Pittsburgh Pirates (31-38) @ Milwaukee Brewers (30-36)
Time: Monday – 7:40
The Pirates managed win 1 game against the Cubs, but it sure feels like they got swept. In the series opener, the Pirates managed to blow a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning in spectacular fashion. They are still 6.0 games back, which is certainly manageable. But this 4 game series against Milwaukee is a very important one. A sweep, or even a series loss would be disastrous for the Pirates.
Fortunately, the Pirates have a favorable matchup in game one. Since 2015, Matt Garza has managed to pitch exactly 300 innings to go along with a 5.01 ERA. There are only two pitchers with worse ERA’s over that period. One of those pitchers can barely throw above 80 mph (Jered Weaver) and the other was in AAA for a good portion of this season (Anibal Sanchez). Garza is a bit of a psychopath. If you don’t believe me, see below:
Gerrit Cole has had a rough season. The home run ball has plagued him quite a bit, and Milwaukee certainly favors home run hitters. Gerrit will get to avoid Braun, but he will have to face some new faced in Travis Shaw and Eric Thames. Thames has already managed to hit 20 home runs this season, and the Brewers have 5 players in tonights lineup with double digit home run totals.
The Pirates are favorites in this one, but Vegas expects this one to be high scoring. Hopefully only one team scores a lot of runs, because another bad Gerrit Cole outing is not what anyone wants to see.
Time: Tuesday – 7:40
Zach Davies may have an ERA in the high 4’s this year, but he’s only 24 years old. Last season as a 23 year old, he managed a respectable 3.97 ERA over 163.1 innings. Given that velocity is the coolest thing around the league, it’s a little surprising to see a young pitcher that doesn’t throw hard. In fact, he averages less than 90 mph on his fastball. Because of his lack of velocity, the reason he is a major league pitcher is because of his plus command and plus changeup. So far this year, both have regressed, at least by the numbers. His walk rate has increased and opposing batters have a .344 wOBA against his changeup this year compared to just a .264 wOBA last year. Davies has struggled mightily against the Pirates. Most notably, Josh Harrison is 4-4 against him with a walk. The only Pirate with at least 1 AB against Davies that is hitless is the Pirates current hottest hitter, Jordy Mercer.
Chad Kuhl is quite a bit different than Zach Davies. His struggles have come from a lack of command paired with no changeup. His fastball velocity is ranked the 10th highest in the league for starting pitchers. When I wrote about him breaking out, I mentioned his slider needs to be used more, especially against lefties. Well, he has now added a curveball to his repertoire and used his slider even less. It’s still early, but the results have been…. about the same. The sample is quite small, and with Glasnow being demoted and Williams now struggling, it seems like the Pirates are willing to let him figure things out.
Time: Wednesday – 8:10
Junior Guerra posted a 2.81 ERA last season as a rookie. He didn’t get much hype, especially for a rookie. He probably didn’t get much hype because people don’t usually care about 31 year old rookies. He’s nearly repeated his last season ERA exactly, however he’s doing it in a much different way. His strikeout rate has dropped from 20.3% to 15.6%. His walk rate has increased from 8.7% to 12.6%. Usually, when you strikeout less people and walk more, your ERA goes up. That hasn’t been the case (so far) for Guerra. All signs point to Guerra being the owner of a much higher ERA. Hopefully the Pirates can assist him in finding his true destiny. Guerra has dominated the Pirates so far though. The Pirates are 7-53 against him and Guerra. Cervelli, Bell, Harrison, Jaso, and Polanco are all hitless against Guerra, combined going for 0-30
Glasnow’s demotion signaled the Pirates were comfortable with Williams as a major league starter. Personally, I am not a fan of him long term. However, he is clearly better than Glasnow is right now. Williams now has 44.2 IP as a starting pitcher and has a bad 5.24 ERA to go with it. If you narrow it down to his starts this year, his ERA becomes 5.09. If you narrow that down to his starts this year except his first one, he has a 4.06 ERA. If you narrow it down to his last 2 starts, he has an 8.00 ERA. Which one of these is fair to use? Probably none of them. Only 44.2 IP as a starter is just too small of a sample size to really see how good Williams is. For many of my followers on twitter, he passes the eye test. For me, he does not. Given the other options, I think Williams will be given a fair chance to stay in the rotation.
Time: Thursday – 2:10
If you really want to know about Chase Anderson, just click here. If you want to know something really quick, all you really need to know is that he is (in my opinion) the best starter the Pirates will face this series. Thankfully, the Pirates somehow managed to avoid the Brewers ace (Jimmy Nelson).
Also thankfully, the Pirates will get Ivan Nova to take on the Brewers best starter. Nova has been the Pirates MVP so far, and I don’t think it’s really debatable. Nova has managed to consistently eat up innings when nobody else has been able to. The bullpen thanks him for his service every 5th day.