Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers (38-28) at Iowa Cubs of Chicago (25-39)

I blinked, and suddenly the Brewers are on top of the NL Central. They’ve won eight of their last ten games and should win a few more in this series.

Team Overviews

As always, team stats with NL ranks in parentheses

Brewers Cubs
wOBA .327 (4th) .311 (7th)
UBR -0.4 (8th) -7.9 (16th)
UZR 2.9 (6th) -15.5 (15th)
SP FIP 3.43 (4th) 4.31 (13th)
RP FIP 3.44 (4th) 4/12 (15th)

Not surprisngly Fielder and Braun are leading the charge offensively, posting a .442 and .422 wOBA respectively. Rickie Weeks is hitting like he does when he’s healthy, but they have a lot of black holes surrounding the big boppers in their lineup. Most notably, Carlos Gomez (.291), Yuniesky Betancourt (.249), and FORMER CUBS PROSPECT ZOMG FIRE HENDRY Casey McGehee (.268), who could be playing himself out of a starting job were it not for the fact that his replacement would be Craig Consell.

The big surprise here is that the Brewers have such a good defensive number – I always remember them as being atrocious. It turns out that UZR just seems to really like the Brewers. Their 2009 and 2010 UZR numbers were right around average but DRS absolutely hated those teams, scoring them at -22 and -38 runs respectively. This year DRS really likes the Brewers, putting them at +17 runs on the year. A big portion of that comes from the punchless Carlos Gomez, who has been worth 15 runs on defense in only three months. Of course, small sample sizes apply for individual stats, and to a lesser extent team stats. This team is not fundamentally different than last year’s -38 run (DRS) team – the big difference is that they now have a much worse shortstop in Betancourt. Still, they’re a good team and deserve to be in first place.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Randy Wolf, LHP (3.49, 4.46, 4.25, 4.10) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (5.96, 4.39, 3.40, 3.72), 7:05 PM CT

Dempster continues his quest to drop his ERA below replacement level. He had an adventurous first inning in his last start before settling down and throwing six strong innings against the Reds, striking out eight batters while walking one.

Wolf has put up much better numbers than he did in his lousy first season with the Brewers, but not surprisingly the 34-year old pitcher is under his career norms. He pitched into the seventh inning of his last start, against the Mets, striking out six and allowing one run. Normally I’d say that it’s good for the Cubs to face a left-handed pitcher but with most of their RHBs injured not so much. Jeff Baker is back though, so watch out (laughing).

Tuesday: Yovani Gallardo, RHP (3.96, 3.59, 3.50, 3.28) vs Randy Wells, RHP (6.50, 5.73, 4.37, 3.99), 7:05 PM CT

Gallardo is a guy I keep going back and forth on every year. A few years back we were comparing him to Z for some reason that I can never remember. After he put up FIPs around 4 in 2008 and 2009 I had him pegged as a good but not great pitcher (maybe that’s where the Z comp came from). But it’s easy to forget how young he is – he turns 25 this year and is prime for some improvement off that base talent level. He put it together and quietly had a great 2010, but he’s seen his strikeout rate drop big time this year. He’s still striking out plenty of batters but no long at the batter an inning pace that he used to.

Last week’s rain delay must have been a bummer for Wells, who was rushed back to the majors before he could really knock the rust off from his rehab. Who knows though, maybe a shortened outing might help him for some vague and arbitrary reason that I’m too lazy to come up with. Wells has struck out plenty of batters but is also walking plenty, and the high pitch counts that ensue are chasing him early.

Wednesday: Chris Narveson, LHP (4.32, 3.22, 3.34, 4.08) vs Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.40, 3.96, 4.22, 3.96), 7:05 PM CT

Narveson has been a nice surprise for the Brewers, especially considering how desparate the Crew has been for pitching for the past few seasons. He had a mediocre minor league career in the Cardinals org before coming over to the Brewers. He joined the team in 09 as a swing man and found his way into the rotation last season, posting some decent, cost-controlled numbers. Much like all of the other Brewers starters in this series, he’s a fly-ball pitcher

There’s not much to be said about Z’s last start that hasn’t already been said. Tons of mistakes were made leading up to the Polanco grand slam in the last game, and the fates rubbed salt into the wound by having the Cubs score five runs in the top of the next inning.

Thursday: Zack Greinke, RHP (4.69, 2.52, 2.04, 2.75) vs Matt Garza, RHP (3.84, 2.30, 2.76, 3.64), 1:20 PM CT

Greinke has been as good as expected, FIP wise, but oddly enough batters are hitting a lot of line drives off of him (25.8%). His LOB rate (63%) is also a big factor in his ERA-FIP split. He’s piled up the strikouts but doesn’t have any starts this season that you can point to and say that he absolutely dominated the competition.

Garza’s strikeouts have been down since his return from the DL (seven in ten innings) and teams are still getting good contact off of him, if you can believe the line drive classifications. Especially now that it’s warmer, expect a lot more balls to fly out of the park with him pitching. This Brewers lineup could really put the hurt on him.


Another 3-1 series win for the Cubs opponent.


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We're gonna make it.