Series Preview: Dodgers at Brewers

Not The Enemy

Dodgers Lineup:

Dee Gordon – SS
Mark Ellis – 2B
Matt Kemp – CF
Andre Ethier – RF
Juan Rivera – LF
James Loney – 1B
Juan Uribe – 3B
AJ Ellis – C

Game One: Yovani Gallardo vs. Chad Billingsley (188 IP, 3.83 FIP in 2011)

Coming off an excellent outing (7 innings, one run, game score of 67) against the Cubs, Gallardo made a lot of people forget about his rough Opening Day start already. Gallardo has been worked pretty heavily to start the season, partly due to the Brewers’ lack of off days, and partly due to a high pitch count (107) last time out. However, it’s something worth watching, and that’s it: Gallardo has never had any apparent fatigue-related issues. 

Going for the Dodgers is Billingsley, who has quietly been an above-average starter for years, hidden by 9 PM start times and the shadow of Clayton Kershaw: His career FIP is 3.35, and he has spent most years in the 3-4 WAR range. Billingsley has a very deep arsenal, throwing six pitches at least sporadically. His main offerings are a fastball (a four-seamer and a sinker, both in the low 90s), cutter, and high 70s curve, though he also mixes in a hard slider and change occasionally. The right-hander’s biggest problem is avoiding ball four (3.9 career walks per nine innings), and it hasn’t really ameliorated with age. However, pitchers who strike out 21 percent of the batters they face, like Billinglsey does, tend to be hurt less by such issues.     

Game Two: Zack Greinke vs. Chris Capuano (186 IP, 4.04 FIP w/ Mets)

Greinke was really clobbered his last time out (eight runs in under four innings), but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his peripherals: A Greinke-like five strikeouts and a single walk. 

After seven years with the Brewers that included two seasons lost to injuries, everyone here should be familiar with Capuano. Since leaving the Brewers after 2010, Cappy has served as a moderately effective innings muncher for several teams, and his unlikely comeback makes him easy for anyone to root for. He has done some of his best pitching post-surgery: His 2011 strikeout (8.13 per nine) and walk (2.56) rates were among the best of his career, and are similar to those of a top-of-the-rotation starter. The problem is one that fans with good memories will be familiar with: Capuano’s perpetual losing battle with the home run. He allowed the fifth-highest rate in all of baseball among qualified pitchers last year, which is the price he pays for his heavy fly-ball tendencies (40.7 career ground ball rate, around five points below the league average). The total might be even worse if Capuano hadn’t made the smart choice to spend all of post-Brewers years in two very pitcher-friendly parks.
 
Somewhat strangely, given his fly-ball rate, Capuano doesn’t throw a four-seam fastball. He pounds the zone, primarily with an upper 80s sinker and a changeup: The two pitches accounted for almost 85% of his total thrown, according to Brooks Baseball’s classifications. He also mixes in a cut fastball and a slider. Last year, Capuano faced the Brewers twice, throwing six innings of one-run ball his first time out and getting clobbered in the other start. (Let’s see announcers try to attach meaning to that.)
 
Game Three: Randy Wolf vs. Aaron Harang (170.2 IP, 4.02 FIP w/ Padres)

Wolf has started the year with two rough outings, and his hits allowed total curently stands and 18 in 9.1 innings.  

A lot of you might remember Harang as the workhorse ace of the Reds in the mid-to-late 2000s, but he isn’t nearly the pitcher was then: He stuff has declined, and his strikeout and walk rates have been on a consistent downward path. (A pair of 230 inning seasons in 2006 and 2007, at the hands of current Brewer hitting coach Jerry Narron, likely weren’t the best thing for his career development.) Now, Harang is a solid back-of-the-rotation starter with middling strikeout, walk and home run rates. Like Capuano, he is an extreme fly-baller who is well suited to pitching in Dodger Stadium. Harang has lost several miles off his fastball since his heyday, and the pitch now sits right around 90 mph, and he also throws a sinker that is made more effective by his height (6’7). The big guy also mixes in a curve, change, and a slider that he throws a ton — almost 25% of the time. Like Capuano, Harang is an extreme fly-baller who is well suited to pitching in Dodger Stadium. 
   
Other Thoughts:

– Yes, the Dodgers are 9-1, but that alone isn’t reason to be worried. It’s pretty well established that ten games isn’t nearly enough time to determine a player’s true talent level, let alone a team. If it was, the good-not-great 2007 Brewers — who started 24-10 — would be remembered for a lot more than just their late-season collapse. Last year’s “Beast Mode” team would have never been, doomed by their 14-20 start. Perhaps those examples were a little dramatic, but it makes no sense to fixate on the opponent in this situation. For the purposes of one series, the teams should be more or less on equal ground.

– The Los Angeles ballclub has a superstar center fielder you might have heard of, a guy by the name of Matt Kemp. It’s come into the mind of several “Brewers fans” that they should boo Kemp, for some reason. This is incredibly and unequivocally stupid for more reasons than I care to explain. I’m not sure what makes people think this is a good idea, but I’ll try to sort through a few of their arguments:

“Ryan Braun beat Kemp in the MVP voting!!!” 

I’ve never met Kemp or Braun, but I can pretty much assure you that neither of them really care about last year’s MVP award right now.

“But Kemp’s urine wasn’t mishandled, resulting in a positive drug test that was later overturned, causing him to be labeled as a cheater without any cause! Kemp is obviously a bad guy and probably a cheater!”

It would be unfair to attach a sensible explanation to this argument when there is none.

“But people have been booing Braunie all season– especially the Cubs and Cardinals fans!!”

Yeah, great plan to stoop to their level. Stay classy, Milwaukee.   
 
  

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