Comparing the Brewers and Diamondbacks, Position by Position

Way back in spring training, I did a series of posts comparing the Brewers to the top teams in the NL Central and around the MLB.  At the beginning of the year, I never thought I would do one for the Diamondbacks.  But here we are, with Arizona and Milwaukee set to do battle in the NLDS.  What better way to look at the two teams than compare them player by player!

All starters were determined using the depth chart on the team's official mlb.com sites.

Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy vs Miguel Montero

Jonathan Lucroy has been very good for the Brewers this year.  He hit .265/.313/.391 this year--not too bad for a catcher--and has provided some much needed stability at a position that the Brewers haven't had a long-term player at in years.  In particular, Lucroy has been fantastic when facing a left handed pitcher, against whom he's posted a .291/.322/.547 line, whereas he has just a .662 OPS against righties.  Unfortunately for him, three of the Diamondbacks' four projected starters are right handed with only Joe Saunders breaking the mold.  Miguel Montero has been one of the keys to the D-Backs surprising everyone and winning the NL West this year.  Among catchers with at least 200 PA, he's fifth in wOBA to Mike Napoli, Alex Avila, Ryan Doumit and Nick Hundley.  And of those five, Montero is likely the best defensive catcher, as well. I like Lucroy, and he is and will be a nice player in the catcher spot, but his 1.9 fWAR is less than half of Montero's in a similar amount of playing time.  Edge: Diamondbacks

Follow the jump for the rest of the positions!

First base: Prince Fielder vs Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt was called up at the beginning of August after slugging his way through the minor leagues.  After a 35 home run year in 2009 playing in high A, Goldschmidt hit 30 HR and had a .306/435/.626 line in AA this year before Arizona opted to have him forgo AAA and come straight to the majors.  He has more than held his own, too, with a .356 wOBA and eight homers in 48 games while splitting time with Lyle Overbay.  Goldschmidt is a talented player and has a chance to be something special.  Prince Fielder already is something special.  Fielder had a .299/.415/.566 with 38 HR and 120 RBI--and 2011 is only the third best season of his career.  He may not be long for Milwaukee, but Fielder is one of the premier first basemen in the MLB. Goldschmidt still has a long ways to go before he reaches that point.  Edge: Brewers

Second Base: Rickie Weeks vs Aaron Hill

Two years ago, Aaron Hill--then still a member of the Blue Jays--broke out in a big way.  He hit 36 home runs, eclipsing his previous high of 17, and reached triple digits in both runs scored and RBI, with a .330 OBP.  His numbers slipped in 2009, though.  Not slipped.  Plummeted.  That year, he hit just .206/.271/.394.  That's Yuni-esque.  Still, though, he had 26 home runs and there was still hope that he would return to his previous form (he had always had an average to good on base percentage) while keeping his new found power.  Unfortunately, 2011 is making that seem unlikely.  This year his line has improved slightly but is still a poor .246/.299/.356.  His HR total has gone back to his pre-2009 standard, too, as Hill has hit just eight on the year.  He has hit better after being traded to the Diamondbacks (a .315/.386/.492 line in 33 games post-trade) but he would have needed another 2009 to have a shot at being better than Weeks.  Weeks has a .358 wOBA this year after his breakout season last year.  He has 20 HR after hitting 29 in 2010, and likely would have surpassed that had he not missed over a month due to injury.  Rickie is healthy now, though, and is a better player than Hill.  Edge: Brewers

Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt vs Willie Bloomquist

Oh my god, it's just so sad.  Stephen Drew would have ran circles around either one of these players but, unfortunately for Arizona, Drew was lost for the season all the way back in the middle of July.  It's a testament to the rest of their team that Arizona was still able to win 94 games after losing such a big piece of their offense.  Bloomquist and Betancourt are both former Mariners that have never reached expectations and likely never will.  Last year, Yuni actually had a better wOBA than Bloomquist (.300 to .296) though Bloomquist had very limited playing time and may never have really been able to find his groove, however good or bad that groove may be.  Bloomquist certainly has much less power than Betancourt with his four home runs in 2011 tying his career high, however he has also shown a greater propensity for getting on base and also is speedy and a threat to steal bases.  In addition, Bloomquist, while not being a sterling defender himself, is still better than Betancourt in the field.  It would take someone really, really bad for Betancourt to be considered a better option.  Edge: Diamondbacks

Third Base: Casey McGehee vs Ryan Roberts

You know, if this were the 2009 or 2010 version of Casey McGehee this would actually be a pretty interesting comparison.  Unfortunately, the Brewers have been stuck with 2011 McGehee.  Look at that last line of the shortstop comparison.  While, here is your really, really bad player.  Casey has somehow been worse than Yuni has ever been, with a .223/.280/.346 line.  The weird thing is that McGehee actually has a really good 6.6 UZR at third base this year.  It's a good example of why one year of UZR data isn't enough to come to a great conclusion because if I know one thing from watching Casey over the years it's that he is not that good of a defender.  On the other side, Ryan Roberts has been very good this year, just as he was in 2009--the last time he received regular playing time.  In 2011, Roberts had a .249/.341/.427 line and, despite a slightly worse UZR than McGehee this year, is likely the better defender of the two.  Just another surprise contributor on a team full of them.  Edge: Diamondbacks

Left Field: Ryan Braun vs. Gerardo Parra

Parra fits the D-Back mold as a good not great hitter.  He has hit .292/.357/.427.  Ryan Braun might be the NL MVP.  'Nuff said.  Edge: Brewers

Center Field: Nyjer Morgan vs Chris Young

Seriously, though, the Diamondbacks have so many similar hitters.  Chris Young is just another one with an average to above-average OBP (.331) and a good slugging percentage (.420).  Though, Young may have more power than most in the D-Back lineup as he has a 30+ HR season under his belt and is usually good for 20-30 homers a year.  Young is also one of those guys who surprises me with how good his defense is--power and defense seems like such a weird combination.  To top it off, Young is also speedy as well, with fifty steals over the last two seasons.  Nyjer Morgan just had the best season of his career, finishing with a .304/.357/.421 line while also providing stellar defense in center field.  Morgan is also speedy and can steal bases (two 40+ SB seasons), but despite Ron Roenicke preaching aggressiveness, Morgan has just thirteen stolen bases this year.  I suppose getting on base in front of Braun and Fielder can keep a player from getting to antsy on the basepaths.  Carlos Gomez can also be factored into the center field discussion as well, with him and Morgan forming a platoon most of the season, but even with his elite defense his contributions don't match either of these players.  Over the last two months, Morgan has hit .280/.364/.366 whereas Young has hit .201/.345/.346.  This is very close, but given Morgan's all around better slash line I'm going to have to give him the slight advantage.  Edge: Brewers

Right Field: Corey Hart vs Justin Upton

Corey Hart has been really great this year, having likely the second best season of his career as he hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 home runs.  Still, though, he's no Justin Upton, who is one of the best young players in the MLB right now.  In 2011, Upton hit .289/.369/.529 with 31 home runs, 21 stolen bases, and with outstanding defense in right field.  He's a true five-tool player and he helped carry Arizona to the playoffs.  No contest.  Edge: Diamondbacks

Starting Pitching: Brewers vs Diamondbacks

The Brewers four likely starting pitchers will be Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, and Randy Wolf, with either Greinke or Gallardo likely being able to pitch two games if needed.  Arizona's likely four will be Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, and Josh Collmenter, with either Kennedy and Hudson being able to pitch two games.  Kennedy and Hudson have taken a big leap forward this year.  Kennedy had a 2.88 ERA with a 3.22 FIP and 3.50 xFIP.  Greinke had a 3.83 ERA (2.61 ERA since July 8) and a 2.98 FIP and 2.56 xFIP.  And incredible K/BB numbers.  Hudson had a 3.28 FIP and 3.79 xFIP.  Gallardo had a 3.59 FIP and 3.19 xFIP.  Saunders had a 4.78 FIP and a 4.39 xFIP.  Marcum had a 3.73 FIP and 3.89 xFIP.  Collmenter had a 3.80 FIP and 4.18 xFIP.  Wolf had a 4.29 FIP and 4.46 xFIP.  That's a whole lot of numbers, but what they tell me is that Greinke is better than Kennedy, Hudson and Gallardo could be a wash (though I would still take Gallardo), Marcum is better than Saunders, and Collmenter is better than Wolf.  If you're a big believer in experience being a key factor, one might still take Wolf over Collmenter.  I, personally, think experience as a key factor is extremely overrated and would prefer the better pitcher.  Even if you call Gallardo Hudson a wash, that's a 2-1-1 advantage in favor of the Brewers.  Milwaukee might have the second best rotation in the playoffs.  Edge: Brewers

Bullpen: Brewers vs Diamondbacks

JJ Putz has been outstanding this year, with a 2.17 ERA, a 2.54 FIP, a 3.10 xFIP and 45 saves.  But John Axford is the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, with a league leading 46 saves, a 1.95 ERA, a 2.41 FIP and a 2.85 xFIP.  Putz is one of the better closers in the league, but Axford might be close to being in the top two or three.  After Putz, the Diamondbacks have David Hernandez (3.38 ERA, 2.94 FIP) and Joe Paterson (2.91 ERA, 3.44 FIP).  After Axford, the Brewers have Francisco Rodriguez (1.86 ERA, 2.23 FIP) and LaTroy Hawkins (2.42 ERA, 2.76 FIP).  Kam Loe has a 3.50 ERA and 2.80 FIP.  Takashi Saito has a 2.03 ERA and 3.40 FIP.  The Diamondbacks have Sam Demel, with a 4.21 ERA and 5.64 FIP, and Bryan Shaw, with a 2.54 ERA and 3.52 FIP.  The Brewers bullpen is just so solid, it's hard for a team to keep up with it.  The one advantage the D-Backs have is in Brad Ziegler, who is an absolutely outstanding lefty specialist and who will likely face Prince Fielder plenty in the late innings of this series.  Still, the four closers overcome.  Edge: Brewers

Notes:

  • Out of the ten spots I looked at, the Brewers had the advantage in six of them.  Two could be considered a wash (shortstop and center field), which would give the Brewers a 5-3-2 advantage, but I don't do washes. 
  • In fact, shortstop and center field and, depending on how you feel, possibly the starting rotation are the only spots that are even all that close.  For the most part, it was easy from the get-go to choose who the better player was.  Honestly, the only position I really struggled in making a decision on was center field. 
  • It was somewhat surprising to me just how similar a lot of these Diamondback hitters are.  Outside of Upton and Bloomquist, it seemed like just about every hitter in their lineup was between a .320-.350 OBP and .400-.450 SLG%.  It's just decent hitter after decent hitter.
  • If you want to know my prediction for the series, I'm picking the Brewers in four games.  I think they win the first two (4-2 tonight, 3-1 tomorrow) before dropping the third and winning the fourth.  Just a gut feeling.
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