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Brewers (38-52) vs Pirates (53-35) series preview

The Brewers host division rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates in their first series back after the All-Star break.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In my mind the question is not if the Pirates will earn postseason berth. The question if whether they'll go to the postseason as a wild card team or the division champs. They're really good this year and already have a commanding hold on the first Wild Card spots. They're 5.5 games ahead of the nearest team (Cubs). They're also only 2.5 games back of the division leading Cardinals.

While I think the Pirates are a lock for the postseason they rely very heavily on pitching. They're pitching 11.7 fWAR is 6th in MLB and the NL. Their rotation is 7th in MLB (3.05 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 9.4 fWAR). Their bullpen is 9th in MLB (2.48 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 2.3 fWAR).

Their overall offense has been less effective. They rank 17th in MLB with a 95 wRC+. They've been about the same over the last 30 days (99 wRC+). Of particular interest is their production (or lack thereof) from first base.

Offensively they've received a collective 84 wRC+ from their first baseman. That's 26th worst in baseball. Factoring in defense they've received a total of -1.3 fWAR from the position. That's second worst in baseball.

Adam Lind has objectively been a Top 10 first baseman in baseball this year. While his defense has been a nice surprise his offense has long been potent. He will almost certainly be available. He is already being mentioned as a possible target for multiple teams so we know the market will be robust for him. The Pirates more than most teams would greatly benefit by acquiring him.

Offensive Spotlight

Surprise, surprise. Andrew McCutchen is excellent and the Pirates best player. He's hitting 295/392/500 with 12 home runs but just 5 stolen bases. Last year he stole 18 bases which was a career low. He's still a positive on the bases but it's possible he's slowing down. He's still been worth 3.4 fWAR so despite the speed decline he's still immensely valuable.

Pitching Match-Ups

Friday July 17, 7:10 pm CST: Mike Fiers vs Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is the only right handed starter the Brewers will face this weekend. He's also been the least effective starter: 4.15 ERA, 4.27 FIP. He does induce a high rate of ground balls with a staggering 61.4 GB% this year.

He throws a fastball (90-92), curveball, and change-up.

Saturday July 18, 6:10 pm CST: Jimmy Nelson vs Francisco Liriano

As effective as Liriano has been (2.98 ERA, 2.74 FIP) he's still just the third best starter for the Pirates this year! He also induces a high rate of ground balls (54.4 GB% this year) but he also strikes batters out at a high rate (27.5 K% this year).

He throws a fastball (92-93), slider, change-up.

Sunday July 19, 1:10 pm CST: Taylor Jungmann vs Jeff Locke

Yet again another Pirates starter inducing a high rate of ground balls (52.4 GB% this year). His strike out rate (17.9 K%) lands between Morton and Liriano's. He has a 4.03 ERA but a 3.74 FIP which suggests he might have suffered from some poor defense and/or bad luck.

He throws fastball (90-92), change-up, curveball.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs