In a game that Milwaukee lost despite scoring six runs, we got a bitter taste of the pitching problems that have plagued the Brewers all season. Wily Peralta and Kyle Lohse have combined to throw over 200 innings in 2015, and they have combined for -1.2 WARP.
Peralta started this game and pitched poorly, and Lohse relieved him in the third inning and also pitched poorly. The defense didn’t help, but Peralta was disastrous in his own right. He missed Jonathan Lucroy’s target on a large percentage of his pitches, some of which ended up over the middle of the plate. After he allowed four runs (and eight baserunners) in just 2.2 innings, Lohse replaced him.
And as we have been conditioned to expect, Lohse was worse. Over the course of the season, he has ranked tenth-worst in WARP among all pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings, and his performance on Tuesday fit that pattern. He allowed several hard-hit balls and walked two batters in just 2.1 innings—although he did manage to strike out three Indians.
The offense did its part, though. A pair of home runs from Jonathan Lucroy and one each from Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana powered the team to six runs, but the early damage done by the Brewers’ tandem starters proved to be too much to overcome.
The Brewers entered the fourth inning trailing 4-2, which is not an insurmountable lead — particularly against a pitcher such as Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin. Craig Counsell turned to Lohse the inning before to try and stem the tide, and he had gotten out of the jam he inherited from Peralta.
However, he had no such success in the fourth. Michael Brantley followed a Jason Kipnis walk with the first of his two two-run homers, extending the lead to 6-2. Other than that, it was an uneventful inning. However, that home run ultimately proved decisive.
First, it was a hugely important play in terms of win expectancy. Brantley’s home run was worth .117 WPA — the third most-impactful play of the game — and the Indians’ win expectancy was over 92 percent when the inning ended. It also came off the Brewers’ second pitcher of the game; if Milwaukee was going to win, they were going to need an extended and excellent performance from the bullpen. To this point, it was clear they were not going to get that.
Second, it was as indicative as anything else of the struggles of the pitching staff. Lohse missed his spot by a significant margin — which can be seen from how far Lucroy had to move his glove — and his fastball was down the middle and belt-high.
Brantley subsequently deposited it in the right-field bleachers. This was a pattern that repeated itself throughout the first half of the game with both Peralta and Lohse.
It is this aspect of the game that is the main takeaway. There is only so much that Jonathan Lucroy’s excellent framing can do if the pitchers are throwing meatballs down the middle of the plate.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
The Brewers’ big-league club has been disastrous for most of this season. Therefore, it is not surprising that avid watchers of the team have begun to look to the future. And at this point of the season, some of the future has arrived in Milwaukee.
Domingo Santana made his debut with the major-league team on August 21. In the four days since, he has hit two home runs. His first one came on Friday, when he demonstrated his incredible bat speed.
His second came on Tuesday, when he demonstrated his prodigious strength. He took a fastball away, stayed through it, and crushed it to the opposite field.
Both of these swings explain the optimism around the young outfielder. One can also see the issues in his mechanics, though. He wraps the barrel of his bat before he brings it through the hitting zone, which can cause contact issues unless it is accompanied by incredible bat speed. Santana is certainly gifted, but he does not have the clean swing path that is preferable.
Orlando Arcia is a 20-year-old shortstop who jumped all the way from 93 to 31 in BP’s midseason prospect rankings and has had an excellent August. His .304/.326/.489 line is fantastic for a shortstop at any level, but it is even more incredible when his age is taken into account. He is just 20 and already in Double-A, where he is over four years younger than the average player in his league.
Jean Segura likely isn’t the future at shortstop, but Arcia might be. He probably won’t be a regular contributor until late 2016 or 2017, but he is absolutely worth paying attention to at this point. The Brewers have an eye on their future, and their fans should as well.