Worst Play: After allowing one run in both the second and third innings, Wily Peralta got into a groove, retiring seven batters in a row. He entered the sixth frame with the Brewers and Phillies tied 2-2, but that wouldn’t last. Freddy Galvis led off with an infield hit for the Phillies, and two batters later, Cameron Rupp ripped a first-pitch slider to left-center that brought Galvis around.
Rupp’s double (-.185) dropped the Brewers’ chances of winning from 54.0 percent to 35.5 percent. The next batter, Cesar Hernandez, plopped another double into the left-center gap, which sunk Milwaukee’s odds further to 22.9 percent. Peralta would retire Emmanuel Burress to end the inning, though, and the offense bailed him out when it got the opportunity.
The quasi-meltdown notwithstanding, Peralta held his own on Sunday. Five of the 26 batters he faced went down on strikes, and more importantly, he avoided free passes entirely. His season ERA decreased to 7.40, and he improved his FIP to 5.48; while both of those are far from what we’d like, they still represent a step in the right direction. If Peralta can build off this solid effort, perhaps he can return to the “success” of 2015, or even the moderate promise of 2014.
Best Play: Through three innings against Jerad Eickhoff, the Brewers had one baserunner and zero runs. They got on the board in the fourth inning, via a Ryan Braun home run and an Aaron Hill sacrifice fly, but Eickhoff set them down in order the next frame. After Peralta gave the Phillies the lead back, things didn’t look great for the Brew Crew.
Then Scooter Gennett, King of Grit, Savior of Men, hit a solo homer to narrow the deficit to 4-3. The second baseman’s triumph seemed to re-energize his squad, which promptly stormed back into the game. Eickhoff’s next three batters faced — Braun, Chris Carter, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis — all notched hits off him, flipping the score in Milwaukee’s favor, 5-4. In the span of four hitters, the Brewers’ win probability did a complete 180, reversing from 25.6 percent to 80.0 percent. If I can’t call that a comeback, then that word has lost all meaning.
The pivotal hit among these was the penultimate one: Carter’s two-bagger (+.181), which improved the club’s chances of victory from 45.7 percent to 63.8 percent. That would be the first of four doubles in the inning for Milwaukee, in addition to the second double of the game for Carter. Last season, the Brewers ranked 17th in the majors in doubles; since Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez left at the trade deadline and Adam Lind departed in the offseason, a dropoff from that wouldn’t have surprised anyone. Instead, Milwaukee has made further progress — it currently places 13th in two-baggers. While the onslaught of extra bases can’t negate the team’s strikeout woes, it certainly won’t make matters worse.
Trend to Watch: On the subject of comebacks, Braun has certainly hit well to kick off 2016. Not only does his .357 TAv lead the Brewers, it ranks fifth among the 144 hitters with 70 plate appearances. When he won the MVP award in 2011 and finished second in the voting in 2012, Braun’s TAvs were .345 and .327, respectively, so this reperesents an upgrade even over those. Can he keep it up?
Let’s gloss over Braun’s .396 BABIP, as everyone knows that will regress away in time. During those golden years, Braun hit for a ton of power: He notched a .265 ISO in 2011 and a .276 ISO in 2012. Then he hung around .200 for the following three years, and in 2016, he’s ascended to a .273 figure. So on the surface, Braun seems to have regained the clout that once made him great.
I’ll take a deeper dive into Braun’s power in the coming days, but for now, one metric can account for a lot of it. In 2016, Braun has hit the ball to left field 47.2 percent of the time, according to FanGraphs. He’s never pulled the ball this often before — back in 2011 and 2012, he had a pull rate of 34.1 percent — and the change appears to be a positive one. For his career, he’s had a .336 ISO to the pull field, compared to a .283 ISO to center and the opposite way. There are some other elements to Braun’s case that complicate things, which my analysis will discuss, but this looks like the biggest change.
Up Next: The Brewers had the day off Monday, which means they’re back to the grind Tuesday night against the Cubs. They begin a three-game series at Wrigley Field at 7:05 CST, with Jimmy Nelson and Kyle Hendricks duking it out. Tomorrow night, Taylor Jungmann will take the hill against Jake Arrieta — I think my colleague Travis Sarandos speaks for us all here — and the series will wrap up at 1:20 on Thursday with a Zach Davies-Jon Lester duel.