Do not believe the hype. I will say it again: Do not believe the hype. All year, I’ve been looking at this Brewers team from afar and thinking, “That just doesn’t seem real.” I hadn’t looked really closely at them because, well, I haven’t had to and it didn’t matter that much to me. But now that I’m writing a series preview, it’s time to look into the matter.
I did. This team is a mirage.
Yes, they have an excellent record. Yes, they have built a substantial lead such that it maybe hard to catch them, but let me drop some numerical knowledge on you.
Brewers hitters (non-pitcher division) have a .310 BABIP.
Reds hitters (non-pitcher division) have a .288 BABIP.
League average BABIP (non-pitchers) is .299.
Good ‘Ol Pythagoras already tells us that the Brewers have won a few more games than we’d expect. Add in the BABIP variation and it’s hard to see this as the juggernaut they’ve seemed to be so far.
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t a terrible team. Their pitching seems legit (much to my surprise), but a lot of what has happened this year is luck.
The Brewers are healthy right now, here’s the lineup you can expect to see from them:
The Brewers, like the Reds, have gotten a lot of help from their defense. Correspondingly, their pitchers are maybe not as good as they look. However, and this is a common mistake, that doesn’t mean we should expect different results. Teams with good defenses should have pitchers whose ERAs are lower than their peripherals predict.
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
The key, which includes the current NL average for starting pitchers, for the stats in the charts:
- ERA (average number of earned runs given up over nine innings, NL: 3.66);
- xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching, assumes normal BABIP and home runs based on fly ball rates, scaled to ERA, NL: 3.68);
- SIERA (skill-interactive ERA; further refinement of xFIP taking into account hit-ball percentages, weights strike outs, NL: 3.63);
- K% and BB% (percentage of strikeouts and walks per plate appearance, NL: 20.8% and 7.9%);
- SwStr% (percentage of total pitches the batter swings and misses, NL: 9.5%)
Homer Bailey is better than Matt Garza in every way. This should come as a surprise to no one. Garza is a fine, but in no way scary pitcher.
Gallardo showed a lot of early promise in his career and I have a habit of thinking of him as better than he is. This year, he’s been lucky in terms of ERA, but otherwise, he’s been the same kind of middling-pitcher he’s been for several years. Latos will be making his season debut, as you are well aware, and his numbers are from the 2013 season.
Again, nothing special here. The Reds have lucked out in that they are missing the two pitchers who are probably the best starters on the Brewer staff (Lohse and Peralta). The end message is that the Reds have the upper-hand in every matchup this weekend.
The Brewer pen has been very middling this year (and taken a bit of a tumble since the Reds last saw them). Their top relievers (Will Smith, Zach Duke, and Francisco Rodriguez) have been very, very good this year, however. Basically, if the bullpen is handed a lead, it’s not likely they’ll blow it if these three are ready to go.
Basically, the Brewers and the Reds represent opposite sides of the luck coin. The Reds, I think, are a bit better than they’ve shown and the Brewers are a bit worse. At this point in the season, it would be fairly surprising for the Brewers to not finish in front of the Reds, but I would also not be shocked to see both teams finish the year right around .500.
Despite the record, I am not convinced this is a team to really fear. The Brewers are solid, but they have weaknesses that can be exploited.