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Weekend Recap 14: Webb, Villar

Coming out of the All-Star break, the Brewers were poised for a sweep against the dreadful Phillies after big wins on Friday and Saturday, but the bullpen blew the lead on Sunday and the offense couldn’t cover for their mistakes.

Phillies Brewers
Friday July 14 6 9
Saturday July 15 2 3
Sunday July 16 5 2

New acquisition Tyler Webb made his Brewers debut on Sunday, and he got off to as poor a start as possible, as he surrendered a grand slam on his first pitch to Nick Williams. Brooks Baseball classified the pitch as a curveball, but according to Brooks Baseball and the BPMilwaukee write up on Webb, he doesn’t actually throw a curveball, it was just a poorly thrown slider.

Webb has a limited MLB track record, but his pitching patterns show this was not atypical use of his breaking ball. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s used his slider on 23.08 percent of his pitches this season. That usage rate rises to 37.50 percent when limiting his splits to left handed batters. And that usage rate tops out at 67 percent on first pitches to left handed batters. Now I realize that this is some serious carving up of already small sample sizes, but based on this pattern, Webb likes using that slider to start off lefties. Of course, Nick Williams knows that because the last time he faced Webb, he got a first pitch slider, which he hit for a home run.

Starting with his two outings against Milwaukee before the All-Star break, Webb saw a marked change in his typical game situations. Before July 7, he only entered in the middle of an inning once and all of his outings were in low leverage situations. Baseball-Reference’s Average Leverage Index (aLI) creates a number based on the average pressure seen by a player in a game. It’s indexed to 1.0: anything above 1.0 is considered high pressure and below 1.0 is low pressure. Webb’s pre-July 7 aLI was 0.18. His two games against Milwaukee had a 1.85 aLI and yesterday should have only added to that number.

If Webb is to be the LOOGY on this team, he’ll need to get used to high leverage situations and entering games in the middle of an inning. Sunday was a trial by fire, and while he failed, that’s not the end of the world. How Webb bounces back, and maybe varies his pitch mix, will determine if his Milwaukee tenure is successful.

Over the weekend, Jonathan Villar went 4-13 to extend his hitting streak to eight games. The mini streak has bumped his TAv to .233, still the worst for a regular on the Brewers. While it’s encouraging to see Villar at least getting some hits, the streak itself doesn’t seem to show any underlying improvement. He’s struck out nine times while walking only twice and only one hit during this span has gone for extra bases.

Looking at his whiffs per swing, to try and compensate comparing a large data set to a small one, Villar is whiffing at a higher rate now on all pitch types when compared with his full 2017 season. There also isn’t any immediate difference in his swing chart during the streak as opposed to his full season, which makes sense since his walk rate has gone down (those two walks are across thirty eight plate appearances).

While it’s great that Villar is sneaking a few more hits in, especially since he’s been restored to the leadoff position not based on any type of merit, there doesn’t appear to be any underlying change here to make one think that Villar is about to break out. If he can keep squeaking through these singles, while adding some patience and power, then maybe there’s something there, but until then, this eight game hitting streak is just a statistical oddity.

Up Next: The Brewers begin a ten game road trip with four games in Pittsburgh. The Brewers are 3-4 against the Pirates, and split a four game series in Pittsburgh the last time these teams met. The Pirates just won two of three from the Cardinals, creating a three team scramble for second place in the N.L. Central between those two teams plus the Cubs.

Brewers Pirates
Monday July 17 Brent Suter (6.27 DRA) Chad Kuhl (4.56 DRA)
Tuesday July 18 TBA Ivan Nova (4.57 DRA)
Wednesday July 19 Zach Davies (5.87 DRA) Gerrit Cole (3.74 DRA)
Thursday July 20 Jimmy Nelson (3.18 DRA) Jameson Taillon (3.65 DRA)
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