It was with great anticipation that I ended my work shift with the intent to listen to some afternoon baseball…only to immediately find our beloved Milwaukee Nine four runs in the hole. The Brewers would never recover, but if you like fringe bullpen depth, the afternoon was not entirely lost for Milwaukee.
Top Play (WPA): Entering the game, Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson boasted a difference of approximately nine runs between his DRA (-4) and actual runs prevented (+5. Both figures compared to Miller Park / 2016 National League). Basically, what this means is that given the context of his batted balls allowed, strike outs / walks / home runs, and other contextual aspects of each game, Nelson’s actual runs prevented (or, ERA if you prefer that stat) were highly beyond his expected output. Unfortunately for the Brewers righty, the Giants provided a sharp course correction, dropping Nelson’s actual runs prevented total by seven (!!!) runs in one start. What this means in the context of the Brewers rotation is that Nelson entered the start roughly comparable to Junior Guerra in value, and left it ahead of only Chase Anderson (who is trending upward according to DRA).
Of course, the idea of deserved runs was highly tested yesterday, as one could hardly argue that Milwaukee was playing defense of any kind. Nelson contributed to this cause in the third inning, when his own throwing error turned a one-out, man-on-second situation into a two-men-on, no-outs situation (+6% WPA for San Francisco). This was not yet the Giants’ top play, as Buster Posey’s two-run single would give the Champions-to-be 83% odds of winning (+10% WPA for San Francisco). The damage was irreparable, as Posey’s hit opened a four-run frame.
Worst Play (Brewers): Milwaukee valiantly tried to mount a comeback, or at least Jonathan Villar did, immediately thereafter. Villar lead off the fourth inning with a walk, dropping the Giants’ odds of winning for 89% to 86% (every uprising has to start somewhere!). Unfortunately, Scooter Gennett followed that walk with a strike out (-3%), and Jonathan Lucroy added one of his own (-2%). These creeping plays may have seemed unimportant at the time, but they preceded another four run barrage in the bottom half of the fourth. By the time the Brewers mounted their lone run, it didn’t even dent the Giants’ 99% WPA (ouch).
Bottom Play (WPA): This is one of those strange games where things were so out of hand so early that the bottom play hardly appears of consequence to the proceedings. But I am contractually obligated to inform you that Johnny Cueto’s flyout in the bottom of the second inning, with runners on second and third and two outs, set the Giants’ winning odds back 6% (to 50%!). Martin Maldonado, Alex Presley, and Jimmy Nelson couldn’t answer that fateful 0-0 score with a rally of their own in the top of the third.
Trend to Watch: Brewers fans have long awaited the return of Will Smith to the bullpen, which immediately improves the scouting (and performance) profile and potential for the high leverage bullpen. Manager Craig Counsell can shimmy Smith somewhere between Jeremy Jeffress and Tyler Thornburg, giving the Brewers one more lockdown option when the game is on the line. Even with Smith’s tough DRA start (4.54 in his first games of the season), it’s still easy to be “high” on the southpaw.
Smith’s arrival shifted some bullpen questions from high leverage positions to the fringes of the relief corps, but recent arrivals Jacob Barnes and Jhan Marinez have done as much as they possibly can to delay skepticism. Barnes himself is impossible to dislike with his pure-1980s relief profile (hard fastball / short slider), which is updated for the velocity standards of today’s game (yesterday the slider-first righty went 95+ / 87+ on average, but Barnes can rush that slider up into the 90s).
Try not to go bananas for Rock’s Chuck Crim reference (!!!):
BPMilwaukee’s Ryan Romano profiled Jhan Marinez’s stuff and results, which raises some potential question marks or areas of analysis to determine that righty’s future roles.
Questions aside, Marinez worked a solid mop-up role (placing aside an inherited runner scored) despite recording zero strike outs (he also didn’t walk anyone, or allow any homers). Marinez’s seven outs went 4 GB: 2 FB: 1 LD, which may be promising given the fact that the righty overwhelmingly went with his fastballs yesterday (27 fast ones to 5 sliders). The groundballs were nearly distributed evenly between fastball and slider selections, according to Brooks Baseball’s classifications.
|DRA vs. Miller Park||IP||Miller Park R||DRA R||DRA Runs Prevented (Actual Runs Prevented)|
|Jeremy Jeffress (31 G)||30.3||15||14||1 (6)|
|Tyler Thornburg (28 G)||26.7||13||7||6 (5)|
|Blaine Boyer (27 G)||32.7||16||20||-4 (3)|
|Carlos Torres (29 G)||33.3||16||15||1 (3)|
|Will Smith (7 G)||6.7||3||3||- (2)|
|Jacob Barnes (6 G)||5.3||3||2||1 (1)|
|Jhan Marinez (8 G)||13.0||6||5||1 (1)|
|Corey Knebel (4 G)||3.3||2||2||- (-2)|
|Current Bullpen||151.3||74||68||6 (19)|
Fans and analysts may not find themselves pumping hype about relievers like Marinez and Barnes, but thus far their DRA profiles hint that these righties could potentially serve as slightly above average relief options. They will have time to show whether one can dream big on their scouting profiles and peripheral performances in the manner of a Smith or Jeffress, but even if that high-end potential never appears, these arms can provide strong value for a bullpen. An elite bullpen must have strong high leverage performances, but it can also be defined by above average depth options. So if you’re looking for something to cheer for during a rebuilding year, focus on guys like Barnes and Marinez (to name just two examples).
Up Next: When Milwaukee faced the Mets at Miller Park, that series began a wicked stretch of 26 games against Senior Circuit contenders (taking the Brewers straight from early June into the All-Star break). Our beloved Nine fared admirably against the Mets, and they also played the Giants close for two games (even if they squandered both opportunities to win. Boo!). This masochistic tour continues in Chavez Ravine tonight, as the Brewers face off against southpaw Scott Kazmir. Milwaukee sends ageless wonder Junior Guerra to the mound.
The series continues with Zach Davies / Julio Urias, Chase Anderson / Mike Bolsinger, Matt Garza / Kenta Maeda lined up as MLB.com probables. I can’t be the only person that notices the interesting pair-off of recent MLB system graduates (Davies, Urias), rotational depth acquisitions (Anderson, Bolsinger), and injury-riddled veterans (Garza, Maeda). If you’ve got the fortitude to stay up past your bedtime, this series offers a fascinating set of matching narratives to the diehard baseball fan.