21 May 2007

Brewers Preview

by Joshua Worley

The Brewers are 27-17, good for first place in the NL Central. Actually, 22-22 would be good for first in that division. They've faced a lot of weak competition so far this year, so it's an open question as to how good they really are. They've scored 209, mostly on home runs ( in which they lead the league ) and have given up 187 with a bunch of decent starters and some high strikeout artists in Turnbow and Cordero to lead the 'pen.

It's also an open question as to how good the Dodgers really are. Against the Angels all the fears about them seemed to come true. The offense was exposed as being overly reliant on hitting with runners in scoring position, while the starting pitching seemed to regress back to what the naysayers have been saying it is all along. Penny's low ERA couldn't last, not with his K-rate and walk-rate and it didn't. Hendrickson continued his slide back to an ERA of 5, his brilliant April now completely irrelevant. Lowe was exposed as a pitcher who goes as the infield defense goes, and the infield defense was found wanting.

We've seen the worst of the Dodgers, but it is the worst. They can do better than they did against the Angles. They're at home now, facing another first place team. The Brewers have their own weaknesses that can be exposed, their own fears that can be made to come true. It's going to be up to the Dodger pitchers and hitters to force the action. This series won't be won with Dodger walks and Brewer fly outs. It will be won with Dodger base hits and Brewer strike outs.

Prince Semien Fielder -- 1B

age: 23
bats: left

0.290 -- 0.374 -- 0.574

There's a common theme with these Milwaukee Brewers: home runs and strikeouts. I'm not talking about the team totals, though they do lead the league in home runs. I'm talking about the profile of their most dangerous hitters. They are strikeout prone power hitters. None of the Brewers hitters, Fielder included, will get on base a prodigious amount. There's no one who will end the year with a OBP above 0.400. Fielder has their highest OBP right now, followed by Hardy, and then everyone else is below 0.360.

Fielder is the Brewers most dangerous hitter, even though Hardy has more home runs now. Fielder is the hitter you want to be most careful with. He's the only one I ever want to see walk. The rest of them can strike out or hit a grounder.

William Hall III -- CF

age: 27
bats: right

0.261 -- 0.325 -- 0.451

He strikes out a lot. The more he strikes out the lower his batting average gets, but the more home runs he hits. Last year he hit 35 home runs and struck out 162 times. He also walks more when he hits home runs, but it's never been enough to make his on base percentage look very good.

James Jerry Hardy -- SS

age: 24
bats: right

0.320 -- 0.364 -- 0.619

He leads the NL in home runs. That's amazing, because he's a shortstop, he's in his first full big league season at 24, he missed most of last year with ankle surgery, and he doesn't walk very much. Yeah, he has only 13 walks to go with his 14 home runs.

You know what I think, Dodgers? I think you should live on the outside of the plate. Don't ever throw your pitches anywhere else, unless it's way down and in. You've got to make him prove he can beat you with the walk before you give him a chance to beat you with the home run.

But I know what will happen. A Dodger pitcher, maybe Tomko, will try something like this, only miss too much and fall behind 2-0 or 3-1, and then he will give in, try to make a perfect pitch. And that pitch will end up being perfect for Hardy.

Geoffrey Scott Jenkins -- LF

age: 32
bats: left

0.310 -- 0.360 -- 0.595

He's an old hand by now. He's the slugging left fielder who strikes out a lot. He's the left handed hitter who can't hit lefties very well. He's 32, at the tail of his prime, but still in his prime, good for at least 25 home runs, a 0.350 on base percentage. He might be the star of a series, but he probably won't be. What he is, most of all, is yet another power threat in the stacked Brewer lineup.

Randy Wolf, the lefty, strikeout pitcher, should make him whiff every time! This is what you have to do to win, you Dodgers. Do what the percentages say you should be able to do. Who knows, maybe Ned Yost will blink and have Jenkins sit against Wolf.

Craig John Counsell -- 3B

age: 36
bats: left

0.224 -- 0.350 -- 0.306

He's the opposite of the dangerous Brewer hitters, with no home runs and not many strikeouts. That line above, the small batting average, the decent on base percentage, and tiny slugging? That's what he is. He is what he is, and the Dodgers know who he is, and if the Dodgers let Counsell be a part of beating them, they need to turn around and give the Denny Green rant, the one about "crowning someone's ass". Don't let that happen, Dodger pitchers. Don't crown his ass. By which I mean, um, don't walk him.

Anthony Joseph Graffanino -- 3B/2B

age: 34
bats: right

0.198 -- 0.268 -- 0.248

Graffanino was in a third base platoon with Counsell, but after Richie Weeks went down with a day-to-day injury Graffanino had to take over at second base. That's good ... I hope that arrangement keeps up for the series with the Dodgers.

Jon Corey Hart -- RF

age: 25
bats: right

0.262 -- 0.323 -- 0.393

Wait a minute, his first name isn't Corey? It's Jon? So, basically, he's chosen to be known by a middle name that will make him the butt of stupid jokes about wearing his sunglasses at night?

Now, he was born in 1982, and Corey Hart first charted ( with Sunglasses at Night ) in 1983, so we know his parents didn't duplicate the pop singer's name on purpose. But ... perhaps they saw their opportunity after Corey Hart became popular and started calling their son by his middle name. Maybe they are the sickos in this scenario! In any case, someone in that family has a lot to answer for.

Corey does appreciably worse at the plate at night, by the way. I'd like to think this is because he gets that song stuck in his head ... he can't help it. He is Corey Hart, and it is night ... one thing leads to another, and soon enough he's got the line "Don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no" going through his head, and he's wondering what the heck that even means ... and then he strikes out.

The fact is he hasn't been playing much lately. A certain man named Tony Gwinn has been in right field a lot lately.

One last thing ... if Nancy Bea Hefley doesn't play Sunglasses at Night on the Organ at some point before he bats, she's got some explaining to do.

Anthony Keith Gwynn Jr. -- CF/RF

age: 24
bats: left

0.360 -- 0.429 -- 0.420

Yes, he's that Tony Gwynn's son. He's even hitting like his dad so far, though in only 50 at bats. Gabriel Jordan Gross, another young lefty hitter is also seeing some action in the outfield, as is righty Kevin Ford Mench, who looks rather washed up, an old 29 at this point. The Brewers seem to have a bit of turmoil in their lineup for a first place team.

Johnny Pulado Estrada III -- C

age: 30
bats: switch

0.281 -- 0.302 -- 0.467

Like Hardy, he has more home runs than walks. Unlike Hardy, he's not leading the league in home runs. He should be the source of a lot of outs.

His backup is Damien Donald Miller, aged 37, with stats worse than his. Well, except for walks. Miller has 4 to Estrada's 3. In any case, the catcher spot better be treated as a weak point in the Brewer lineup by the Dodger pitchers.

Richie Darnell Weeks Jr -- 2B

age: 24
bats: right

0.232 -- 0.341 -- 0.430

The Brewers have four players named after their fathers, including two named after their grandfathers.

Weeks should become a good hitter; once that batting average goes up a bit he'll be a solid offensive second baseman. Even as it is he's not doing too poorly. It's not certain if he'll play, though. He had surgery on his right wrist last August, and that wrist has been sore the last few days. He's missed the last four games because of it, and even if he does come back his play may be hampered by it.

Christopher Frank Capuano

age: 28
throws: left

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.72 -- 48.1 -- 35 -- 19 -- 4

He's a solid 4-ERA pitcher; in fact his ERA the last two years have been 3.99 and 4.03. Though last year he actually lowered his walks almost in half with almost no change in his strikeouts, home runs or innings pitched, yet didn't see any improvement in his ERA. His walk rate has climbed back up to 2005 levels this year, and his strikeout rate has gone down just a bit.

The bottom line is that if the Dodgers swing the bats well, they can beat him. If they don't swing the bats well, he probably won't beat himself. Which Dodger offense will show up?

Jeffrey Scott Suppan

age: 32
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.25 -- 61.0 -- 32 -- 12 -- 5

Two men named "Jeffrey Scott" on the same team, only with different spellings of the first name. I'm with Suppan on this one. Using the "ge" for a "j" sound is just wrong.

My conclusion about Capuano goes even more so for Suppan. It's up to the Dodger hitters to beat him. Suppan gets by with a low walk rate; he just doesn't strike guys out. If the Dodgers win this series it will be with lots of singles and maybe the occasional double. Just hit the ball hard, get lucky, whatever. Do whatever you can to pile up those singles, especially when you get men on base.

Ben M. Sheets

age: 28
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.86 -- 56.0 -- 34 -- 12 -- 8

Same deal as the first two pitchers, really. These are all good pitchers, but none of them dominate. The Dodgers should have a chance against all of them, but it won't be easy.

I'm not sure what's up with Sheets. As recently as last year he was still striking out a batter an inning, though he missed three month with arm trouble. His strikeouts are way down, and his home runs allowed are on pace for a career high. Whatever it is, he's not dominant. He just set his season high for strikeouts at eight. The Dodger batters aren't going to walk or strikeout a lot this series. It's going to come down to balls in play.


No way, I'm not making any predictions. Last two times I did that the Dodgers got swept. I will make some conditional predictions, though, things that need to happen for the Dodgers to win the series. I'm not saying they will happen, only that they need to.

The Dodger pitchers need to strike out 30 Brewers in this series.

Tomko must avoid the 2-0 and 2-1 count.

The Dodgers batters need to strike out less than 15 times in the series.

The Dodger batting average when they hit the ball needs to be around 0.333.

Wolf has to keep the ball down.

Penny needs to go pitch for the strikeout against the power hitters, and to contact against the weak hitters. ( Ideally he could try to strikeout everyone, but I think this will jack up his pitch count too fast. )

The Dodger infield play needs to be perfect.

And finally: Grady needs to wear a real Dodger jersey, not that blue jacket he always wears. That blue jacket is bad luck. Instill some team spirit, dude.


Griffster said...

I'm relieved to see you lay off of the predictions ;-)

Little's jersey versus the old-man blue top is a sore point for me. I feel, if the guys want to feel like they're still playing or whatever, by wearing uniforms and being the only staff in the major professional sports to do so, then they have to wear the whole thing. Even if the jersey accentuates the belly and even if the pants show that the butt is drooping. All or nothing, man. :-P

Xeifrank said...

Nice write-up.
vr, Xei

E.S.K. said...

does that weak competition include taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers in the opening series?

Joshua Worley said...

e.s.k. ---

Well, I didn't say the Brewers have only faced weak competition, only that they've faced a lot of it during the year.

Does that weak competition include the Dodgers? I hope not. If the Dodgers end up with a losing record, we may look back and say that it did include that series. But right now, I'd say that no, that weak competition didn't include the Dodgers.

To be fair it is rather hard right now to assess strength of schedule so early in the year. Still, the NL Central looks rather bad, and the Brewers have of course played most of their games against central teams. The Brewers have played only 6 games against teams that currently have a winning record; the Dodgers have played 20.

I was curious about a less binary breakdown between the two teams schedule strengths, so I took a look at their schedules and graded each opponent based on win differential ... A = +10 or better; B = +4 to +9; C = -3 to +3; D = -9 to -4; F = -10 or worse.

In particular this puts teams like the Astros and Cubs who are just below .500 in the same group as teams like the Snakes who are a mere 3 above .500.

The records of each team at each level of competition:

---Brewers --- Dodgers
A -- (1 - 2) -- (1 - 2)
B -- (2 - 1) -- (5 - 7)
C -- (11 - 11) -- (9 - 6)
D -- (9 - 2) -- (7 - 4)
F -- (4 - 1) -- (3 - 0)

Both teams have made their winning record by beating up on the weak teams, which is fairly normal, I suspect. The Brewers have had an easier schedule, though.