(Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Last night, when it turned out that the Brewers were going to face minor league spot-starter Matt Magill, it reminded me of a comment I’ve heard (and probably made) more than once over the last few years – that the Brewers don’t hit well against inexperienced pitchers. It’s the kind of quip that comes up in random Brewers chitchat, a go-to remark you can make to show you’ve been a knowledgeable fan for some time. If you do some digging into blogs, message boards, and comment sections, it pops up repeatedly…
…in this 2012 anecdote on a sports betting site: A Brewers fan was quoted "Cheer up, Padre fans. Brewers suck against rookie pitchers!"
…in this forum discussion about a 2011 Brewers/Cubs game: Or is he counting on Dickson to baffle the Brewers like most pitchers they have never seen?
…in this 2010 discussion thread on a sports handicapping website: The brewers struggle almost every time against rookie pitchers they have never faced [they’re] like 0-5 and average less than 4 runs a game.
…in another 2010 thread about a Brewers/Cardinals game: Saturday I would give the Brewers a slight advantage. I only say slight advantage because we all know the Brewers struggle against rookie pitchers.
…in this blog post about a 2009 Brewers/Marlins game: The Brewers normally struggle against pitchers they have never seen, but the normally hit lefties well. Something has to give. Go Brewers!!
…in this 2008 thread about a Brewers/Braves game: If I was a Brewer opponent, I would just bring up 3 minor league pitchers (ones that have not faced the Brewers) for the series. Guaranteed sweep as the Brewers are powerless against pitchers they have never seen.
…and in numerous discussions that have taken place in bars, workplaces, and social gatherings for nearly a decade. Indeed, Magill had a great outing against the Brewers last night, so maybe there’s something to it.
If so, there are a lot of teams that seem to have the same problem. For example, the Yankees are apparently so bad against unfamiliar pitching, a New York Times writer brought it up in this article’s lede: Facing pitchers they have never seen before has long been a formula for frustration for the Yankees, although they recently have shown an ability to adapt more quickly.
This blog about the Phillies expressed doubt that they would perform well against a green pitcher: He’s a young righty at the age of 23, but as we all know, the Phillies tend to have issues with pitchers they have never seen before.
The Cardinals also suffer from newpitcher-itis, according to this blog post: The Cardinals have two big weaknesses: pitchers they have never faced and guys that throw with their left arm.
The Cubs aren’t very good against pitchers in general, but a commenter on this fan site was especially concerned about a newer guy: When the Cubs face pitchers they have never faced it usually ends up bad.
A commenter on a Braves article at the Atlanta Journal Constitution thinks the front office hasn’t been doing its job: The Braves are terrible against pitchers they have never seen. Does this say something about poor scouting?
If it feels like a team does badly against pitchers fresh from the minors, it might have less to do with poor scouting and more to do with fans’ selective memories. Since rookie pitchers have less experience, we might assume they should be easier to beat (even though the pitcher has an inherent advantage in baseball). Then when our team does badly against a guy we believe they should handle, it sticks out in our mind.
Even though Magill had a great start, the Brewers got a few runs off him, and were able to tag the Dodgers bullpen late. But next time the Brewers lose to a rookie pitcher, we’re probably not going to say, “Well, there was that one game against the Dodgers when they did all right against a new pitcher and ultimately won.” We’ll probably say, “Why are the Brewers still so terrible against pitchers they have never faced!?”
We can be so difficult to please.