Thursday, 22 September 2011

Playoffs Primer- Mawokee Broors

That's what it sounds like when you say it kind of fast.  Shut up.

Alright, we're not going to kid ourselves and say that STL is going to catch MIL for the ML Central division title.  It's a 4.5 game lead with 7 games left, which may as well be as insurmountable as the Red Sox 9 game lead over the Rays at the start of September...

The Brewers shored up that rotation in the offseason, adding both Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to join Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, forming a prettay, prettay, prettay good starting 4.  NL offenses are pretty horrible, but Marcum and Greinke have both transitioned quite nicely to the NL (as if that could possibly be difficult), and deadline acquisitions, have turned a good bullpen in to a great one.  This team is a testament to the advantage of having unbalanced schedules, and 54 games (or whatever it is) against the Cubs, Astros and Pirates.  I don't think pitching is going to be much of a problem, but the awesome pitching numbers that these guys have put up are slightly misleading.  I maintain that, in the weird scenario that places one of STL, MIL, or CIN in the AL East and replace them with the TOR, the Jays would be a playoff team from that division.

Offensively, there are 3 weapons on this team to avoid if you're an opposing pitcher.  Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder are all really good at baseball.  Fielder has an OBP over .400 for the season, and Ryan Braun has an OPS of almost 1.000 with 31 steals and 31 HR's.  Both guys are putting up MVP caliber seasons in a world where Matt Kemp doesn't exist.  Beyond those guys, well, it's nothing to get too excited about.  Rickie Weeks has regressed from last season's numbers, as expected, but has still been well above average, and George Kottaras (Canadian!) has had a good second half of the season.  Nyjer Morgan has completely lost his mind, but is getting on base at a .362 clip since the allstar break, and if Moneyball has taught us anything, getting on base is what truly matters.

With a plus rotation and an average-to-slightly-above-average offense, you'd think that this is going to be a team to contend with in the playoffs, right?  Not so fast.  First off, there are better offenses, and better rotations among the playoffs teams.  Secondly, the defense on this team is completely atrocious.  Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan have played some excellent defense in the outfield this year, but an infield that features both Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt is really scary bad.  Casey McGehee has a UZR of 7.4, which is miles ahead of his career -3.3 (that 7.4 is an outlier; you need at least 3 seasons to determine a reasonable sample).

I honestly expected them to go find someone who isn't Yuniesky Betancourt at the trade deadline (not that there's an overly impressive SS market), because that guy sucks incredibly hard at everything, and they may end up regretting the lack of upgrade there, because they could certainly use another bat in that lineup, or a better glove in the middle of the infield.  Instead, they have one of the most useless players in baseball taking up a spot.  McGehee isn't a whole lot better.

The playoffs, as I have mentioned many times before, is just a small-sample party; any team can go ahead and win 3 of 5, especially with starting rotations as strong as each of these NL playoff teams.  There is quite a bit of parity between MIL-ATL-ARI, all of whom will be underdogs against the Phillies for the NL Pennant.  The NL series without the Phillies will be the funnest to watch, since the two teams will be matched up very evenly, but even if the Brewers end up against Philadelphia, it won't be a forgone conclusion.  Baltimore just took 3 of 4 from Boston, and the Jays did the same last week.  It's not absurd to say that MIL couldn't catch fire and take 3 of 5 from the Phillies.  Having said that, I rank Milwaukee as the worst playoff team in the NL, and expect them to lose to whoever they face in the first round, but it's close enough that it wouldn't be an incredible shocker if they moved on to the 2nd round.  Anything more than that, and we've got a nice underdog story on our hands.

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