TOP PLAY (WPA)
The answer is so obvious that I considered putting something silly in this space to see if people were paying attention. Maybe Jonathan Lucroy gunning down Pedro Ciriaco or the first Carlos Gomez home run or Nick Markakis doing things in the outfield! However, after what our mother site did yesterday (I think some readers are still upset they couldn’t figure the joke out immediately), I’ll stop being cute: Carlos Gomez’s three-run home run in the eighth inning to make the score 6-5 Milwaukee was the play that most positively affected the game’s win probability (+.629 WPA).
Gomez mentioned after the game that he decided before the at-bat that he was going to pounce on a changeup, and he drove one to left field. According to Brooks Baseball, Luis Avilan’s changeup has been his best pitch for inducing swings-and-misses. The lefty has thrown the pitch 27.59 percent of the time in 2015, and that usage has steadily crept up each month, peaking in July at 34.15 percent — as Avilan has almost stopped throwing his curveball. Whether he knew this data or not, Gomez was likely to see a change, and it was a smart approach to wait for it and send the ball flying.
BOTTOM PLAY (WPA)
Cameron Maybin crushed a ball in the third inning to put Atlanta in the lead at 3-0. The home run was worth -.222 WPA for Milwaukee and continued a troubling trend for Milwaukee pitchers at home, especially for poor Mike (middle name Bruce) Fiers. In the third inning, Fiers served up home runs to both Maybin and Kelly Johnson. He has now given up 12 home runs on the season, 11 of which occurred at Miller Park — a trend that extends to the whole Brewers’ team. This looked to be the beginning of yet another nightmare, but to his credit, Fiers finished six-full innings and did not allow another hit during the game, giving his offense a chance to take the game.
The Gomez home runs. However, to point out something else, seeing Khris Davis straight-up annihilate a baseball to center field in his second game back from the disabled list was a welcome sight. As our own Derek Harvey wrote yesterday, Davis seems to be a lightning rod for criticism, and it leads people to forget that he has a special bat. At 27 years old, he’s already in his prime years, and watching him hit will be a joy in a season where those have been few and far between.
TREND TO WATCH
Have I mentioned home runs enough yet? Because, if I’m being honest, I don’t think that I’ve mentioned home runs enough yet. The Brewers’ pitching staff has struggled with the long ball, allowing an MLB-high 98 home runs this season. Somehow, a whopping 72 of those have come at Miller Park. Aside from giving the fans plenty of unwanted souvenirs, that’s a rate which has turned Miller Park into Coors Field Wisconsin (TM). The inflated home run rate hasn’t been spread evenly, as the Brewers have only hit 37 at home so far. While the homers aren’t the sole reason Milwaukee has the worst home record in Major League Baseball at 16-28, it makes for an unpalatable and, unfortunately, predictable sight during home games. Any steps forward in the second half need to begin with understanding why Miller Park has turned into a launching pad for Brewers pitchers and how they can correct this pattern. It’s not as simple as citing ground-ball rates, either, as the Brewers own the 11th-best ground-ball rate (45.9 percent) in baseball.
COMING UP NEXT
An exhilarating win is rewarded with a day off and a flight to Los Angeles. In the last weekend before the All-Star Break, the Brewers will meet the Dodgers. The good news is Los Angeles will have expended starts from All-Star Zack Greinke and has-been no-Star Clayton Kershaw against Philadelphia.
The bad news is that the Dodgers are very good. Coming into Wednesday night, they had the third-best run differential in the National League (+55) and only have one below-average regular position player according to OPS+ (Jimmy Rollins). Their team’s collective OPS+ is 111, and they’ve hit the most home runs in the league at 107. They are consistently above-average, if not tops in the league, in almost every important offensive category. There will be runs.
Jimmy Nelson gets the first chance to try and stymie the potent Dodger lineup. Nelson gives up a home run in three percent of all plate appearances, which ranks 29th out of all qualified starters. His ability to keep the ball in the park will determine in what happens for the team on Friday.
Mike Bolsinger will start Friday night for Los Angeles. His season has been a surprising success when compared with his 10 starts in Arizona in 2014. Through his 67 innings, his FIP is 2.90, which would place him 18th in Major League Baseball — right behind David Price, if he had enough innings to qualify. In his 12 starts, he’s only allowed more than two runs on three occasions. Of course, he’s also walked at least two batters per start in 10 of his 12 appearances. The Brewers are below-average in walk rate, but they’d be best served to be patient and make Bolsinger challenge them in the strike zone.