Why Rickie Weeks could be pivotal in Game 3 (I’m serious!) and why Marcum is struggling

I evaluated the “Batter vs. Starting Pitcher” matchup for Game 3 of the National League Championship using a metric I used to call “Bases Earned per Outs Made” and now simply refer to as “Cricket Average” (I explain why and what it is here).  Below is a chart featuring a column that show’s each Pitcher’s Cricket Average against each batsmen, and each batsmen Batter’s Cricket Average against each starting pitcher.  For the sake of reference, the National League Pitcher Cricket Average in 2011 is 0.951 “pitcher bases” per strikeout, and the National League Batter Cricket Average is 0.671 “bases earned” per out made.  If you don’t want to hit on the link above, pitchers obviously want lower Cricket Averages, and batters want higher Cricket Averages.  Cricket Averages correlate almost perfectly with runs scored.

Cardinals    
vs Gallardo Pitcher CA Batter CA
Jay 2.001 0.601
Furcal 6.001 2.143
Pujols 8.333 1.812
Berkman 0.583 0.789
Holliday 1.428 1.001
Molina 2.001 0.722
Punto 0.251 0.251
Shumaker 0.501 0.437
Freese 0.333 0.143
  2.381 0.877
     
Brewers    
vs. Carpenter Pitcher CA Batter CA
Hart 0.625 0.562
Morgan 1.001 0.368
Braun 0.666 0.471
Fielder 1.625 1.111
Weeks 4.666 4.251
Hairston 0.001 0.304
Lucroy 0.001 0.111
Betancourt 0.333 1.001
  1.114 1.022

Gallardo has struggled with the Cards; Carpenter has owned most Brewers

The two starters for Game 3 are Yovani Gallardo for Milwaukee and Cris Carpenter for St. Louis. 

As you can see from the chart, if one looks only at “Pitcher Cricket Average” (the bases yielded and outs made by the pitcher alone against each batter) , the matchup tilts heavily in favor of the Cardinals.   As the chart shows, Gallardo is way below average against 4 particular Cardinals: Pujols, Molina, Furcal, and Holliday.  Each of those batters — and Pujols in particular — has crushed Gallardo’s pitching.  Pujols has 25 “pitcher responsible” bases earned against Gallardo to only 3 strikeouts!  That is absurd!  Furcal has also wore Gallardo out, with 12 “pitcher responsible” bases earned to only 2 strikeouts. Luckily for Brewer fans, Gallardo is above average against the rest of the Cardinal lineup (except Jay, but his high number is based on a small sample set).  The question is: can he avoid severe damage against Pujols, Holliday, Molina, and Furcal?

On the other side of the ledger, the scariest thing for Brewers fans is that Cris Carpenter has owned the Brewers best batter, Ryan Braun.  Carpenter has a 0.666 Pitcher Cricket Average against Braun.  Braun has struck out 6 times against Carpenter, has not walked, and has one home run (4 bases). 

As for his performance against the rest of the Milwaukee lineup, Carpenter is below average against only 3 Brewer batters, and even that is misleading, because his average against Morgan is based on one walk and one strikeout.  And given the way Morgan has been going this postseason, let’s assume he too will struggle against Carpenter.

That leaves only two Brewers who have dominated Carpenter. The pair may be the key to tomorrow’s game for Milwaukee.  They are Prince Fielder, which you might have guessed, and… Rickie Weeks!!!

Yes!! Weeks has killed Carpenter’s pitching, recording 14 pitcher bases (including 3 home runs) to only 3 strikeouts.

In fact, it is Weeks monster averages (and probably the Cardinals inferior defense) that make the Brewers overall “Batter Cricket Average” slightly better than the Cardinals.  Weeks has earned an astounding 17 bases against Carpenter and has made only 4 outs. 

Here’s the danger, though, for Brewer fans.  If you asked me which I would rather have, a starting pitcher whose “Pitcher Cricket Average” is better against a particular lineup, or a starting lineup whose “Batter Cricket Average” is better against a particular starting pitcher, I would always choose the former, especially on the road.  

The latter implies that the pitcher’s chances of success will be dependent on his defense.  And a road pitcher who must rely heavily on his defense is not a pitcher I want to rely on.  Teams tend to play better defense at home.  On the other hand, a pitcher who can dominate a lineup without relying on his defense can dominate that lineup on the moon if necessary.

So the fact that Gallardo has truly struggled against 4 of the Cardinals regular batsmen whereas Carpenter has truly struggled against only 2 of the Brewers regular batsmen probably means trouble for the Crew in Game 3.

For the Brewers to win tomorrow’s game, two things have to happen. Rickie Weeks must show up big tomorrow — I mean he must produce multiple bases — and Gallardo must avoid walks, get strikeouts, and make Pujols and the other Cardinals put the ball in the field of play by pounding the bottom edges of the strike zone and BURYING his curve ball.  Pujols, Holliday, and the gang of red will feast on anything upstairs or over the plate.  We found that out last night.  But you can get them out with gas.  Use it!

In fact, that’s good advice for every Brewer starter.  The starting Brewer pitchers, with the exception of Gallardo, have horrible Cricket Averages this postseason, and there is one reason why — the gopher ball.  The starters have been getting the ball up far too often, and the good batsmen they are seeing in the postseason are denting those mistake pitches.

Keep the ball down in the zone, lay off the soft stuff unless its in the dirt, and throw more sliders away to righthanders, and maybe the Brewer starting staff can change their fortunes.

Quick Commentary on the struggles of Marcum

Brewer starter Shaun Marcum, the team’s most successful starting pitcher in the regular season, has been their second worst pitcher in the postseason.  Why?  I have a theory.

First of all, if you look at the “batted ball” stats, Marcum relied a lot on the Brewers outstanding outfield defense to get flyball outs.  But that’s playing with fire.  Sometimes flyballs leave the field of play and become home runs, especially against strong lineups.  And that is what is happening this postseason.

The other problem is Marcum’s style.  Marcum is a soft tosser who has always been defense dependent (his career Pitcher Cricket Average is 1.076).   But even so, his postseason numbers are hideous.  His Pitcher Cricket Average is 3.001.  That will never get it done.  And he is not alone among Brewer starters.  Look at the chart below, which features each Brewer pitchers “Pitcher Cricket Average” this postseason.

  Pitcher CA
Saito 0.001
Estrada 0.001
Axford 0.285
Rodriquez 0.666
Gallardo 0.785
Grienke 1.384
Narveson 1.625
Marcum  3.001
Wolf 5.501
PostSeason 1.089
Season Avg 0.844

The main reason for the Brewer improvement this season was Braun, Fielder, and the improved Pitcher Cricket Average of the team’s pitching staff.  Last season it was well above 1 pitcher base yielded by the staff for every strikeout recorded.  This regular season it was been an above average 0.844 pitcher bases per strikeout.  That made a huge difference.  But that difference has disappeared in the postseason.  The main reason is Marcum, but others are also to blame.

Here’s my eyeball assessment of why he and others on the staff have struggled.  The ones who have struggled, by and large, are the “softtossers” — the finesse pitchers.  In order for them to be successful, the umpires must call pitches on the edges of the plate strikes.  Thus far, the postseason umpires are unwilling to consistently call that pitch a strike, and as a result Marcum and the other softtossers on the staff have had to work closer to the middle of the plate.  That is poison for them.  Often times it has looked as though Marcum and the other softies are throwing batting practice to the opposition. 

If you look at the chart above, the Brewer pitchers who have been doing well in the postseason — with one exception — are the team’s hard throwers — meaning the bullpen pitchers and Yovani Gallardo.  Those pitchers can get the ball by the hitters without having to nibble on the corners. 

The one exception to that rule has been Zack Grienke, who is a hardthrower. But if you notice he is getting his strikeouts, its the homeruns that are killing him.  And he is giving those up, a lot of the time, using that loopy slow curveball of his.  He should get rid of that pitch unless he is ahead in the count, and then he should only throw the pitch in the dirt — never in the zone!! The hitters he is facing in the playoffs are just too good to miss that kind of crap.

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