Series Preview #30: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

USA TODAY Sports

"Like the Diamondbacks, the Brewers went into the offseason with the uncomfortable sense that they were about the sixth-best team in the National League." -Zavada's Moustache, April 5, 2013.

Well, I got the Diamondbacks half pretty right, so far. The Dodgers sweep pushed the D-Backs into a tie for fifth-best record in that National League.

But the Brewers have decidedly not been the sixth-best team in the National League this year. The Brewers are 37-53, which is a Marlins away from being the worst mark in the league. An incredible month of May saw them lose 21 of 26 games played, and on the whole they've been outscored by 60 runs.

And I don't think they expected it any more than I did at the beginning of the season. They won 83 games in 2012 a season after winning 97 and the NL Central. They had the reigning MVP runner-up (add an asterisk if you must), and an offense that was expected to be one of the best in the National League.

But now that a season that was supposed to be a last hurrah has fallen off the rails, the Brewers are firmly in rebuild mode. It's not going to happen in a half-season though, with a barren farm system and only one regular under the age of 26.

What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):


Arizona
(47-44)
Milwaukee
(37-53)
Edge
Hitting (wRC+): 90 96 Milwaukee
Pitching (ERA-/FIP-):
96/98 110/111 Arizona
Fielding (UZR):
28.2 -7.5

Arizona

The stats actually paint a pretty good idea of what's going wrong in Milwaukee. They were expecting hitting that would be good enough to offset mediocre pitching. Instead, the offense has been surprisingly mundane (well, exceptional in places and staggeringly awful in others, but more on that later) and the pitching hasn't been good enough to keep them in games. The Brewers starters have the worst combined ERA in the NL at 4.91.

Starting Lineups

Arizona Diamondbacks

. Gerardo Parra, RF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Cody Ross, RF
6. Martin Prado, 3B
7. Didi Gregorius, SS
8. A.J. Pollock, CF

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Norichika Aoki, RF
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Carlos Gomez, CF
5. Jonathan Lucroy, C
6. Sean Halton, 1B
7. Rickie Weeks, 2B
8. Yuniesky Betancourt, 3B

On the one hand, the top five in this lineup is probably as solid as any in the National League. Aoki doesn't hit for much power, but with an OBP of .366 he makes a pretty good leadoff hitter.

Segura should be the centerpiece of any youth movement that the Brewers move toward. He was the main piece that Milwaukee received for Greinke from the Angels, a glove-first SS prospect who so far seems to have plenty of bat too. I expect some regression, but 22-year-old Shortstops with a OPS+ of 127 are nice to have around.

May as well enjoy Ryan Braun while we have the chance, since there's a pretty good chance he's going to go away for a while. With the fallout from Biogenesis just beginning, we could be looking at a 50-game suspension for Braun. Hell, if MLB has its way, Braun might actually be gone for 100 games. I'm not indicting Braun (I'll leave that to both MLB and the comment section of this article), but the point is, this is your last chance to see the best hitter in the NL since 2011 for a while.

We're essentially at the All-Star Break, and Carlos Gomez has the best fWAR among National League position players. That's weird. He's always been perceived as a toolsy player, but toolsy outfielders are essentially high-stakes raffle tickets. The Twins and Mets left the raffle before it was over, but the Brewers stuck around and they're getting rewarded with a thoroughly unexpected 5 fWAR season from Gomez.

The injuries to Corey Hart and Mat Gamel sort of ensured that it wasn't going to be a great season for the Brewers at First Base, but my goodness. Yuniesky Betancourt has received the majority of time at first base, which really tells you all you need to know. As of now, Aramis Ramirez is out with a sprained left knee, so Betancourt moves over to third (which is not better) and minor league filler Sean Halton (.219/.242/.281 in 33 major league PAs) steps in at first base.

Pitching Matchups:

Thursday: Yovani Gallardo (7-8, 4.85) vs. Wade Miley (5-7, 4.06)

Insightful Commentary: Just the guy we all want to see when the Diamondbacks are struggling. As you all presumably know though, Gallardo has had a rough season thus far. His strikeouts are down, which is not concerning in and of itself, but when it's accompanied by a drop in velocity and a spike in opponent's Line Drive Rate, it's worth keeping an eye on.

In his last two starts, Miley has allowed just one run in 13.2 innings. And considering that that one run came on a solo home run to the NL's home run leader, I'm not all that bent out of shape about it. As out of sorts as Miley looked a month ago, he's back to being a serviceable middle of the rotation starter. And really, that was all I wanted from him this year.

Friday: Tom Gorzelanny (2-1, 2.12) vs. Patrick Corbin (10-1, 2.40)

Insightful Commentary: I vaguely remember Gorzelanny pitching for the Cubs in 2010, but after that he may as well have dropped off the face of the earth. So imagine my surprise at seeing him here. Fangraphs tells me that he spent the last two years as a long man for the Nationals, which is probably the closest one can come to being enrolled in WitSec while still being a major-league pitcher. He throws what appears to be a pretty good slider, a changeup, and a couple of fastballs that average around 90 MPH.

Did you really come here to read about Patrick Corbin? C'mon. He's Patrick Corbin, and there's nothing that I can tell you here that you don't already know. The Diamondbacks have had better half-seasons of pitching, but the people who have put those up all have last names like Johnson, Schilling, and Webb.

Saturday: Kyle Lohse (5-6, 3.47) vs. Randall Delgado (1-3, 3.82)

Insightful Commentary: I might be misremembering, but I seem to recall that there was a sense in certain corners that adding Lohse might make the Brewers the favorites in a weak division. If true, that assumption was wrong in pretty much every way, but little of it is Lohse's fault. Though his FIP is up this year due to a spike in home runs, he's been the team's best starter, thanks largely to BB/9 that has become elite. Not bad for a guy who looked like an innings-eater as recently as 2010.

I didn't come away from Delgado's start against the Dodgers terribly impressed, but it's important to consider context. Delgado did something that no other starter did, which was pitch a Quality Start against LA in that series. He didn't walk anyone, and for the first time since his debut start, he didn't allow a home run. And considering how hard the Dodgers hit the ball in that series, I'll call that a small victory.

Sunday: Wily Peralta (6-9, 4.82) vs. Ian Kennedy (3-5, 5.31)

Insightful Commentary: Peralta pitched a complete game shutout against the Reds in his last start. And while it's always encouraging to see a rookie succeed like that, it was particularly noteworthy because it was the Brewers' first complete game in over two years, which is pretty incredible, really.

As has been Kennedy's MO for a season and a half now, any step forward must be accompanied by at least one step back. And the start against the Dodgers clearly counted as a step back. Starting with (inadvertently) hitting Hanley Ramirez with a pitch in a game that was anticipated precisely because Kennedy can't avoid hitting people with pitches, he never seemed to have his command. And six runs later, he left the team with little chance to win the game.

Brewers Blog: Brew Crew Ball

(All numbers via Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)

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