The Blue Jays swept* the Brewers in their first meeting. I put the asterisk there because it was only a 2 game series. Still, they beat the Brewers pretty resoundingly. That was the start of the Brewers slide, which is something they certainly wish to avoid this time around. But you know how the old saying goes: Revenge is a dish best served 48-49 days later.
The Blue Jays have the fifth best runs scored per game (4.46) but they also have the 8th worst runs allowed per game (4.39). That's resulted in the 14th overall run differential (+9). The Brewers on the other hand have the 7th best run differential (+44). The Blue Jays, perhaps not surprisingly, have lost 7 of their last 10 while the Brewers have won 7 of their last 10. On a macro level it certainly looks like the Brewers are primed for some retribution.
On a more granular level, it's hard to ignore the Blue Jays offense. Jose Bautista is a beast (291/408/507, 152 wRC+). They also just got back of the DL two of their better bats in Edwin Encarnacion (274/365/585, 161 wRC+) and Adam Lind (318/385/474, 139 wRC+). However they're going to have to play one of them out of position if they want them both playing at the same time. One is usually at first and the other DH. It seems possible they could stick Encarnacion in left field. However, that would also displace their typical left fielder Melky Cabrera (326/369/479, 135 wRC+). They could put him in right and Bautista in center. It's something they've done this year, though seldom.
After those guys, the Blue Jays offense is pretty average to poor. Jose Reyes is producing quite well for a shortstop (293/340/416, 110 wRC+). Juan Francisco is hovering around league average (220/290/465, 107wRC+). Danny Valencia is their third baseman when they're facing a lefty and he has a 119 wRC+, but he might not play against the Brewers RH-only rotation.
The Blue Jays' bullpen is solid if not spectacular. Their closer Casey Janssen was injured to begin the year. He's pitched 33 innings so far and even though his peripherals aren't impressive, he's got a solid 3.24 ERA. His strikeouts are way down, and with health I'd expect those numbers to return to his career norms which are pretty good. Aaron Loup, Bret Cecil, Aaron Sanchez, and Todd Redmond have been good but not great this year. In fact, no one in their pen looks like they've had a bad season at all. I just don't see anyone that's overpowering.
Tuesday, August 19th 7:10 pm CT: Mike Fiers vs J.A. Happ
First up is lefty J.A. Happ. He is a slightly below average pitcher. His K%, BB%, BAA, WHIP, and HR/9 are all below average. Surprisingly he has a poor 4.20 ERA to go along with a 4.30 FIP and 4.15 xFIP. Wait. I meant unsurprisingly. I really love it when the Brewers face lefties because I know that means Rickie Weeks will get to play. Scooter is better defensively and better vs RHP than Rickie is vs LHP so it's technically a downgrade in offense, but I love Rickie and I'm going to miss him when he's gone. With a mediocre lefty on the mound I'm hoping for a good offense day from Weeks.
Of note for the Brewers: Mike Fiers makes his third start of the year for the Brewers. When it was learned Matt Garza was going on the DL I thought it was a toss up between Fiers and Marco Estrada. I also felt that while Fiers had the stuff to luck into a few good starts, he wasn't going to be great. I'm willing to admit I wasn't giving Fiers enough credit.
I still believe he lives or dies by his deception and that if he were to start for a whole season he'd come crashing down to earth. However, I'm now wondering if he wouldn't be dominant as a long man out of the pen making 5-10 or so spot starts a year. That's a discussion for the offseason though. Right now we can put our hope in the fact that the Blue Jays have never seen him throw a live pitch.
Wednesday, August 20th 1:10 pm CT: Jimmy Nelson vs R.A. Dickey
I have a soft spot in my heart for R.A. Dickey. The first year I ever played fantasy baseball was the year he won the Cy Young (2012). I drafted him with the very last pick of that draft and of course I won the league! Unfortunately he's not been anywhere near as good since then. This year his peripherals aren't that far off from J.A. Happ's. His BAA is slightly better than average though.
Dickey is famous for his knuckle ball. I knew it was his main pitch, but I was still rather shocked to see he's basically a 2 pitch guy. According to PITCHf/x he throws his knuckle ball 80.6% of the time and his four seam fastball 15.8% of the time. It also says he throws and eephus pitch 3.6% of the time. An eephus pitch!
The Brewers haven't faced R.A. Dickey since August 21st 2011. He also has a supremely unique pitch mix. I'm not sure how well they'll respond to that. He hasn't been effective this year though. It'll be an interesting match-up.
Of note for the Brewers: Every time Nelson makes a start I keep hoping to see him have a really solid outing. I haven't seen that quite yet. He has really good innings every game, but he also has some pretty poor innings to go along with them. Still, outside of that one terrible start against the Cardinals, he thrown a quality start every time. Okay, that first start against the Marlins was 0.1 innings short of a quality start but he didn't give up a run so I'm counting it! The fact that he hasn't put everything together in a single start but is still getting such good results is pretty encouraging. I expect more improvements from him (over the years) before he reaches his peak performance years and that is pretty darned exciting.
I went to the Blue Jays' MLB site to check out their active roster and I saw headlines like, "A tale of two seasons: Blue Jays search for consistency," and "Extra off-days give pitchers a chance to rest," and "Blue Jays look for Happ to bounce back." Things have not been going well and if they stay that way the Brewers just might sweep them back.
While the Blue Jays offense is getting back to full strength, they're going to have to bat their pitchers which hurts. Hitting aside, they aren't exactly putting forth their best pitching effort with Happ and Dickey. The Brewers have been red hot lately and I'm not seeing a lot of reasons to suggest they can keep it rolling. So yeah, I'm calling the two game sweep.
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Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs