan (R) C
    9. Tony Cingrani (L) P

  12. While I’m glad to have Hanigan back, Mesoraco got screwed again tonight. What happened to Dustys policy of always giving a guy an extra day when he says he is ready before playing him? It will indeed be interesting to see how playing time is divided the next few weeks.

    • @HOF-13: I am not sure he got screwed. With the off day yesterday, I’m not surprised at all… I’m hoping for a 3/2 split on the playing time with Hanigan getting the 3. Hanigan needs a couple days off per rotation to stay fresh and Mesoraco needs more playing time than he was getting before Hanigan went on the DL.

    • What happened to Dustys policy of always giving a guy an extra day when he says he is ready before playing him?

      I don’t think that’s Dusty’s policy. Dusty’s policy is that when a guy suffers a minor injury and is out a few days he tends to wait an extra day off once he says he’s ready. That doesn’t apply to guys coming off the DL. They don’t get activated by the front office until they’re ready.

  13. Steve: I’ve really been enjoying the series previews: well-written, entertaining and informative.

  14. Why is it that every time Mesoraco doesn’t start people claim it’s because Dusty doesn’t like him?

  15. Personally I believe that the Brewers are drastically overrated with such a crummy pitching staff. They can’t mash their way to success any better than the Dunn/Griffey teams the Reds used to put up. The Brewers traded away most of their prospects, mortgaging their future to win in 2012. They are hanging onto some silly dream of being competitive but it’s just a matter of time before they’re forced to into rebuilding mode. It might start as soon as June or July.

    I think the Reds, Cardinals (Oscar Taveras, Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, and so on), and Pirates (Cole, Tallison) have futures to be optimistic about. Not so with the Brewers. At least Cubs fans recognize that their team has no chance, and won’t be disappointed.

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