The Brewers released their Game Notes for Game Four tonight, in Los Angeles, meaning that there is relative certainty regarding the next two games of the series. Both games will be southpaw match-ups, with Waiver Trade acquisition Gio Gonzalez facing off against former Independent Leaguer and Curveball Artist Rich Hill before corresponding aces work on Wednesday afternoon. That’s right: Wade Miley and Clayton Kershaw are competing against each other for what will either be a deciding or pivotal Game Five.
Baseball does not get any better than this series.
With these pitching match-ups set, it’s possible to assess the Runs Prevention comparisons for the starters, and also look at the current depth in both squads’ bullpens. These figures come from the season ending Runs Prevented worksheet, assembled on October 2, 2018. If you’re new to Runs Prevented, I’ve linked a couple of primer articles below; the gist of it is that Runs Prevention is a descriptive statistic (not a predictive one) about the quality of a pitcher’s Runs Allowed performance scaled to their average ballpark and league environment.
Game Four finds a relatively even match up between Gonzalez and Hill, as Gonzalez improved significantly in September with the Brewers. Hill was one of the innings pitched workhorses for the Dodgers rotation, and his full-season mark of approximately 6 Runs Prevented places him squarely within the top twenty percent of all MLB pitchers.
|NLCS Pitcher||Runs Prevented (Season End)||Rank|
|Gio Gonzalez (MIL)||~5.0||177|
|Gio Gonzalez (WAS)||-4.9||681|
|Rich HIll (LAN)||5.5||163|
|Wade Miley (MIL)||10.5||84|
|Clayton Kershaw (LAN)||20.8||24|
The match-up between Wade Miley and Clayton Kershaw is all thanks to Craig Counsell’s limitations on the veteran’s workload during Saturday’s game, which allows Miley to turnaround on so-called short rest. This isn’t to belittle the effort behind Miley’s pitches, but it’s not as though the left is returning on short rest after throwing 100 pitches; given the relative success with this strategy involving Jhoulys Chacin during the League Divisional Series, one cannot be surprised that Counsell is trying it again. Both Kershaw and Miley are veritable veteran leaders of their respective rotations; the former was the second-best pitcher on the Dodgers staff (behind on Walker Buehler), while Miley is the third-best pitcher on the Brewers staff (behind Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader).
This is ace versus ace territory, in the playoffs! A potential top rotation versus top rotation match-up probably will determine the trajectory of the series.
— DeathToFlyingThings (@SpectiveWax) October 13, 2018
Turning to the bullpens tonight, one can see that the Dodgers have a relative advantage in terms of resting their key relievers in Game Three. Of course, one can question that rest, as it came at the expense of an additional inning from the rookie Buehler and the subsequent insurance runs tacked on. Milwaukee had a 1-0 lead when Buehler came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning with a runner in scoring position; the righty remained in the game then, and allowed another run in the sixth before allowing two additional runs in the seventh. One wonders how Pedro Baez or Ryan Madson would have fared after effectively silencing Brewers bats in Games One and Two.
|Game Three Relievers||Runs Prevented (Season End)||Game Three Pitches||Series|
|Game Three (MIL)||43.8||52||183|
|Game Three (LAN)||9.3||36||63|
Craig Counsell had no problem going to his main guys in Game Three, but it is also worth questioning that decision when one assesses the relative strength and lack of workload of some of his rested relievers. Freddy Peralta has yet to throw a pitch, and one could question whether his fastball heavy approach would have been a favorable change in view against Dodgers bats, especially once a four-run lead was established. Junior Guerra’s poor Runs Prevented numbers largely occurred as a starter; he’s been an entirely different pitcher as a reliever. Comparing Runs Prevented figures between Counsell’s “rested” relievers and his Game Three choices, it’s easy to see why he worked so hard to get Jeremy Jeffress back on track, and why he went to Josh Hader and Corey Knebel, too (Knebel, of course, entered when the game was 2-0 and the tying runner was at the plate).
|“Rested” Pitchers||Runs Prevented||Total Series Pitches|
|Brewers Rested Relievers||6.1||60|
|Dodgers Rested Relievers||16.1||124|
Entering Game Four, one almost has to expect an appearance from Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Junior Guerra, Corbin Burnes, and/or Xavier Cedeno in order to patch things through to Game Five. Obviously, Hader hardly threw any pitches last night, and as Counsell told the FS1 crew, if he’s cleared by trainers and feels good, Hader’s availability will be a “play it by ear” situation (read between the lines: expect Hader if the game is very close and on the line). At some point, one must expect that the Brewers will need to use this secondary group of relievers, both because Knebel and Jeffress have thrown between 50-60 pitches over four days, and because the group of “rested” relievers is quite solid in their own right. While the national commentary about the Brewers has been a sore subject for many following the series from the midwest (and rightfully so, in many cases), if Games Four and Five feature crucial moment meltdowns from the Milwaukee pen, commentators will undoubtedly look to the managerial decisions during that four-run lead as a source of criticism.