Game 151 Recap: Pirates 6 Brewers 3

Tl;dr: Pittsburgh jumped on Matt Garza for five runs and their bullpen shut down the Brewers in a 6-3 victory.

Top Play (WPA):
Matt Garza ran into trouble immediately. He allowed the first three Pirates batters to reach base. Adam Frazier led off with a single, Josh Bell walked, and Andrew McCutchen hit a double that scored both runners (.144). While Garza recovered to retire the next three batters, the Pirates did not lose the lead for the remainder of the game.

Bottom Play (WPA):
There was a tie!

The first worst play occurred in the fifth inning. Pirates starter Steven Brault gave the Brewers plenty of opportunities. He gave up a hit in each of his four plus innings, and at least one runner reached second base in every innings. In the fifth inning, the Brewers had an opportunity to get back into the game. Jonathan Villar led off with a walk then stole second base. Orlando Arcia hit a single which advanced Villar to third base and chased Brault from the game. Up came Chris Carter, who grounded into a run scoring double play on the first pitch (-.108).

Wade LeBlanc was brought into the game to start the sixth inning for the Pirates. After a walk, a fielder’s choice, and a single, there were runners on first and second with one out and Martin Maldonaldo was at the plate. He saw four pitches: fastball, changeup, fastball, changeup. Unfortunately, that last changeup was off the plate and Maldonaldo hit into a double play to end the inning (-.108). The Brewers only had one baserunner the rest of the game.

Tyler Cravy Auditions for 2017
Tyler Cravy has not allowed a run since his appearance on August 16, his first after a stint in the minors. Here’s a look at his season stat line, split into two parts: April and post August 15th (and in full disclosure, I’m ignoring his spot start on May 6th):

Tyler Cravy IP H R K / BB / HR
April 4.7 8 2 5 / 0 / 0
After August 15 11.7 4 7 / 8 / 0

Brooks Baseball shows that he has increased usage of his four seam fastball from around 45 percent to 69 percent, while almost completely ditching his sinker. That increase also ate into his changeup and slider usage (10 percent and 5 percent respectively). He’s also increased his curveball usage from 4.5 percent to almost 8 percent.

However, when looking at the outcomes of the four seamer, there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable improvement. It’s inducing less swings, less whiffs, and less balls in play. Batters are fouling more per swing (increase from 14.81 percent to 23.08 percent), but when they hit the ball, they’re hitting fewer grounders and fly balls, and more line drives. While I want to look at the data for his other pitches, the second most pitches he’s thrown since his recall is sliders, and he’s only thrown a slider 22 times. That’s shaving things a little too thin to read anything into those outcomes.

Unfortunately for Cravy going forward, the answer for his current hot streak seems to lie in BABIP. While current sabermetric orthodoxy cautions against looking at BABIP and immediately drawing a conclusion regarding regression, the numbers here don’t lie. His BABIP on his four seamer in April was .333. Since August, it’s .120 for the four seamer, and .000 for every pitch other than his changeup. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say those rates are not sustainable.

Cravy got an inning of work last night. Andrew McCutchen led off and seemed to drive the ball, but it went right to Jake Elmore in left field. Gregory Polanco made solid contact to right field and got a single, but it looked like Domingo Santana could have caught the ball with a little more effort. Then Cravy struck out the next two batters, a feat he’s only done twice since his recall. One strike out was on a changeup, and the other via a four seamer.

While normally one would prefer greater strikeout numbers from a back of the bullpen piece, this team did just use Jeremy Jeffress as a closer when he only had a 7.05 K/9. There will be BABIP regression, but his current run is certainly putting him a position to make the team next year. If you’re a Brewers fan looking at things to watch which may have implications for 2017, then keep an eye on Cravy.

Up Next: The series continues with another game against Pittsburgh tonight. Jimmy Nelson starts for the Brewers. Last week against the Cubs he pitched six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven. The Pirates will send Chad Kuhl to the mound. He last pitched in a 15-2 victory over the Phillies. He completed six innings and allowed both Philadelphia runs, while striking out five. Kuhl also pitched against the Brewers in late August, going 6.3 innings and also striking out five batters and allowing two runs. First pitch is 7:10.

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