Anderson regains form vs. Cubs

May 18, 2016

RECAP

> After a series of subpar performances, it looks like the Chase Anderson we saw in his first two starts of the season is back. The righty dominated the best team in baseball, as the Brewers took down the Cubs, 4-2. Anderson (2-5, 5.32 ERA) took a perfect game into the sixth inning, a no-hitter into the eighth, and looked primed for a one-hit shutout before Chicago’s bats started to heat up in the ninth. He went 8 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out six.

Anderson and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (2-3, 3.51 ERA) exchanged goose eggs through the first three innings before Jonathan Lucroy broke the silence in the fourth with a solo home run. The Brewers struck again in the sixth on Ryan Braun’s RBI single and a two-run double from Chris Carter.

That was more than enough for Anderson, who posted undoubtedly the best start from a Brewers pitcher this season. In his last start against the Marlins, he threw three perfect innings to start the game, and he took that to the next level today with seven perfect innings. Ben Zobrist led off the eighth with a double to break up the bid, but Anderson would retire the next three in order to escape unscathed.

Anderson induced a Tommy La Stella flyout and a groundout from Dexter Fowler to start the ninth inning. He then had Jason Heyward down 0-2, and all that stood between Anderson and his first career complete game was one strike. Heyward had other plans, however, as he deposited an 0-2 fastball on the inner part of the plate into the visiting bullpen. Craig Counsell decided to stick with Anderson to see if he could finish it off, but the next batter, Kris Bryant, went back-to-back with Heyward. It was disappointing to see Anderson depart after he’d been literally a strike away from a one-hitter, although the curveball that Jeremy Jeffress finished Anthony Rizzo with during his one-out save eased the pain a bit.

> The Brewers improved to 17-22 tonight while the Cubs fell to 27-10, but Chicago is still comfortably the best team in the game. This came following a series split against the Padres, which saw some solid pitching from the Brewers for the most part. After they failed to support Jimmy Nelson in the first game, Milwaukee scored just one run– a Carter sacrifice fly– in the second game, but that was enough for Junior Guerra (6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), who had the best start of his young career. Christian Friedrich (6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 4 K) took the tough luck loss for the Padres.

The third game was a roller coaster, but the Brewers eventually fell 8-7 in 12 innings. Thanks to another ugly start from Wily Peralta (4 2/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), the Brewers found themselves down 6-2 headed into the seventh. They scored a pair of runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to tie the game, but back-to-back homers from Derek Norris and Melvin Upton Jr. off Chris Capuano in the top of the twelfth sealed the deal for San Diego. The Brewers did have some nice offensive performances on the day, as Jonathan Villar went 3-for-5, Lucroy 2-for-6, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis 3-for-7 with three RBIs.

The series finale was a pitchers’ duel between Zach Davies (6 1/3, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) and Cesar Vargas (5.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), but it ended in favor of the Brewers thanks to Carter’s go-ahead RBI double in the seventh. Despite the fact Davies gave up a game-tying homer to Brett Wallace in the top of the seventh, it was nice to see him flash the dominant form he showed last September.

NEWS

> Peralta’s rotation spot may not be safe for much longer. Counsell declined to go into detail, but implied that he can’t continue to pitch the way he has. The Brewers’ opening day starter this year, Peralta currently owns the worst WHIP (1.99) and second-worst ERA (7.30) among qualifying Major League starters.

That’s right: he was our opening day starter this season. I don’t blame you if you forgot. The Brewers’ starting rotation has struggled mightily as a unit this season, but Peralta has been the poster boy of those struggles. I thought the same thing during his first full season in the Majors in 2013, but I’ve never been able to understood how a guy blessed with as good of stuff as Peralta can be so bad. He has a fastball with tail that consistently touches the upper-90s, a wipeout slider (though it hasn’t exactly been “wipeout” in 2016, I suppose) in the mid-to-upper 80s, and a decent change-up as well.

I might delve deeper into why he’s continued to regress this season in another article, but what it basically comes down to is his control. His strikeout percentage is down in 2016 while his walk percentage has skyrocketed. Another factor could be spin rate: in 2015, Peralta had the lowest spin rate (1,741 rpm) on his two-seam fastball in the Majors. Spin rate is a different measure of a pitch than velocity; when you hear a pitcher has “late life” on his fastball, that means the fastball has a high spin rate. It’s definitely something to look into a bit more, but that might start to answer why Peralta’s potential isn’t translating into better numbers, or at least decent numbers like he posted in 2014.

Matt Garza will come off the disabled list at some point, and someone’s going to have to move to the bullpen or head to the minors when that time comes. Unfortunately for Peralta, everyone else in the rotation seems to be headed in the right direction: Nelson is the undisputed ace, Guerra has outperformed most of the rotation while filling in for Taylor Jungmann, and both Anderson and Davies have had a few solid starts in a row. Peralta is facing a similar situation that fell upon Kyle Lohse in 2015: Lohse, the opening day starter in 2015, was moved to the bullpen midway through the season due to ineffectiveness.

> The Brewers will look to take the series from the Cubs tomorrow at 7:10 p.m. CT. Nelson (4-3, 3.51 ERA) will get the ball for the Crew while John Lackey (4-2, 3.54 ERA) will go for the Cubs. Despite a 3.35 ERA in his career against the Cubs, Nelson is 0-4 against them, including a start earlier this year when he gave up a run over 5 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Lackey has dominated the Brewers in his career, going 5-1 with a 3.11 ERA in eight starts against them.


The second chances aren’t working

August 11, 2012

POSTGAME

> You can say all you want about how bad the Brewers’ bullpen is. It leads baseball in blown saves. I guess it hasn’t left Ron Roenicke with many options, but lately one option has actually emerged. It’s Jim Henderson, the 29-year old Canadian who has spent 10 years in the Minors before finally getting his chance at the Major League level. And he’s been producing. Coming into today, he had a 2.57 ERA (should be 1.29), and appeared to have the closer’s role locked down.

But, Roenicke did what he’s been doing FAR too much this season; try and give the struggling relievers second chances. And it cost starter Mark Rogers.

The Brewers lost to the Astros today, 4-3, courtesy of John Axford’s eighth blown save, and his seventh loss.

It was going fine early. In the first inning, Ryan Braun drove in Nyjer Morgan, who had reached on a dropped strike three. In the second inning, Astros starter Bud Norris threw a wild pitch with Jean Segura batting, which allowed Rickie Weeks to score from third, giving the Brewers an early 2-0 lead.

The Astros didn’t get on the board until the fifth inning on Carlos Corporan’s RBI single. Up until that inning, Rogers had held the Astros hitless through four innings. This was by far his best outing as a big leaguer, as he went seven innings while giving up a run on three hits (all in the fifth inning). He walked two and struck out eight.

The Brewers tacked on one more in the seventh on Segura’s RBI single.

So Roenicke must have thought it was 2011 today, because he used Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth, and Axford in the ninth. K-Rod gave up a home run to Corporan to cut the lead to 3-2, and from there retired the side in order.

Then Axford came in, and disaster once again struck.

Axford walked Brett Wallace to start the inning, who was pinch-run for by Tyler Greene. But, Greene advanced all the way to third base because of a wild pitch. Steve Pearce promptly tied the game with an RBI single and reached second base because of an error by center fielder Carlos Gomez. Scott Moore then drilled an Axford pitch to very deep center field (a few feet up Tal’s Hill), but Gomez managed to make the play, with Pearce tagging to third base. Brian Bogusevic dealt the finishing blow with a walk-off RBI single.

By the way, some people on Twitter were trying to blame Axford’s wild pitch on catcher Jonathan Lucroy. I’ll admit he didn’t make the best effort, but there’s honestly no point attempting to defend the bullpen anymore. It is what it is.

THE ANALYSIS

> I can’t explain everything, because I’d be attempting to figure out what goes on in the mind of Roenicke. I can’t do that, nor would I ever want to.

But I can say this. The Brewers have found another closer for the time being, that reliever being Henderson. But that’s useless if Roenicke continues to go back to the reliever who have failed the Brewers time and time again.

By the way- I’m not trying to come down on Axford, at least not directly. Obviously I have to blame him for the loss, considering he took the loss. But I’ve tried to stay away from mocking players directly lately, because I recently learned a lesson, that lesson being to not say anything online (or anywhere else) that you wouldn’t say to someone in person. I made that mistake three years ago on my old Twitter account, and I’ve made it a few times on my current account and even here on BWI. But I’ve tried to imply that rule to myself a lot more often lately, because I recently ran into Axford in person. All I could do was ask for a picture. Would I ever tell him “quit blowing saves” or “you’re horrible?” Heck no. There are plenty of people who do that on Twitter, and I don’t want to one of those people. But I’m a writer, so I have to at least be critical about it.

But I’m not afraid to come down on Roenicke, because it’s gotten to the point where I would probably blow up at him in person.

Anyway, I kind of rode off topic there, but I felt the need to get that out there.

> I was going to talk about the possibility of Mike Fiers (and other pitches) getting shut down before the end of the year, but I think I’m going to save that for another day. That topic requires its own article, because I’d also need to go into my opinion of that, pitch count, and so on.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum made his first rehab start today for the Timber Rattlers (Single-A). He went three innings and threw 36 pitches, 28 for strikes. He gave up a solo home run, but was otherwise solid. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three. Marcum was only scheduled to throw 35-40 pitches, so the low innings and pitch count were probably because he hadn’t thrown to live hitters in awhile.

Marcum hopes to return to the Brewers by their home series against the Cubs on August 20th.

> The innings limit suggested by Roenicke counts as news, I guess.

THE NUMBERS

> The bullpen is awful. You don’t need the numbers to tell you that anymore.

> Weeks went 3-for-4 with a career-high three doubles today.

> Gomez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, all against Norris.

> Segura got his first hit that left the infield, and his first hit that drove in a run.

> Rogers’ chance at his first career win was once again blown by the bullpen.

> Tomorrow’s match-up:

Marco Estrada (0-5, 4.13 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.60 ERA)

 


Brewers hammer Astros again to complete sweep

August 2, 2012

> It may have only been the Astros, but it’s good to see nonetheless. The Brewers crushed the Astros again today, 13-4, to complete a three-game sweep over them. As the score shows, the bats were alive and well again, as they’ve been this whole series. Mike Fiers also had another good start.

It was a pretty gritty start for Fiers, actually, but he’s shown that he can pitch even without his best stuff. He went six innings while giving up two runs on eight hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out six. Fiers’ ERA went up to 1.88, which still leads MLB rookies.

The Brewers took advantage of a multitude of early mistakes by the Astros, who ended up making a total of four errors in the game. Nyjer Morgan led off the game by reaching on an error by third baseman Scott Moore. Three batters later, Aramis Ramirez reached on another error by Moore, and that drove in Morgan to make the score 1-0.

But, the Astros tied the game in the third on Jose Altuve’s RBI single, then took the lead in the fourth on Brett Wallace’s solo homer. But, the Brewers took back the lead in the bottom of the inning on Cesar Izturis’ RBI single. An error by the second baseman Altuve (a failed glove flip) allowed a second run to score.

In the fifth inning, the Brewers’ offense erupted. After Morgan and Carlos Gomez hit back-to-back singles and pulled off a double steal to lead off the inning, Ryan Braun drove them both in with a single. Two batters later, Corey Hart hit an RBI double, and Rickie Weeks followed that him with his 12th home run of the year. But they weren’t done: Izturis, the one of the career .220 slugging percentage, hit a home run to extend the lead to 9-2.

Then, in the sixth, Braun added a homer of his own after a 14-pitch at-bat against Fernando Rodriguez. The Brewers tacked on two more in the seventh on Jonathan Lucroy’s first home run since his return from the disabled list, and a Morgan RBI single.

The Astros got two more in the eighth on Wallace’s second home run of the game, this one off Mike McClendon, but it wasn’t near enough to get back in the game.

> Shaun Marcum reportedly had a good bullpen session today, and is almost ready for a Minor League rehab assignment.

Marcum has been out since early June, and his injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Because of it, he lost all of his trade value. And, being a free agent at the end of the season, he will likely walk without the Brewers get anything in return for him (although the Brewers still might get a compensation pick, the new rules make that sort of confusing).

You’d think Marcum wouldn’t be that tough of a pitcher to retain, but I think some personal issues come into play. Marcum expressed his interest in staying in Milwaukee last offseason, but said Doug Melvin wouldn’t even talk to him about an extension, likely because he was so focused on the Zack Greinke case. So now, one of two things is happening: Melvin STILL won’t talk to him, or Marcum is bitter about it.

So now we’ve basically lost both of our prized offseason acquisitions from the 2010-2011 offseason. Not very smart navigating by our front office, if you ask me.

> And that’s about it. After an off-day tomorrow, the Brewers start a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Here are the probables:

Randy Wolf (3-7, 5.45 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (1-4, 2.96 ERA)

Mark Rogers (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.24 ERA)

Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.34 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (11-2, 2.91 ERA)