Life is Sport Games

Bucs beat Braves 10-1 to Move just 1 Game out of First

The latest Pirate Victory puts the Pirates just 1 game back of the Cardinals in the National League Central Division. With only 3 games to go, the race could easily end in a tie. I'm not even sure what happens if it does end in a tie with the new wild card system. I would hope that there would be an extra game played to determine who wins the division. What if there is a 3 way tie with 2 of the teams tied for the division and 3 teams tied for the wild card spot? There is no way that you could fairly have the 3 teams each play each other. Would the 2 teams tied for the division play one another and then the extra wild card spot is determined by tie breakers between the 2 remaining teams?

Normally in this blog I give out information, but tonight I man up and just say I don't know. It seems overly complicated. Baseball should be kept simple.

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Do the Brewers have bad Karma?

The short answer is yes they do. A forum reader once pointed out that karma doesn't occur in the same lifetime, it doesn't take affect until a reincarnation. Karma related to baseball is different. Baseball karma can come back the same year or the following season. In the case of the Brewers, most of their bad karma is coming from Braun's situation. Not so much his suspension as how he handled it and dragged it out, thus subjecting his team mates to a lot of uncomfortable interview. The best thing he could have done is man up and own his mistake at the outset.

Not all the bad karma comes from Braun. Carlos Gomez brings his own karma to the team by being incredibly high strung. When most batters get hit by a pitch, they just take first base. Too often Gomez stares down pitchers or jaws at them or at the opposing teams dugout. Some of the confrontations with Gomez and opposing players is from guys misinterpreting his high energy. There are times he should tone it down. When the play is over is one of those times.

I'd even say that the promoting Lucroy as an All Star was another bad karma move. The ad poked fun of the Cardinal organization and Molina. Surely they could have promoted Lucroy without making fun of the Cards. After all, look where the 2 organizations are now. The Cards have secured a playoff spot and the Brewers may just make it to .500 ball.

Of course not all of the Brewers troubles are from bad Karma. At least 50% comes from lack of offense from having a number of players with poor plate discipline. The thing is, what team has ever succeeded that has so many non baseball related issues hanging over their heads?

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Crew's Offense takes Early Vacation

Over roughly a 4 week period the Brewer offense had averaged just over 2 runs per game. Over the last 5 games the Brewers have scored exactly 5 runs while getting shut out twice. When it rains it pours and when it quits raining altogether it gets so dry that the ground gets those huge cracks.

During this offensive disappearing act the Brewer pitching has been stellar with the exception of Broxton's last 2 outings. Broxton was so new though that he might have thought that he was still under contract with the Reds. What does it all mean? Well for one, the Brewers season is over. Not officially of course, but its over, trust me. Going forward for next year, the Brewers look to have nothing in place for 2 or 3 years. They look to be a 4th place team next year unless their entire roster has a career year and that won't happen.

Lets move on because funerals aren't fun. Well not usually. The Pirates and the Giants are 2 teams that are still standing and the only thing to decide for now is which team goes on the road for the WC playoff game.

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Roenicke's Latest Man crush is Broxton

In back to back games the Brewers starting pitcher had gone at least 7 scoreless innings only to have their potential win vanish. Both times the Brewers manager, Ron Roenicke called on his new setup man Jonathan Broxton to preserve the victory. Broxton, recently required from the Reds, had not allowed a run as a Brewer until yesterday when he gave up a 2 run lead to the Cardinals. Tonight he not only gave up another 2 run lead, but allowed 4 Pirate runs to record the loss. In his last 2 appearances, Broxton pitched 1 and 1/3rd innings and allowed 6 earned runs. That works out to a less than stellar 40.6 ERA.

Given Roenicke's history of sticking with guys in spite of performance, Broxton should have several more opportunities to try to work out of his current funk. Yes everyone has an off day, even an off week, but this is the time of the year when a manager needs to have a short leash and go with whoever has the hot hand. Anyone with 20/20 vision could see that Broxton's fastball has been straight as a string over his last 2 starts.

The Brewers will get no respite in the next 2 games as their 3 game set with the Pirates wraps up.

 

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Pirates Continue to Roll

The Pirates are now 9-2 over their last 11 games after defeating Boston 4-0 last night. Since going 12-20 from April to early May, the Pirates have posted a 68-50 record from May 6th through today. That is playing at a .576 clip and is the best record of any NL central division team over that time frame. That included the front running Cardinals. The only question that remains is if the season is long enough for the Buccos to overtake the Redbirds.

During Pittsburgh's latest hot streak, Josh Harrison has raised his batting average another 5 points from .312 to .317. Pittsburgh would not even be in the division or wild card race without the play of JHay this season. If the Brewers can take care of the Cardinals in their current series, the upcoming Pirates/Brewers series could decide the division title. 

My personal belief is that the Pirates have an overall better team than the Cardinals. Some may point out that the Cards swept Pittsburgh in their last meet. Yes, but the margin of victory was all by just 1 or 2 runs. If they should meet again in the playoffs, the only difference between 1 run games is usually a broken bat bloop somewhere. Over the last 2 years, the Pirates have played the Cards tougher than the Brewers have. For that reason, I'd like to see another Cardinal/Pirate match up. That could only happen if both teams advance into the playoffs and everything lines up for them to face off. Should be a great race to the finish!

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Milwaukee Brewers face Power Outage

The Brewers had been in 1st place alone or tied for about 5 straight months and then just like that they ran out of gas. Who saw this coming? I sure didn't, certainly not at this level. Now that I reflect on what could become a historic collapse of epic proportions, I wonder why I didn't see it coming. The Brewers offense is built all wrong and has been ever since I can remember.

In fairness, they are a small market team competing with teams with bottomless purse strings, such as the Yankees or the Dodgers. I guess the reason it really stings, is the fact that they were successful for so long and then hit the wall. Just how were the Brewers able to mask their gaping flaws for so long?

Well for one, if a couple guys were in a slump, there were always 2 or 3 guys that were still raking. Then in the blink of an eye, the entire team essentially shut down offensively. In the last 14 games the Brewers have been outscored 86 to 35. Over that span they are averaging only 2.5 runs per game. Now I realize that this was inevitable for a team built for power at the sacrifice of contact. Power hitters are streaky, we all know this. So when a team has more power type hitters than pure contact hitters, they can go through maddening dry spells.

I talk about the Cardinals a lot and its because of their continued success. They now lead the Brewers by 6 games and the Pirates by 4 and 1/2. In spite of, or maybe because of the fact that they hit fewer home runs than any other team in the National League. They win by simply making contact frequently. Put the ball in play more often and your chances of success increase. Losing to the Cardinals is frustrating because they don't knock you out, instead they simply harass you to death. Its like a death of 1000 cuts. A typical Cardinal rally goes like this: A lead of walk, then a broken bat blooper followed by a seeing eye single. Then a chopper off the plate bounces high enough that everyone is safe. Then a pitch fools the next hitter but he muscles it for a flare to left field. Before you know it, they score 3 runs and you realize they never squared up a ball, yet they always put them in play.

They are also disciplined at the plate. In that regard they are complete opposites of the Brewers. They do this all without any show boating. Its strictly business to them. They are relentless. So yea, the Brewers are built all wrong. They are built for home runs and when they don't homer they only score 2.5 runs per game. That has led to their 1-13 record over the last 14. Oh sure, you could argue that the pitching has gone south but I would disagree. Take away 2 games where they gave up a combined 28 runs and they have only given up 4.83 runs over 12 games. Ok not stellar, but that is counting unearned runs, of which there have been many. To me the lack of offense has put undue pressure on the starting pitchers to throw shut outs and nobody is relaxed anymore.

Everyone is pressing and so the collapse may continue as it has for other teams in the past. If the Brewers miss the playoffs, this September will be remembered for a long time for all the wrong reasons.

Enough about the Brewers. Unless they turn the tide in a hurry, they will be irrelevant in another week.

 

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Do Teams Score more runs today then in the Pure Era?

The simple answer is no. The last few seasons team runs per game is less than it was during the 1940's, 50's or 60's.  I have taken 2 years from several important decades to illustrate that runs per game average has actually declined since the pure era. These stats are for the National League only. I didn't want to bias the runs per game stats with data from teams with the designated hitter. The DH subject is a separate topic for later.

Year           Runs per game

2013           4.00

2011           4.13

1963           3.81

1961           4.52

1953           4.75

1951           4.46

1943           3.93

1941           4.23

 

The peak for runs per game was in the 50's and 60's. I need to point out that during the height  of the steroid era runs per game spiked. For example, the year (2001) Barry Bonds set the HR record, average runs per game was 4.7

It appears the runs per game is now close to the level that it was in the 1940's. So why has current run production dropped off from the mid 1990's to the early turn of the century? Its fairly obvious that Steroid use was rampant during that period and the the new testing system has cleaned up the sport. Still, run production is now lower than it was in the 1950's. I believe that is due in part to more refined pitching techniques. I'm not old enough to have seen pitchers in the 1950's, but I suspect that they did not spend as much time being coached about mechanics and working on a 3rd or 4th pitch. Today pitchers are monitored closing and watch video. There is now endless data available about any holes a hitter may have in his swing.

Add to that the amount of defensive shifting possible due to extensive spray charts and a fair amount of hits with RISP are taken away, leading to fewer runs. I have done a lot of testing in a baseball simulation I recently developed ('True to Life Baseball' by Life is Sports Games) and found that even just a 1/2 run higher average per game makes a huge difference in how game play out. With more runs scored per game, there are significantly fewer 1 run games. Because of this, I think keeping average runs per game near 4.00 to 4.20 is in the best interest of baseball. It creates tighter games, which in turn have more drama. This may also be why we now seem to have more parity in the league than ever before.

 

Check out the authors tabletop baseball simulation here.

True to Life Sports

 

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Lohse Roughed up by Cards

The Brewers fall to the Cards 5-3 as the Carinals got to Kyle Lohse early. My gut feeling was that the Cards seem to have Lohse's number, but I wanted to check the stats before posting an article to that effect. According to ESPN the current Cardinal players have a lifetime batting average of .338 vs Lohse. You can see all the stats here: Cards vs Lohse. Just to give you a comparison, Lohse has allowed a .256 BA vs all teams these year. Lohse and Gallardo are two Milwaukee pitchers that the Cards just seem to have the numbers on. This is part of the reason the Cards moved to 9 wins and 6 losses on the year vs the Crew. Both teams now have 4 games vs each other, and the only way I see the Brewers competing for the Pennant is by going 3-1 in those meetings. I just don't see that happening. The Cards have a 6th sense about the post season this late and they know what they need to do to get there. The only way the Brewers get back in the chase is if the Cards give them an opening and that will not happen.

It now looks to be the Braves, Brewers and Pittsburg to compete for the final WC spot. Who would I pick to come out ahead? I'd say its a coin flip, but there are 3 teams and only 2 sides to a coin. How about a 6 sided dice roll then? The Brewers get in on a roll of 1-2, Pittsburgh on a roll of 3-4, and the Braves on a roll of 5-6. I rolled a 6, so the Braves get the 2nd wild card slot. Remember, you heard it here first!

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Brewers Win at Last!!

The Milwaukee Brewers finally ended there 9 game skid by beating the Cardinals on Friday 6 to 2. Even though they lost their previous game, they had begun to show life at the plate in their opening series loss to the Cards on Thursday. I don't have stats to back this up yet, but it seems as though Scooter Gennett is a major spark plug leading off. Scooter is a true lead off hitter and it might actually be a good thing that Gomez's injury forced manager Ron Roenicke to pencil Scooter in at the top of the lineup. Not that you ever want to lose Gomez's bat and it was unfortunate that he was injured. Hopefully Gomez heals up in time to be a factor for the playoff chase. If he does come back, he would be better suited batting 3rd or 5th. 

In Fridays game it was the bottom of the order that started things. Segura had 3 infield hits and the pitcher Mike Fiers twice sacrifice bunted to perfection, setting things up for Gennett who went 2 for 4 with 3 rbi's. The Brewers took the lead in the 3rd inning and never relinquished it. It was the first time the Brewers had led a game in 67 innings. Took me a while to do the math, but that is 7.44 games worth of futility. 

Can the Brewers now go on a roll? Sure, why not? This is baseball and the one thing I have learned about baseball is that anything can happen and usually does. I saw Maldanado hit the cover off a baseball earlier this year. I saw Segura steal 2nd base, then get caught in a run down only to end up safe back at 1st base. Then get thrown out again at 2nd base in the same inning, even though he only was on base once in that inning. I know that makes no sense and it even violates a baseball rule, but the umps allowed Segura to move backwards from 2nd to 1st. I saw the Brewers score 3 runs vs the Rockies on a single wild pitch. All this happened this year, so if all that can happen, then the Brewers winning the next 6 games would kind of sound routine.

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Brewers Dominated by Cards 3-2

Does that title sound a bit over the top for a game with a final score of 3-2? If it is, then only a little. How does a team seem to dominate while only winning by 1 run? Well it was the defense, then the defense again and still more defense. Very few outfielders make the play Peter Bourjos does in the late innings on Logan Schafer's deep fly out to center field. Throw in a couple of stellar catches by Jon Jay, one coming in and the other over the shoulder, and the Cardinals kept squashing what appeared to be promising innings by the Brewers. 

On the other side it was a missed opportunity to advance a runner on a bunt play by the Brewers with no one out that helped seal their fate. Maybe that is just how things go when your trying to break up an 8 game losing streak that is now extended to 9 games. I kept thinking that Roenicke might put on the butcher boy play and let Maldy swing away. Maldonado is a decent hitter, .258 BA with some power, .433 SLG with 4 homers in only 97 at bats. Once he popped the bunt up, one could sense the Brewers would not bring a run across. They have now averaged 2 runs per game over the last 9 games. Scoring more than 2 runs only 1 time over that span. 

Some are calling this a great collapse. Cardinal trolls exclaim it to be the biggest collapse sine the 1964 Phillies. I don't think of it as a collapse, rather, it is just a poorly timed losing streak. All teams go through them, they just get magnified when they happen in September when you were at least 2 games up on everybody. If the Brewers are to compete for the Division title, they need to win the next 3 games against the Cards. If not, they are still in it for a Wild Card spot, but they need to turn things around fast. If they continue to fade I think there will be some serious questions about team leadership. 

The thing is the Brewers played well tonight and still lost. I think that says a lot about the Cardinals.

 

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