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Milwaukee Brewers series preview: Cain comes around

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Just flash those pearly whites, Lorenzo. Just one more time.

Milwaukee Brewers v San Diego Padres
Miss you.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The new-look Milwaukee Brewers have raced out to a 14-9 start, knotting them up with the St. Louis Cardinals for shared possession of first place in the National League Central. The Brewers made a slew of moves as the rest of baseball sat on the sidelines content to sit the bulk of the offseason out. The Brewers made big splashes with their trade for Christian Yelich and their signing of Lorenzo Cain, remaking their outfield into one of the game’s best.

They have jumped out to their hot start largely without the services of their best starting pitcher (Jimmy Nelson, who should return sometime around the season’s midpoint), their lights-out closer (Corey Knebel) and their best two catchers (Stephen Vogt and former Royals’ farmhand Manny Pina). To find themselves atop the standings while not at full strength cannot be viewed as anything less than a pleasant surprise.

The series also marks Lorenzo Cain’s return to Kauffman Stadium, the site of many of his greatest achievements. It is safe to assume that he will be greeted with the same adoration heaped upon him during his Royals’ career.

Game times and pitching matchups as follows:

  • Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 7:15 PM CDT - Zach Davies versus Ian Kennedy
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 7:15 PM CDT - Chase Anderson versus Jason Hammel

*Stats that follow are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference

Brewers at Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Game 1
Zach Davies 4 22.1 20 20.8 7 7.3 4.84 4.90 4.08 4.04 0.0 -0.1
Ian Kennedy 4 23.0 22 22.0 7 7.0 2.35 3.85 3.82 3.97 0.4 0.7
Game 2
Chase Anderson 5 27.2 21 18.9 9 8.1 3.25 5.87 4.87 4.46 -0.1 0.6
Jason Hammel 4 25.1 16 15.2 7 6.7 3.20 3.24 4.47 4.65 0.5 0.7

Zach Davies owns a career 48.5 GB%, getting by with a sinker that clocks in at a shade under 90 MPH on average, and mixing in a cutter, curve, and change-up. In the early goings of this season, Davies has posted an improved K-rate (up 5.6 % from last year’s career low mark of 15.2%) while only suffering a modest uptick in walk rate (up 0.6% from 2017). So far, his curveball has been his only offering that has been providing a positive pitch value. His ERA is inflated by a higher home-run rate than his career mark (18.2 HR/FB% this year compared to 12.4% on his career). He is posting his worst first-strike percentage of his career by a large margin (44.8% compared to 58.5% in his career) and his Zone% is down 7.1% from his career average. It stands to reason that some of his struggles must be related to digging himself holes against opposing hitters.

Chase Anderson has enjoyed a much more fortunate start to his 2018 than his rotation mate, Davies. His ERA sits below his FIP by a 2.62 scaled runs. His .197 BABIP is fueling his fortune. His Ks are down 4.5% from last year. His strand-rate has been an unsustainable 93.5%. Regression screams loudly. Anderson has a five-pitch mix, throwing a four-seamer, changeup, curve, cutter, and sinker, in descending order of usage.

Of note with both Brewers hurlers, Alex Duvall stumbled across this nugget:

Zach Davies and Chase Anderson have not given up hits on their curveballs yet this year. Mike Moustakas is seeing curveballs 17.41% of the time, good for the 2nd highest rate in all of baseball behind only Evan Longoria. He’s hitting .357 and slugging .786 against curveballs so far in ‘18.

Milwaukee Brewers position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Travis Shaw (L) 3B 97 4 15 10 0 .289 .392 .518 .392 147 1.0 1.4
Eric Thames (L) 1B 70 7 11 13 2 .250 .357 .650 .418 165 0.7 0.7
Lorenzo Cain CF 90 2 14 7 5 .303 .400 .461 .380 140 0.6 0.8
Jesús Aguilar 1B 39 1 8 5 0 .429 .487 .629 .485 210 0.5 0.6
Christian Yelich (L) LF 49 2 10 8 0 .333 .429 .571 .429 172 0.4 0.5
Jett Bandy C 46 1 4 1 0 .195 .283 .317 .276 70 0.2 0.0
Jonathan Villar (S) IF 69 1 2 7 4 .273 .304 .333 .286 76 0.1 -0.2
Ryan Braun LF/1B 73 5 8 14 2 .221 .247 .485 .309 92 0.1 0.0
Jacob Nottingham C 7 0 1 0 0 .000 .286 .000 .199 18 0.0 0.0
Orlando Arcia SS 72 2 5 8 0 .217 .250 .319 .253 54 -0.1 0.3
Eric Sogard (L) 2B 48 0 1 2 0 .159 .213 .250 .210 25 -0.1 -0.1
Domingo Santana RF 83 0 5 3 0 .219 .313 .233 .261 59 -0.2 -0.2
Hernán Pérez Util 47 2 3 4 1 .200 .234 .333 .251 53 -0.3 -0.2

In terms of production, the Brewers have been pretty firmly middle of the road. Their 2.8 fWAR is good for 14th in baseball. They are slashing .245/.317/.403 with a .317 wOBA and 97 wRC+. Their 28 dongs tie them for fourth. There is a lack of consensus on their defense, as DRS has them as having saved 10 runs (tying them for third in baseball with the Diamondbacks), while UZR rates them as being worth -2.3 runs, ranking them 23rd.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Brewers?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Royals sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 50%
    Split
    (82 votes)
  • 34%
    Brewers sweep
    (56 votes)
162 votes total Vote Now