Macro-Brew: Fish Fry? Not so much.

For me, this is the best series of the year, when my hometown team gets to play the team most of friends back. Let’s just say there have been many sixers won (2006, Marlins sweep the season series) and lost (2007, Brewers go 5-2) over this “rivalry”.

However this week’s worth of games to a more typical Crew fan probably represented a good chance to get some wins and earn a split or — dare I say — WIN a series. And I guess I can understand that, as the Fish are, as usual, around .500 and without much for hype or excitement nationally, beyond Hanley Ramirez‘s recent temper tantrum.

And in reality, this was a good chance for the Brewers to at least earn a split as they had their ace Gallardo pitching one game (and not against Josh Johnson) and faced the three weakest starters the Marlins have thus far in 2010.

Alas, that was not enough…

Let me restate that I will be using some advanced statistics pretty regularly in this blog, and one of the most useful for recapping what happened (not what WILL happen) is WPA, or Win Probability Added. Here is a link to a FanGraphs post that gives a brief rundown of what it is and has links to much more material.

Top Shelf (Star of the Series): Yovani Gallardo (.331 WPA)

In pretty much any series that he pitches, so long as the Brewers continue to excel at being lousy, Gallardo is a safe bet to find himself in Grey Goose territory (Top Shelf). And while I am usually loath to give a solo nod to a starting pitcher, seeing as how Gallardo not only was the reason the Crew wasn’t swept but hit a big homer to help his own cause, you can’t ignore his huge Wednesday night.

Going up against a solid Chris Volstad, Gallardo gave up just one run over seven innings with four walks and four strikeouts. Was it dominant? Not really. But then again, with the current state of Milwaukee’s ballclub, asking for dominance is probably a little greedy. However, Gallardo’s 7th-inning solo blast was the third biggest hit of the night in the 7-4 win, and at the time it was the game’s biggest play, earning .141 WPA.

Along with his pitching WPA of .165 (again, not dominant, but very solid) and he was the single biggest reasons the Crew was able to pull out a win. Of course, the Marlins bullpen doing its best impression of Milwaukee’s (three homers in 3 1/3 innings, 6 ER and a combined WPA of -.455) was the biggest difference in the game, probably.

Beyond Gallardo, there were about a few other notable performances for the Crew. Kameron Loe .098 WPA in two relief appearances is about as good as it gets for the Brewers pen these days. John Axford had a .117 performance following Gallardo on Wednesday, giving up one run while getting five big outs. Again, baby steps for the pen.

Offensively there were 2.5 performances worth note: Carlos Gomez had a big Wednesday night as well, earning .292 without the benefit of a homer, with two big run-scoring singles to give the Crew their first and their go-ahead runs. It was the biggest offensive night by WPA by any member in the series.

Prince Fielder earned .121 for the series with steady production in the first two games of the set, and had the second highest WPA for the Crew.

The .5? It would belong to Corey Hart, who had a pretty big Tuesday thanks to a 2-for-3 day with a big game-tying two-run homer in the 6th inning. He earned .252 on the day and .229 WPA on the play. Why does he only get half credit? More on that in a moment.

On the Rail (Schmoe of the Series): Carlos Villanueva (-.410 WPA), Trevor Hoffman (-.311 WPA)

Once again, the Brewers pen was the biggest goat of the series, as the two worst players for Milwaukee against Florida combined to blow the first two games of the set.

Since it is chronological, let’s look at Monday’s most recent “Most Depressing Loss of the Season” candidate. Here’s the Win Expectancy chart:

Monday's Game (via FanGraphs)

As you can see, here, this game turned around in a BIG hurry in the 6th inning. After the Brewers owned an 89 percent Win Expectancy following their half of the inning, they found the tables literally reversed, as it was the Fish with an 88.4 percent WE at the end of the inning.

Now, knowing who is the Rail “winners” were, I bet you can guess who pitched in the 6th inning. Carlito, of course.

Chris Narveson had pitched five scoreless innings to that point and had looked good doing so, striking out eight with zero walks and just two hits allowed. Now THAT’s dominant. However, that dominance did not hold in Narveson’s third trip through the order. Narveson faced lead-off man Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, Cody Ross and Ronny Paulino in the sixth and those guys went, respectively: single, foul out, double, RBI ground out, walk, 3-run homer, double.

That brought the game to 4-4 with a man on second base. Should Ken Macha have subbed out Narveson vs. Ross, as I’ve read others say? Well, without getting into the big numbers, I’d have to say no. The fact is that Narveson HAD been super dominant earlier in the game and there were two outs. He’d struck out Ross twice already and newsflash: The Brewers bullpen is AWFUL. I would’ve given Narveson the chance to escape, despite the platoon disadvantage.

I would’ve, however, lifted Narveson before he faced lefty-eating Paulino (career wOBA vs. Lefties: .381, actually a bit lower than Cody Ross‘ .401, surprisingly), but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, in completing the 6th Villanueva immediately walked Cameron Maybin (less than 8 percent career walk-rate), then gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Mike Lamb and then a triple to Chris Coghlan to score two more and break the game open.

A strike out of Gaby Sanchez ended the horror, but it was too late. The Brewers pen was breached and over the remainder of the game Marco Estrada and Jeff Suppan hemorraged five more mostly meaningless runs and a 4-0 gem was a 13-5 loss just like that. Yech.

Then game Tuesday, and it was Trevor’s turn:

Tuesday's Game (via FanGraphs)

Now, looking at this chart, I bet you can guess when Dave Bush (who had a terrible start to the game, giving up a first inning cycle) exited the game in a 3-3 tie and when Hoffman entered. That’s right, the 7th inning. At the start of the seventh inning, it was literally a 50-50 game in a 3-3 by WE. It was at 40.7 percent WE for the Brewers following a scoreless top of the 7th, but essentially it was still the same situation.

However, Hoffman had the kind of outing that has been all too common this year, for him. Oddly enough, the Marlins again were kickstarted by their scuffling lead-off man Chris Coghlan, as he hit a ground-rule double. Following a sacrifice to by Sanchez to move him up for Ramirez, the embattled SS was walked and Cantu whacked a double to right field that made it a 4-3 Marlins lead. The damage had been done, but Hoffman wasn’t through.

After striking 0ut Uggla, he walked Ross to load the bases and allowed two more runs to score on a single by Paulino, and was bailed out by Cody Ross making a juvenile baserunning mistake to end the inning.  The score was 6-3 and that was pretty much that.

Those are a couple of tough losses, and that’s how you get on the Rail here at RtB.

The final two games of the series had some interesting story lines, but they essentially went as you would expect, with each team’s ace (Gallardo on Wednesday and Josh Johnson on Thursday) shutting down the opposition en route to a victory. Here are the charts:

Wednesday's Game (via FanGraphs)

Thursday's Game (via FanGraphs)

Before we go, and prepare a series preview for the Cardinals, let me touch on Cory Hart’s game last night. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, which even Joe Morgan knows isn’t good. However he was also the final out of the game, striking out with two men on base in a 3-2 game. That rough night translated to a -.279 WPA, effectively worse than Hart’s big game on Tuesday.

Alright, so that’s what we’ve got for now. We’ll post a series preview later today.

Until then, Slainte!

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