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Brewers (0-3) vs Pirates (0-3) series preview

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It's the Battle for the Basement in Brew City! The Brewers and Pirates both got swept in their opening series against mediocre/bad opponents. It's early in the season but no one ever wants to be the worst in their division!

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers really needed to have a good series against the Rockies because that was as easy as it was going to get for the first month. Up next is a stiff test in the Pirates who also got swept. But of course no one is going to suggest that a 3 game losing streak defines a team. At least no one that's ever watched a 162 game baseball season...

Remember when the Pirates were Milwaukee's slump busters? Pittsburgh couldn't buy a win against the Brewers. It was great! Well those days are long gone because the Pirates might very well be the class of the NL Central this year. They have a potent offense and possibly the strongest all around outfield in all of baseball. That being said, I'm not sold on their rotation and the loss of Russell Martin hurts them a lot.

Let's take a look at their numbers from last year.

The Position Players

Player Position DRS UZR PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Francisco Cervelli C -1 N/A 162 6.8 25.3 301 370 432 358 128 1.2
Tony Sanchez C 0 N/A 80 3.8 35.0 267 300 360 294 88 0.0
Pedro Alvarez 1B 0 --- 445 10.1 25.4 231 312 405 316 103 0.0
Neil Walker 2B -2 -6.8 571 7.9 15.4 271 342 467 356 130 3.6
Josh Harrison 3B 9 2.9 550 4.0 14.7 315 347 490 365 137 5.0
Jordy Mercer SS 9 0.5 555 6.3 16.0 255 300 387 299 91 2.0
Starling Marte LF 10 1.5 545 6.1 24.0 291 356 453 358 132 4.3
Andrew McCutchen CF -11 -10.8 648 13.0 17.7 314 410 542 412 168 6.8
Gregory Polanco RF -3 -3.2 312 9.6 18.9 235 307 343 293 87 0.3
Corey Hart 1B/OF --- --- 255 6.3 23.1 203 271 319 266 70 -1.1
Sean Rodriguez UTIL --- --- 259 3.9 25.5 211 258 443 305 99 -0.1
Jung Ho Kang UTIL N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Andrew Lambo OF --- --- 39 0.0 20.5 256 256 359 269 71 0.1

That outfield is seriously ridiculous. It's entirely possible the Pirates have a 15 win outfield just counting their top 3 guys. We know what McCutchen and Marte bring to the table. Gregory Polanco is young an unproven but has all the skills to be a top outfielder. All 3 have a solid combo of power and speed. It's an enviable trio.

Neil Walker is arguably the most underrated player in baseball. He's might be the top second baseman in the National League. He consistently provides 15+ HR with an OBP in the .340 range. Yes please!

Josh Harrison had a break out season last year, but I don't think it's sustainable. He got some BABIP luck and his plate discipline numbers worry me. I don't think he's bad, but I believe he's much closer to a 2 win player than a 5 win player.

The Pitching Staff

Player Position IP K% BB% HR/9 BAA WHIP ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR
Francisco Liriano SP 162.1 25.3 11.7 0.72 215 1.30 3.38 3.59 3.40 3.10 1.9
The Whiny Child Gerrit Cole SP 138.0 24.2 7.0 0.72 243 1.21 3.65 3.23 3.25 3.23 2.3
AJ Burnett SP 213.2 20.3 10.3 0.84 249 1.41 4.59 4.14 3.95 3.03 1.5
Jeff Locke SP 131.1 16.2 7.3 1.10 252 1.27 3.91 4.37 3.90 4.07 0.3
Vance Worley SP 110.2 17.3 4.8 0.73 259 1.21 2.85 3.44 3.54 3.68 1.6
Mark Melancon RP 71.0 25.6 4.0 0.25 1.94 0.87 1.90 2.09 2.47 2.07 2.0
Tony Watson RP 77.1 26.6 4.9 0.58 225 1.02 1.63 2.69 2.84 2.39 1.5
Jared Hughes RP 64.1 14.1 7.4 0.56 221 1.09 1.96 3.99 3.79 3.25 -0.3
Antonio Bastardo RP 64.0 29.9 12.6 0.56 183 1.20 3.94 3.10 3.81 3.17 0.8
Rob Scahill RP 15.0 15.3 12.5 1.80 274 1.73 4.80 6.27 5.07 4.71 -0.4
Radhames Liz RP N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Arquimedes Caminero RP 6.2 25.8 12.9 2.70 296 1.80 10.80 6.43 4.57 3.70 -0.2

I like the Pirates' bullpen a lot more than I like the rotation. Mark Melancon and Tony Watson for a dominant back-end. I don't hate the rotation but I have some question and I'm not sure how it'll be impacted by the loss of Russell Martin.

Working in their favor is the framing ability of Francisco Cervelli. It's possible the rotation doesn't lose a stop with him receiving the ball instead of Martin. That's what they're going to have to hope for because this is a pitching staff that depends on getting help from their catcher as well as the shift working overtime.

Gerrit Cole seems like a breakout candidate. The only thing that rivals his ability to throw a temper tantrum is his ability to throw a baseball. Last season he was hampered by an injury. If he can stay healthy he has a chance to place himself alongside Adam Wainwright, John Lester, and Johnny Cueto as the best starting pitchers in the NL Central. The Brewers won't see him this time around.

Pitching Match-Ups

Friday, April 10th - 7:10 pm CST: Mike Fiers vs Jeff Locke

This is kind of a great pitching match-up. Both pitchers have fringe fastballs and a variety of secondary pitches. Locke throws left-handed so Brewers fans will get to see how Scooter Gennett fares in his first start of the season versus a southpaw. We'll also get to see if RRR puts Adam Lind in vs a LHP or if he goes to Jonathan Lucroy.

Saturday, April 11th - 6:10 pm CST: Jimmy Nelson vs Vance Worley

Yet another junkballer who gets a good amount of groundballs. None of his many pitches top 90 mph. The Brewers always seem to struggle against this type...

Sunday, April 12th - 1:10 pm CST: Kyle Lohse vs Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano (LHP) strikes out a lot guys and walks a lot guys and doesn't give up a lot of hits. When he's on his game he's among the best in baseball. When he's not he's walking bases loaded. Flip a coin because who you're going to get on any given night is anyone's guess.