Macro-Brew: Preposterously Poor Pen vs. Braves


That was a rough series for the Brewers, who apparently decided to do their best Pittsburgh Pirates impression, getting soundly knocked around in three losses to the Braves.
Before we go too far, I should mention 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.
What is great about WPA is that if a guy hits a 2-run homer with his team up or trailing 10-0 in a game, it isn’t very high on WPA, since the game was largely decided. But a 2-run walk-off homer? Well, that is something differently entirely.
Anyway, looking at the best and worst of the series, its easy to see why it was such a rough three days for the Crew.

Top Shelf (Star of the Series): Jim Edmonds (.216 WPA)

When Jim Edmonds .215 WPA is the high of the team by a wide margin (Next highest: .080 for Casey McGehee), you know the offense struggled, which it did, scoring just 7 runs in the series. Edmonds work for the series hardly jumps out: 4-12 with a double, run and RBI.
However, the Brewers spent so much time in the series down pretty big, that its a bit more understandable why the batters’ WPA wouldn’t be all that high.

On the Rail (Schmoe of the Series): The Bullpen (-.701 WPA)

The three Brewer starters didn’t light the world on fire, but they were passable enough with Yovani Gallardo pitching well, while Dave Bush and Doug Davis gave up three runs apiece in 11 2/3 innings, which with a little offensive support would’ve been fine.
However, the true culprit of this series is the Bullpen. Cover the kiddies’ eyes, folks: These upcoming stats are pretty grotesque.
Against the Braves, the Bullpen logged 9.1 IP, and in those innings coughed up: 20 H, 17 ER, 7 BB, and 7 K. OUCH. That’s how you collectively account for a -.701 WPA over a series.
Put another way, nine times the Brewers inserted a relief pitcher, and eight times that pitcher surrendered at least one earned run. And the one pitcher who didn’t, was Todd Coffey, who pitched for just one out on Tuesday and allowed the two runners he inherited from Mitch Stetter to score.
I’m truly not sure you could go back and find a worse collective series by a bullpen in recent history. Every single reliever used was bad, and hemorrhaged runs. EVERY ONE!

Let’s take a look at the three Win Expectancy charts from the series, courtesy of FanGraphs:

With the exception of last night’s game, you can see the Brewers’ chances of winning taking a nose dive around the sixth inning: when the Bullpen came into the equation all three times. And if it weren’t for the clutch RBI hits by Edmonds and McGehee, you’d see a similar precipitous drop from Wednesday. Regardless, once the top of the 7th came around the ‘Pen erased the good work of Edmonds and McGehee and then some.
I’ll probably go back and do some research, and see if I can find a bullpen that was comparably or hopefully even worse collectively for a series, particularly when there was decent starting pitching (since you could give a bit of a pass, if they had to cover 20 innings or something due to poor starts and were just overworked). I’m not confident of finding anything worse than what Bernie’s Boys just turned in.

So now, the Crew will get a day off and wait for the Philadelphia Phillies to arrive, and probably count their blessings that they will miss Roy Halladay in the three game set.
I’ll possibly have a series preview up tomorrow, but for the now, I’ll be efforting an introductory post so that you can get a better feel for me and my feelings on baseball, statistics and of course, the Brewers.
Until then, Slainte!