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Weekend Recap: Walker, Nelson

Milwaukee righted what looked to be a lost week as they took two of three over the weekend against Cincinnati. The Reds were a sight for sore eyes again this season as the Brewers ran their record to 9-5 against the Cincinnati nine. The bats came alive with twenty three runs scored by Milwaukee over the three game series, more than they’d scored in their previous nine games combined. The Brewers are now in 3rd place in the National League Central, but with the Cubs also reeling as of late, they’re still in the hunt for the division crown.

Reds Brewers
Friday August 11 11 10
Saturday August 12 5 6
Sunday August 13 4 7

On Saturday, the Brewers traded for Neil Walker. On Sunday, they batted him fourth. Walker rewarded that faith with two singles in the game and he drove in the second run of the game for Milwaukee. The two singles provide a good introduction to what Walker can do at this point in his career. While Walker has had two seasons of 20+ home runs (twenty three in each of those seasons), he’s generally been a singles and doubles guy with decent plate discipline.

Last season, Walker generated most of his home runs batting left handed, by owning the outer portion of the strike zone Looking at his isolated power, his red zones expanded as a lefty, but he really only handled low and inside pitches from the right side. This year, Walker has seen his power numbers go down. He’s not controlling as much of the zone against right handed pitchers and he’s shown no power against lefties.

Though he’s showing less power, Walker still has his batting eye. His swing rate is down from 46.75% in 2016 to 43.16 percent this year, but he’s more effective on those swings, reducing his swinging strike percentage from 20 percent to 18.94 percent, a trend that’s showing across all types of pitches. His contact rate uptick has mostly come on pitches out of the zone, even though he’s also swinging at those pitches less.

Based on his outcomes in 2016 compared with 2017 on four seam fastballs, Walker probably can’t catch up with too much heat at this point in his career, but he doesn’t need to be a power source in this lineup. If he can get himself on base and provide some competent defense, he’ll fulfill his function on this team.

Jimmy Nelson allowed ten runs in less than four innings in his Friday starts. One of his issues this season has been batters squaring up on his four seam fastball. Including Friday’s start, opposing hitters slugging .484 against the pitch. Eight of the fifteen homers he’s allowed in 2017 have come off the pitch. The good news is that Nelson has continued to de-emphasize the pitch:

Month Usage
April 37.67%
May 33.18%
June 30.07%
July 20.73%
August 18.43%

On Friday, he threw the pitch fourteen times, in line with his recent usage, and only got two whiffs while allowing a single double and home run.

As Nelson has moved away from the four seamer, he’s increased his sinker usage from  30.78 percent in April to 37.54 percent in August. This has generally been a good strategy, because while opponents have .299 batting average the pitch, the highest in his arsenal, they only slug .081. Nelson is fine with those singles and superior ground ball rate because those hits don’t generally change the game. Unless it’s Friday, where Nelson allowed four singles on the pitch, allowing the lead to balloon to 10-2. Most of the Reds’ hits didn’t seem to be extremely hard contact. Unfortunately, they had enough bloops and perfectly placed grounders to do their most of their damage. It doesn’t make Friday’s outing any easier to handle, but sometimes games like that are going to happen. Nelson’s plan has been effective throughout the season, and there’s no reason to panic after one disaster.

Up Next: The Pirates will come to Milwaukee for a two game series, starting on Tuesday. The last time these two teams played, Pittsburgh swept the Brewers in four games, starting the tailspin which culminated with the Brewers losing their division lead. These are also the last two games in Milwaukee until the end of the month, so coming away with at least a spilt is critical.

 

Pirates Brewers
Tuesday August 15 Ivan Nova (4.91 DRA) Brandon Woodruff (3.48 DRA)
Wednesday August 16 Chad Kuhl (4.29 DRA) Zach Davies (4.85 DRA)

 


 

Photo Credit: Benny Sieu, USAToday Sports Images

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