For me the Giants represent a strong example of cognitive dissonance. Their record obviously indicates they're a very good team, but I look at their roster and expect them to kind of suck. They don't suck though. In fact, they're tied with the Brewers in season record (61-51). But their offense kind of does suck (9th worst runs scored per game). I look at the names in they've had in their rotation and expect it to suck too. It doesn't though. But it kind of does. The pitching staff as a whole ranks 5th in runs allowed per game. The starting rotation on the other hand ranks 23rd in fWAR, but 10th in ERA, 9 in FIP, and 5th in xFIP. The bullpen ranks 22nd in fWAR, but 3rd in ERA, 4th in FIP, and 22th in xFIP.
Maybe the fact that the rotation is really top heavy is reason for the disparity in ranking? Madison Bumgarner has been excellent as usual. Tim Hudson has been good if not a little lucky. Ryan Vogelsong's ERA is a full point higher than Hudson's, but their FIP is almost exactly the same. Tim Lincecum has been mediocre. Jake Peavy doesn't have the ERA to show it, but he's been okay since the Giants traded for him. Yusmeiro Petit and Matt Cain were both pretty bad during their time in the rotation which has come to an end.
Their bullpen is mostly good, but a great example of why closers aren't things and managing that way can be very hurtful to a team's success. Sergio Romo was their closer for much of the season (22 saves this year). He's been, by far (-0.9 fWAR), their worst reliever. His year reminds me of the season the Brewers held onto John Axford as closer too long. Romo has given up a ton of runs (4.71 ERA) and a ton of home runs (1.71 HR/9). He's still in the pen, but has since been replaced as closer by Santiago Casilla. Casilla gets by with a modest K%, solid BB%, and excellent GB%. Brewers hitters do not want to face him. Yusmeiro Petit has actually found a great deal of success in the bullpen, but I believe he's being used as their longman. The rest of the pen is pretty solid too. Javier Lopez looks like their lefty specialist while Jeremy Affeldt has been successful facing both handed hitters.
I said their offense sucks, and it has struggled to score runs. However, when I look closely it's kind of surprising because 7 of their regulars have wRC+ above 100. Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan missed significant time this year so that certainly played a factor. Also, Brandon Crawford is just barely above 100 wRC+, but you play him for his defense anyway. They don't have more than one bat that's really scary and maybe that's enough to not be good? Hunter Pence's 137 wRC+ would actually rank 2nd on the Brewers (behind Lucroy) but the next highest on their team is 128 (both Bust Posey and Michael Morse) and that would rank 4th. They also have a steep drop off in offense after their 7th best. The Brewers are deeper than that.
Tuesday, August 5th 7:10 pm CT: Jimmy Nelson vs Tim Lincecum
Lincecum is not the pitcher he once was. A few years ago I'd have seen this pitching match-up and made other plans for the night. No longer. His K% is the worst of his career and his BB% is poor as well. His opponent batting average is slightly better than average but his 1.29 WHIP is exactly league average. Looking at his FIP suggest he has pronounced splits this year (4.29 FIP vs LHH; 3.67 FIP vs RHH) but that's entirely OBP driven. Opponent batting average and slugging percentage is higher for RHH. If he's cleared medically to play, I'd like to see Scooter Gennett play, but I'd much rather have Mark Reynolds than Lyle Overbay. It's a toss up for me between Gerardo Parra's defense and Khris Davis' slugging. I suppose I'd probably go with Parra and hope he can get on steal a base.
Of note for the Brewers: Jimmy Nelson is making his first start since being pushed back due to a blister. I haven't seen anything recently about his condition, but I expect with Garza potentially missing some time they wouldn't take any chances with Nelson. I'm sure he's good to go, but if the finger acts up, I wouldn't be surprised to see him pulled early. We shouldn't be worried about that though.
Wednesday, August 6th 7:10 pm CT: Yovani Gallardo vs Ryan Vogelsong
Here is some more cognitive dissonance. Ryan Vogelsong has a 3.36 FIP but a 3.74 ERA. His GB% is pretty low and his LD% as well as his FB% are kind of high yet his HR/9 and HR/FB are both really low. His .260 BAA is really high, but his 1.28 WHIP is right around league average. His ERA- is 110 and his FIP- is 97 (100 is average). I'd say he's a strangely average pitcher. Because that BAA is so very high I'm pretty excited for the Brewers offense to potentially tee off on him.
Thursday, August 7th 1:10 pm CT: Wily Peralta vs Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy was awful for the Red Sox this year. His two starts with the Giants actually saw his ERA go up slightly. His big problem in Boston was giving up the longball which he has yet to do in a Giants uniform. The smart money says that's no longer the case after Thursday. Peavy has had a solid K% and while his BB% isn't good, it's not too high either. He's just getting hit hard (.262 BAA). I only wish Jimmy Nelson was starting this game because he's the only Brewers starter I'm not sure about and I really think the Brewers could crush Peavy.
I know everyone's been really down on the Brewers so far in this second half. They've lost some tough games, but the optimistic view is that they haven't really been dominated by anyone. I still really like this team. I really like the pitching match-ups too. The only one I can't say favors the Brewers is Tuesday's game. However, this Giants offense is lacking so it's entirely possible Jimmy Nelson will beat out Lincecum. I feel good about the Brewers taking 2 out of 3.
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Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs