Tapping the Keg: Brewers Head for the Mountains of Busch


In case you haven’t noticed, the Brewers have not played very well as of late. In fact, it would be fair to say that they have been pathetic. After a stretch of winning five of six last week, they’ve gone on to drop four of their past five.

So playing the Central Division co-leaders and perennial NL pennant threat St. Louis on the road, in a park that is as unfriendly to the Brewers’ current style of play (all offense, no pitching) as almost any in the majors… It’s hard to be excited about their chances this weekend, especially with Yovani Gallardo not making an appearance. Let’s look at the numbers:

Stadium: Busch Stadium
Five-year Run Park Factor: 0.97
Five-year HR Park Factor: 0.92
Stadium Dimensions:
Left Field: 330 ft.
Left-Center: 372
Center Field: 402
Right-Center: 372
Right Field: 330

Projected Pitching Matchups

May 14: Randy Wolf (L) vs. Adam Wainwright (R)
May 15: Chris Narveson (L) vs. Adam Ottavino (R)
May 16: Dave Bush (R) vs. Jaime Garcia (L)

Okay, so here’s a word on what this means: ERA is something we are all familiar with, but too often it just isn’t indicative enough of how well or poorly a pitcher has done. FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a much better tool, and best yet it is rated to correspond to ERA. So you don’t have to think about the numbers any differently. A 3.00 ERA and a 3.00 FIP both mean a good pitcher.

In case you care, here is the FIP equation:

FIP = ( (13 * HR) + (3 * (BB + HBP – IBB) ) – (2 * K) ) / IP + Constant

Note: The constant is found by calculating the FIP (without the constant). You then take the league average FIP and subtracting that from the league average ERA. This number is typically around 3.2 and I will use that example for the remainder of the article.

Essentially, FIP is just an equation taking baserunners, home runs allowed and strikeouts, the three things a pitcher has the most control over and puts them together in an ERA form. It helps limit the damage done by poor defense or the help given by good luck. xFIP is pretty much the same thing, but instead of home runs factors in home run to fly ball ratio. This makes it a bit more accurate.

I’ve included ERA since it is more familiar, but especially in terms of a prediction of future performance (i.e. this series) xFIP is just a better barometer of what to expect.

So, in looking at Doug Davis, you can see his unsightly ERA and think “Boy, he’s been lousy this year.” However, his xFIP suggests he’s just been a bit below average and very unlucky, as he has an unreasonably low 58 percent strand rate (the average is around 72 percent) and an absurd BABIP of .415, about .100 points north of his career average.

So, you can expect Davis to be better (not very good, mind you, but better) going forward.

Meanwhile, Jaime Garcia has an xFIP that says he is a good pitcher, and much improved… but an ERA champion? No. We’re just waiting for that other shoe to drop. Hopefully it’ll be on Sunday, right? (Actually, I hope not, but only because I’m starting Garcia in my fantasy league. I’ll root for a St. Louis pen meltdown.)

*Obviously, Jim Edmonds has been getting quite a bit of playing time, so I’ll include his breaks here too, though I find it highly unlikely for him to play against a left-hander barring injury:

So that leaves us with a prediction:

St. Louis is simply a much better team. However on Saturday, the Brewers have as close to a favorable matchup as they are going to get with Ottavino on the mound. If the powerful Crew lineup shows up then, I see a good chance to steal a game. However, beating either of Wainwright or Garcia with Wolf or Davis doesn’t seem likely at all to me.

I’ll be optimistic and predict one win in three for the Crew.