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Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview: The 1969 expansion brethren meet again

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Would you believe the Brewers have now played almost as many seasons in the National League than they did in the American League?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Things haven’t gone exactly to plan for the Milwaukee Brewers this year, but due to the expanded postseason, they’re still right in the thick of things during the second to last weekend of the season. Technically the Royals are still alive too, which is sort of nice I guess. The Brewers have struggled offensively, which I don’t think anyone would expect. Lorenzo Cain opted out after just a few games, so that’s a hole, but more importantly, Christian Yelich has been decidedly not so good. He has been a bit better since a ridiculously cold start, but still hasn’t looked like his MVP self. The offense has had moments, scoring 19 on September 9 and then 18 on September 15, so they can definitely break out, but they’ve been super inconsistent. The pitching has actually been what’s kept them hanging around mostly. Corbin Burnes has broken out after a tough 2019, Brandon Woodruff continues to look like a very good starting pitcher and their bullpen strikes people out like crazy. Josh Hader actually didn’t give up his first hit of the season until September 5. But he has an 11.81 ERA since August 29, so there’s good and bad. With Devin Williams, there is no bad, so if you don’t like watching the Royals strike out, turn it off when he comes in the game.

Royals vs. Brewers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Brewers
Category Royals Brewers
Winning % .420 .459
Team wRC+ 91 90
Team xFIP 4.64 3.89
Run Differential -23 -14
Highest fWAR Salvador Perez, 1.4 Corbin Burnes, 2.2

Brewers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Avisail Garcia CF 163 .266 .374 .381 11.0% 22.1% 107 1.1
Christian Yelich LF 21 .208 .338 .441 15.9% 31.3% 108 0.6
Ryan Braun RF 107 .240 .295 .521 5.6% 16.8% 110 0.3
Daniel Vogelbach DH 105 .202 .324 .337 15.2% 23.8% 84 -0.2
Keston Hiura 2B 208 .222 .317 .461 7.2% 32.2% 104 0.7
Jedd Gyorko 1B 94 .268 .340 .585 10.6% 27.7% 135 0.7
Orlando Arcia SS 150 .241 .307 .350 8.0% 16.0% 78 0.2
Omar Narvaez C 113 .175 .292 .278 12.4% 31.9% 60 0.2
Luis Urias 3B 108 .245 .315 .306 8.3% 25.9% 71 0.0

Brewers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jacob Nottingham C 33 .172 .273 .483 9.1% 33.3% 96 0.2
Jace Peterson INF/OF 42 .161 .357 .258 23.8% 28.6% 82 0.1
Eric Sogard INF/OF 109 .188 .275 .250 10.1% 16.5% 46 -0.3
Ben Gamel OF 125 .223 .304 .375 10.4% 31.2% 82 -0.3
Tyrone Taylor OF 25 .318 .400 .636 8.0% 20.0% 172 0.4

Brewers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Josh Hader 16 14.2 1 2 36.5% 15.9% 4.30 4.84 0.2
Devin Williams 19 21.0 3 1 53.1% 9.9% 0.43 1.22 1.1
Freddy Peralta 13 25.2 3 1 39.5% 10.1% 3.51 3.07 0.9

Probable Pitching Matchups

September 18, 7:10pm - Danny Duffy vs. Adrian Houser

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 9 46.2 3 3 23.9% 9.6% 4.24 5.12 0.5
Adrian Houser 9 46.2 1 5 18.1% 8.8% 5.40 4.11 0.5

Adrian Houser came to Milwaukee along with Josh Hader, Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana in the Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez deal with the Astros in 2015. He established himself last season with a solid year, posting solid peripherals on the way to a solid ERA in a season spent between the rotation and the bullpen. This year has not been as good. He’s allowing more hits, more walks and striking out fewer, which has led to the bloated ERA you see above. He throws his sinker a lot, and it’s effective, so that’s a smart move on his part. He threw it 36 percent of the time last year and that’s jumped to 46 percent this season. The big difference is what happens when he goes to his four-seamer. It’s bad. Last year, he allowed a .255 average and .356 SLG on it. This year, that’s jumped to .407 and .556. So on the bright side for him, he’s not giving up more extra base hits, but if you give up enough singles, you’ll still find yourself in trouble. He’s also really struggled against lefties, which doesn’t favor the Royals much outside of Adalberto Mondesi and Alex Gordon needing to step up to get to him. I’m guessing Nick Heath will get a start too, and while Omar Narvaez has thrown out base runners pretty well this year, that hasn’t been a strength of his in the past, so maybe we’ll see some havoc wreaked.

Danny Duffy returns to the mound after his disciplinary action led to him missing his start on Wednesday. Without knowing what really happened, it’s hard to know if he’ll be impacted one way or another by what happened, so we’ll just have to go with what we do know and that’s that he has had a solid season, but he hasn’t been trending in the right direction on the walks front. He had walked more than two batters just once in his first seven starts and now he has nine walks in his last two, spanning just 11.2 innings. He did throw 5.2 shutout innings in his last start in spite of the walks, but it’s a point of concern. The other point of at least some concern is that the Brewers have been much better against lefties than righties. That said, they do have a lot of guys who are not afraid to strike out. Duffy’s best swing and miss pitch this year has been the slider, so if he can get that working, he can have success.

September 19, 6:10pm - Kris Bubic vs. Corbin Burnes

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 8 40.0 1 5 20.8% 8.4% 4.50 4.57 0.5
Corbin Burnes 10 50.0 3 0 37.2% 11.1% 1.98 3.12 2.2

Corbin Burnes came up for the Brewers in 2018 and was just so good in relief that it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he’d be one of the Brewers best pitchers in 2019. He proceeded to give up 17 home runs in 49 innings and even made Chris Young blush. The damage was done on his four seam fastball with 13 of those homers coming in just 132 plate appearances that ended on that pitch. So he spent his offseason working on adding a cutter, and it’s made all the difference in the world. He throws it a little more than a quarter of the time and it’s really good. Opponents swing and miss a little more than 30 percent of the time and when they do make contact, it’s weak. His sinker is the only pitch he throws more and that’s been pretty darn effective as well. Really all his pitches have been good this year, but adding that cutter has made a world of difference. I went digging through the splits to find some hope, and he even limits opponents to a .675 OPS when he’s behind in the count. This will be quite a test for the Royals offense.

Fresh off his first big league win, Kris Bubic gets to face a team that, as I mentioned above is better against righties than lefties. I said this before his last start, but I’m going to say it again. I love that Bubic looks like he’s getting better. That’s not at all surprising to me given that I know the kind of cerebral pitcher that he is, but it’s so good to see. In his last three starts, he has a swinging strike rate of 14.1 percent. That’s quite good. His pitch count ran a little high in his last start which limited him from going deeper, but I’m very excited to see Bubic pitch whenever it’s his turn because I’m loving to see this improvement in him. The Brewers have a good balance, but they do have some righty power, so he’ll really need his changeup to shine in this one.

September 20, 1:10pm - Brad Keller vs. Brett Anderson

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 7 43.2 4 2 15.1% 8.1% 2.06 4.44 1.2
Brett Anderson 8 39.0 3 3 14.3% 5.4% 4.38 4.54 0.5

It feels like Brett Anderson has been around for even longer than he has and he debuted all the way back in 2009. Now in his 12th year, he’s made a habit of not getting a full season’s worth of starts, but is almost always effective in spite of having underwhelming peripherals. That’s not different this season as he gives up a ton of hits, doesn’t strike anyone out but is still sitting with a roughly league average earned run average. How does he do it? I don’t really know because he actually gives up some quality contact. The average exit velocity on his sinker, which he throws more than anything, is 92.7 MPH. For reference, that’s Juan Soto’s average exit velocity. Obviously that doesn’t tell the whole story since he does keep it on the ground so well, but hard hit balls tend to find holes a lot easier than the softly hit ones. One of the ways the Brewers keep him effective is by getting him out before a lineup has seen him too much. He’s only been on the mound to face one hitter a fourth time. He’s only faced 27 hitters as many as three times in a game, so at the very least, he’ll be out fairly early.

Brad Keller is another pitcher who doesn’t really match the peripherals with his ERA, but at least you can see the weak contact he elicits. Not that he would have struck out too many more, but I think his low strikeout total in his last start had as much to do with the Pirates just swinging early to get things over with when they were down by 10 as it did him. He was getting a ton of early count outs and just missed the opportunity to pitch a Maddux, though he did pick up his first career shutout. He’s now made seven starts and allowed zero runs in four of them, one run in one and five in the other two, so there’s a little bit of mystery, but all in all, he’s having a great year and the guy you want to see on the mound to get a win in 2020.

Prediction

I think the Brewers are fighting for their playoff lives and will play like that and ultimately will take two of three from the Royals to clinch a fourth straight losing season for KC. Now, if Duffy comes out looking like he’s in top form or Burnes has his first hiccup of the year, that could easily change, but I’m going with the Royals dropping two of three.

Poll

Three games in Milwaukee. How does it end?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Royals Sweep
    (7 votes)
  • 13%
    Brewers Sweep
    (10 votes)
  • 57%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (44 votes)
  • 19%
    Brewers Win Two of Three
    (15 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now