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ZiPS Updated Playoff Probabilities – 2018 ALCS/NLCS

Updated through Game Two of ALCS and Game Three of NLCS.

The ZiPS projection system will update these charts after every game and as the starting pitcher probables change. They are based on the up-to-date ZiPS projections of the strengths of the teams and the projected starting pitchers. They are different than the playoff odds that appear elsewhere at this site. The FanGraphs playoff probabilities are based on 10,000 simulations using the updated projections in the depth charts. Where ZiPS differs is guessing the game-by-game starting pitcher matchups and using the ZiPS projections, including split projections.

First, here are the game-by-game probabilities:

Game-by-Game Probabilities, NLCS
Game Home Team Milwaukee Starter Brewers Win Los Angeles Starter Dodgers Win
1 Brewers Gio Gonzalez 100.0% Clayton Kershaw 0.0%
2 Brewers Wade Miley 0.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 100.0%
3 Dodgers Jhoulys Chacin 100.0% Walker Buehler 0.0%
4 Dodgers Gio Gonzalez 45.5% Rich Hill 54.5%
5 Dodgers Wade Miley 37.6% Clayton Kershaw? 62.4%
6 Brewers Bullpen? 51.3% Hyun-Jin Ryu? 48.7%
7 Brewers Jhoulys Chacin? 43.9% Walker Buehler? 56.1%

Game-by-Game Probabilities, ALCS
Game Home Team Boston Starter Red Sox Win Houston Starter Astros Win
1 Red Sox Chris Sale 0.0% Justin Verlander 100.0%
2 Red Sox David Price 100.0% Gerrit Cole 0.0%
3 Astros Nate Eovaldi 44.6% Dallas Keuchel 55.4%
4 Astros Rick Porcello 49.5% Charlie Morton 50.5%
5 Astros Chris Sale? 52.0% Justin Verlander? 48.0%
6 Red Sox David Price? 48.1% Gerrit Cole? 51.9%
7 Red Sox Nate Eovaldi? 48.7% Dallas Keuchel? 51.3%

And here are the overall series probabilities.

Overall NLCS Probabilities
Result Probability
Brewers over Dodgers in 4 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 5 17.1%
Brewers over Dodgers in 6 25.1%
Brewers over Dodgers in 7 18.1%
Dodgers over Brewers in 4 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 5 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 6 16.6%
Dodgers over Brewers in 7 23.2%
Brewers Advance 60.3%
Dodgers Advance 39.7%

Overall ALCS Probabilities
Result Probability
Red Sox over Astros in 4 0.0%
Red Sox over Astros in 5 11.5%
Red Sox over Astros in 6 17.6%
Red Sox over Astros in 7 18.3%
Astros over Red Sox in 4 0.0%
Astros over Red Sox in 5 13.4%
Astros over Red Sox in 6 20.0%
Astros over Red Sox in 7 19.2%
Red Sox Advance 47.3%
Astros Advance 52.7%

NLCS Game Three Turned on Decision to Let Buehler Hit

With his stellar performance down the stretch — including in the Game 163 tiebreaker that won the NL West — Walker Buehler may have supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. In Monday night’s Game Three of the NLCS, manager Dave Roberts nonetheless went a bridge too far with the 24-year-old fireballer. For five innings, the young righty had pitched brilliantly, if not flawlessly, against the Brewers, allowing just a lone run. But that run loomed large. For the third time in the series, the Dodgers had failed to put a dent in the Brewers’ starter, and so they entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 1-0 against Jhoulys Chacin, who to that point, had allowed just two hits and two walks (one intentional) himself.

On Chacin’s fourth pitch of the inning, Yasmani Grandal — who has had a rough series on both sides of the ball — dunked a slider into left field for a ground-rule double. Enrique Hernandez lined out to bring up Buehler, who to that point, had thrown 78 pitches and struck out eight while yielding just two hits and one walk. The Brewers had done their damage in the first inning, when Ryan Braun followed a six-pitch walk to Christian Yelich with a scorching double to left field for the game’s only run. From there, Buehler had settled down, striking out the next four hitters and retiring 14 of 16. He was dealing.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers offense was gasping for air, and Roberts had a full and rested bullpen thanks to the off day. He’d stacked his lineup with lefties — Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger — against Chacin, who struggles without the platoon advantage. That left Roberts with a bench full of righties, namely Brian Dozier, David Freese, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, and, if necessary, backup catcher Austin Barnes. No doubt the skipper had his eye on using some of those righties to combat lefty Josh Hader later in the game. Still, Freese, Kemp, and Taylor all posted a wRC+ of 113 or better against righties this year, though only Taylor had been that strong last year. Of that trio, both Freese and Taylor handled sliders from righties well this year, with wOBAs of .388 and .336 according to Baseball Savant; over the past three years, however, only Taylor (.350) has been above .300 among that trio.

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Jhoulys Chacin’s Matchup Problem

After throwing Jhoulys Chacin on short rest for the division title two weeks ago and then in Game Two of the NLDS against Colorado shortly after that, Brewers manager Craig Counsell opted to skip Chacin for the first two games of the NLCS against the Dodgers. As I noted last week, the move made sense: while Chacin functions as the club’s nominal ace, the Brewers nevertheless gained an advantage over the Dodgers by throwing two left-handed starters.

The plan very nearly worked: Milwaukee took the first game of the series, then took a 3-2 lead into the eighth of Game Two before the bullpen coughed up the victory. With the series headed back to Los Angeles, Chacin will get his first start of the NLCS after eight days of rest. The Dodgers could provide some matchup problems for Chacin.

Jhoulys Chacin has always had platoon issues. By that standard, this season was no different. Against right-handers this year, Chacin struck out 24% of batters, walked 7%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 56 batters. When at a platoon disadvantage, however, Chacin struck out just 15% of batters, walked 11%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 37 batters he faced. The Dodgers — thanks in part to lefties Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson, and also switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal — put up an MLB-best 124 wRC+ (non-pitchers) against right-handed pitching this season. It’s clear, in light of this, why Counsell might have avoided using Chacin for a few games after a heavy recent workload and a couple lefty options. Moving Chacin’s game to Los Angeles also meant moving away from Miller Park, the third-best stadium in baseball for left-handed home runs. The Dodgers do play in a park that is homer-friendly for lefties, but not to the extent of Milwaukee.

The thing to watch, in particular, will be how Chacin’s slider fares against Dodgers hitters. This season, the Dodgers have been one of the very best teams in baseball against right-handed sliders, per Baseball Savant.

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Sunday Notes: Brewers Broadcaster Jeff Levering Looks at Bullpens, Sees Value

Jeff Levering has had a bird’s-eye view of bull-penning at its best. Perched alongside Bob Uecker in the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth, he’s gotten to watch Craig Counsell adroitly shuttle relievers in and out of games, most notably since the calendar turned to October. One thing he hasn’t seen — at least not often — is starters going deep into games. Brewers starters threw just 847 innings in the regular season, the fewest among teams that advanced beyond the Wild Card round.

A few months ago I asked Levering if he could share any observations, and/or opinions, on the current state of the game. He brought up pitcher usage.

“Baseball is trending to specialization, especially with how bullpens are being constructed,” said Levering. “You’re asking starting pitchers to give you five or six innings. You don’t have many guys like Max Scherzer where you can say, ‘All right, he’s going to give us seven or eight innings today, no matter what.’”

Levering proceeded to mention last winter’s free-agent environment. Rather than being priorities, as they had been in the past, starting pitchers were almost an afterthought. Lucrative offers were neither plentiful nor quickly-coming. Read the rest of this entry »

Brewers Pass Over Ace to Gain Advantage

With the presence of two analytically driven clubs in the NLCS, much of the attention paid to the series will focus on how each team responds to moves made by the other in an effort to gain the upper hand. For the Brewers, one area particularly well suited for creative decision-making is the rotation. As documented by Jeff Sullivan last week, Brewers starters recorded the highest collective ERA of all this year’s playoff teams after accounting for league and park. The weaknesses of the rotation, however — in the hands of a club willing to ask questions — also represents an opportunity for creative solutions.

Consider: in the team’s incredibly important Game 163, manager Craig Counsell opted for the team’s best starting pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, on short rest. Then, in Game One of the Division Series against the Rockies, the Brewers piggybacked Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes before going with Chacin on short rest again for the second game of the series. Counsell bypassed Wade Miley until Game Three of the Division Series and passed over Gio Gonzalez entirely.

For the series with the Dodgers, though, those final two pitchers, Gonzalez and Miley, have been named as the starters for Games One and Two, respectively — even though nominal ace Chacin is available on full rest. In this case, however, the use of the two lesser pitchers might ultimately give the Brewers and advantage,

The Brewers employed a bit of gamesmanship with regard to their probable starters for the NLCS, waiting until just yesterday to announce their choices. How they deploy their rotation, though, could have a real effect on the starting lineup selected by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. To get a better sense of what I mean, let’s start by examining the potential lineups for the Dodgers with the right-handed Chacin on the mound versus either of the two left-handers.

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The NLCS Will Be a Study in Contrasts

The Brewers and Dodgers, Team Entropy’s darlings, both had to win Game 163 tiebreaker games to claim their respective division titles. They then dispatched their NL Division Series opponents with relative ease this past week, with the former sweeping the Rockies and the latter taking three out of four from the Braves. Now they’ll meet in the NLCS, which opens tonight at Miller Park. The Brewers, NL Central champions, earned home-field advantage by virtue of their 96 wins, whereas the Dodgers, the NL West champs, won a comparatively modest 92 games.

Besides being very good baseball teams that nonetheless had to work overtime to avoid going the Wild Card route, the Brewers and Dodgers have some commonalities. They’re analytically-driven clubs whose managers, Craig Counsell and Dave Roberts, work well with their front offices in ways that show outside-the-box thinking, the former most notably with regards to bullpen usage and the latter with regards to the lack of a set lineup and a lot of in-game position switching. Both teams were among the NL’s best at run-prevention, with the Dodgers allowing a league-low 3.74 runs per game and the Brewers ranking fourth with 4.04. Nor was that just a function of ballpark or other environmental factors. The pair also ranked first and fourth in ERA- (88 and 91, respectively), and first and fifth in FIP- (90 and 97, respectively).

What’s more, both teams have power galore and have been quite reliant on the home run. The Dodgers and Brewers ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the NL in homers (235 to 218); the latter had the NL’s top “Guillen Number,” the percentage of runs scored via homers (46.5%) while the former was fourth in the league. The Brewers outhomered the Rockies 4-2 in their series, with five of Milwaukee’s 13 runs (“only” 36.8%) coming via the homer; the Dodgers outhomered the Braves 8-2, with 14 of their 20 runs (70%) scoring via dingers.

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The Rockies Were Bad and Still Almost Won

History won’t look back too kindly on the Rockies’ 2018 playoff run. They were outscored 13-2 in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Brewers. They produced one of the most pitiful offensive performances in postseason history. All in all, it wasn’t a great success.

A look at the team’s lineup reveals that the performance wasn’t completely surprising, either. While the club’s .334 wOBA ranked (tied for) fourth in all of baseball, the Rockies’ hitting exploits were much less impressive after accounting for Coors Field. Indeed, their adjusted batting line placed them among the 10 worst teams in all of baseball by that measure. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story were the only qualified Rockies hitters to produce a 100 wRC+ or better. By definition, that left two-thirds of the lineup to below-average hitters. That was never going to be ideal, and it showed in their loss to the Brewers.

Nevertheless, the series was far from a blowout. Rockies pitchers, particularly the starters, fared well — especially considering that Kyle Freeland didn’t get a start in the series and Jon Gray, who faltered at the end of the season, wasn’t even part of the NLDS roster. Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, and Antonio Senzatela gave up just five runs in 16 innings, keeping things close enough for their teammates. Overall, Colorado trailed by more than two runs in just five of the 28 innings during which they batted. A bloop and a blast would have given Colorado the lead half of the time they stepped to the plate — and also would have tied the game on another eight occasions, as the graph below illustrates.

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FanGraphs Audio: Craig Edwards Live on Tape in Wisconsin

Episode 838
Craig Edwards traveled to Milwaukee for Games One and Two of the NLDS between the Brewers and Rockies. In this edition of the program, he discusses what he saw there. Also: what criteria must a club meet to become a dynasty? And: if teams added no players this offseason, which club would be best in 2019?

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 40 min play time.)

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Get Ready to Watch One of Baseball’s Best Pitches

This is one of those marathon days of playoff baseball, where the league manages to string four important games in a row. And when you have four scheduled playoff games in a day, you can expect to see some quality pitching. Right now, literally as I’m writing this, Corey Kluber is going head-to-head against Justin Verlander. Later on, the Red Sox will give the ball to Chris Sale. Hours after that, the Dodgers will give the ball to Clayton Kershaw. The playoffs select for good teams. Good teams effectively select for good pitching. I don’t need to tell you how the playoffs work.

Kluber, Verlander, Sale, Kershaw — obviously, each of them is amazing. They’re so good, and they’ve been so good for so long, that most of you already know what they throw. You know how they work, and you know all their best weapons. You know their putaway pitches. Certain select pitchers get to that level, where fans are able to break down their repertoires. It’s a testament to their collective success. It’s not easy to get people to know so much about you. Fans often aren’t so concerned with the details.

But I can tell you that, today, there’s going to be another spectacular pitch. A spectacular pitch from an unlikely source. Kluber has that excellent breaking ball. Verlander has that excellent four-seamer. Sale has his own excellent four-seamer. Kershaw has an excellent slider. The Brewers’ Game 2 starter against the Rockies is Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin’s an anonymous starter with one dynamite weapon.

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The Brewers’ Best Laid Plans Were Just Good Enough

For eight innings, everything went as planned for Craig Counsell and his Brewers in their NLDS Game One matchup against the Colorado Rockies. Their MVP homered. A non-traditional arrangement of pitchers got them to the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead. Their All-Star closer took the mound needing to record only three outs. It was, more or less, the ideal scenario.

Then things fell apart a little. The closer faltered, and the Rockies tied the score. Counsell was forced to adjust. In the end, everything worked out anyway. The Brewers won the game on their home field and took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five battle against Colorado. The plan, ultimately, worked.

Let’s take a look at the finer points of that plan to get a sense of Counsell’s logic and the Brewers’ strengths.

The Starter

Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays used Sergio Romo in a one-inning start back in May, the idea of the opener has spread across the league. And while Brandon Woodruff’s appearance could easily have been mistaken for another example of that strategy — Woodruff recorded many more relief appearances (15) than starts this year (4) — that’s not how Craig Counsell saw it.

Said Counsell before the start of the game on Thursday:

I think from our perspective, Woody is — he’s not a reliever. He has the ability to do more than that, if that’s what the game calls for. So that’s — one, he’s throwing the ball really well and, two, I think he has the potential to do a little more than a reliever maybe.

Whatever the case, the decision paid off: Woodruff pumped upper-90s four-seamers and two-seamers to get batters out. The sinkers were a bit of a surprise — Woodruff had only used the pitch during one appearances all season, his final one against Detroit — but were also effective. Only one batter reached base over Woodruff’s first three innings of work — a first inning walk of DJ LeMahieu — and he was erased on a caught stealing. By the end of three complete, Woodruff had produced three strikeouts against one walk while throwing 71% fastballs. But the velocity appeared to be waning, as the graph below indicates.

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Adam Ottavino Has a Weakness

After a miserable 2017, Adam Ottavino has been able to rebound, establishing himself as one of the better relievers in either league. That’s why he was the Rockies’ first pitcher out of the bullpen the other day in the wild-card game in Chicago. Granted, Ottavino allowed the tying run. There wasn’t another run until the top of the 13th. The bottom of the 13th was led off by Terrance Gore.

Let’s tie this all together, you and me. Why was Gore ever in the game in the first place? He pinch-ran in the eighth for Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo had hit a two-out single. Gore came in and wasted no time.

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Brewers Go With Traditional Non-Traditional Starter

Last night, in starting Liam Hendriks, the Oakland A’s went with The Opener, using a reliever to start the game with the expectation that he will pitch just one inning. Today, the Brewers have also opted to start a reliever in Brandon Woodruff. Unlike the A’s, the Brewers have no plans to start a reliever for one inning, or to start a reliever for one out like the club did last week when they used a LOOGY in Dan Jennings to pitch only to Matt Carpenter. When the Brewers opted for Jennings, I opined the ploy could be useful in the playoffs:

This situation might have some utility for the Brewers in the playoffs. If the team makes the Wild Card game and faces the Cardinals, then Matt Carpenter is likely to be at the top of the order. If they were to face the Rockies, lefty Charlie Blackmon is likely to lead off. While September’s expanded rosters allow for a greater margin of error, a one-game Wild Card matchup still permits more relievers, as teams need just one starter instead of four in later rounds. The Brewers conducted an interesting experiment somewhat necessitated by a lack of starting options, the unique circumstances of the September roster, and the Cardinals’ lineup.

The situation is less desirable in Game One of a five-game series, as carrying a one-out reliever can be difficult with the number of games and limited roster space. The Brewers opted not to even carry Jennings on the roster, instead indicating that lefty starters Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez could be used in relief. Bud Black indicated he had no plans to move Charlie Blackmon out of the leadoff spot, and the lack of a LOOGY on the Brewers roster means he doesn’t even need to think about it.

As for the Brewers’ bullpen plans, Craig Counsell indicated on Wednesday the bullpen game he’s using today isn’t likely to mirror what we saw from A’s last night, with a train of relievers, or from the Rays this season, with a reliever followed by a starter:

Look, these aren’t going to be one-out appearances. These are going to be longer appearances. These are going to be two, three-inning appearances that we think we can get through with this.

In choosing Woodruff, Counsell doesn’t even believe he’s starting the game with a reliever.

And I think from our perspective, Woody is–he’s not a reliever. He has the ability to do more than that, if that’s what the game calls for. So that’s–one, he’s throwing the ball really well, and two, I think he has the potential to do a little more than a reliever maybe.

Counsell’s belief is supported by others. Before the season started, Eric Longenhagen said, “He’s a big-league-ready, sinker/slider fourth starter. Between the majors and minors this year, Woodruff has made 21 starts, including six at Triple-A in August. He struggled some overall, but he struck out 26 batters in 20 innings during that time. Since being recalled in September, Woodruff has been utilized as a reliever, but he’s gone multiple inning three times. More importantly, he’s been really good, with a 1.54 FIP, 16 strikeouts and just three walks while allowing only a single run in 12.1 innings. He features a high-90s four-seamer in relief in addition to his slider, and the Brewers hope that can get the club through the lineup at least once.

After Woodruff, Freddy Peralta is an interesting option. He’s started 14 games this season with a solid 3.85 FIP in those starts. In his last outing, he came on in relief of Jennings after that LOOGY start and went 3.2 innings, striking out three and giving up one run before the rest of the bullpen came to the rescue. Miley might be another consideration before the team can turn things over to Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, and Jeremy Jeffress.

The Brewers aren’t going with an Opener, and they aren’t going to pitch eight relievers over nine innings. What’s happening today is your more traditional bullpen game. It might not be common in the playoffs, but supplementing a couple long men in Woodruff and Peralta probably gives them a better chance to get outs than going with a starter on short rest like Gonzalez or a struggling Miley.

The Brewers Outfield Combating Coors

With their win in the divisional tiebreaker on Monday, the Brewers took home the National League Central title, their second Central crown and third division title in their 49-year existence. By winning, besides avoiding the scramble of the winner-take-all Wild Card game, they get to face the Colorado Rockies. This is surely preferable for the Brewers for many reasons. For one, the Rockies offense is significantly less potent than either the Cubs or Dodgers — the Brewers’ other potential opponents — putting up an 87 team wRC+ compared to 100 for the Cubs and 111 for the league-leading Dodgers. The Brewers also (albeit in rather small samples) took five of seven from the Rockies this year, compared to three of seven from the Dodgers and nine out of 20 from the Cubs.

Despite the optimism, there is one catch to playing the Rockies; eventually, you have to go to Coors Field. Coors can be a tricky place to play, as many NL West players could tell you. From the elevation to the humidor, there are many factors that come into play once you travel to Denver. However, the Brewers are uniquely situated to combat one of Coors Field’s most difficult attributes.

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Lift-Off for Christian Yelich

Monday, I wrote about why, if I had a vote, I’d select Jacob deGrom for National League MVP. I do not have a vote, though, and I doubt that my argument is sufficiently convincing. The NL MVP is almost certainly going to end up being Christian Yelich. There was a somewhat crowded field for a little while, but Yelich pulled away from his fellow position players with an impossible final month. From the start of September, Yelich batted .370, with 16 strikeouts and 18 extra-base hits. Yelich was the best overall player from start to finish on a Brewers team that won the division literally yesterday. For what the MVP has turned into, Yelich is the obvious choice. Tremendous player on a team that wouldn’t have gotten to where it did without him.

Truth be told, it also wasn’t just the last month. Yelich was baseball’s best hitter in the second half, and it wasn’t even close. After the All-Star break, he registered a wRC+ of 220. Baseball Reference doesn’t keep track of wRC+, but it does keep track of OPS+ and its splits do go back further than ours, and according to the numbers at Baseball Reference, Yelich had one of the ten or so best second halves in the last 50 years. The only players with better second-half rate stats over enough of a sample: Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Hank Aaron, and Jim Thome. Bonds actually has the four best second halves, and they all happened in a row between 2001-2004, but this isn’t a Barry Bonds fun-fact article. This is a Christian Yelich fun-fact article. He did his best to carry the Brewers into the NLDS.

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Team Entropy 2018: Extra Baseball?

This is the fifth installment of this year’s Team Entropy series, my recurring look not only at the races for the remaining playoff spots but the potential for end-of-season chaos in the form of down-to-the-wire suspense and even tiebreakers. Ideally, we want more ties than the men’s department at Macy’s. If you’re new to this, please read the introduction here.

In the National League playoff picture, we’re down to two teams — the Dodgers (89-71) and Cardinals (87-73) — fighting for one spot, as the Rockies (90-70) clinched a postseason berth on Friday night by beating the Nationals for their eighth straight win. That said, neither the NL Central nor the NL West races have been decided, nor have the actual Wild Card game participants, leaving open the possibility that we could have multiple Game 163 tiebreakers on Monday. The dream scenario of needing a third tiebreaker game, in the event that the two NL West participants (the Dodgers and Rockies) finished tied with St. Louis, is off the table given the Cardinals’ back-to-back losses to the Brewers (93-67) and Cubs (94-66).

On Friday afternoon, I had the privilege of appearing on MLB Network’s MLB Now, where host Brian Kenny put the spotlight on Team Entropy at the top of the show and allowed me to talk through the various scenarios:

Pretty cool! Except that the Cardinals were busy getting pummeled by the Cubs as that happened — the show kept cutting away to the action — simplifying the picture somewhat. So here is what’s left…

The Cubs, who are hosting the Cardinals, and the Brewers, who are hosting the Tigers, can still finish in a tie after 162 games if Milwaukee can pick up a game this weekend. Either the Brew Crew goes 2-0 while the Cubs go 1-1, or 1-1 while the Cubs go 0-2. That would leave the two teams playing on Monday in Chicago (which won the season series 11-8) to determine which one wins the division, and which hosts the Wild Card game. As of Saturday morning, our playoff odds ties page shows a 25.9% chance of such an occurrence.

Likewise, the Rockies, who are hosting the Nationals, and the Dodgers, who are visiting the Giants, can finish tied if Los Angeles can pick up a game. The Dodgers, who won the season series 12-7, would host a tiebreaker game on Monday to determine the division winner, and second Wild Card team. Our ties page gives this game a 34.1% chance of happening.

Alternately, if the Cardinals win both of their remaining games and the Dodgers lose both of theirs, the two teams would be tied for the second Wild Card spot. They would play on Monday in St. Louis, which won the season series 4-3. This scenario can happen in tandem with an NL Central tie if the Brewers also split their remaining pair of games. The odds of a Wild Card tie are down to 2.4%, but that’s better than nothing, particularly with a second tiebreaker game also still an option.

With the Cubs and Cardinals playing at 1:05 pm Eastern, the Dodgers and Giants at 4:05, the Brewers and Tigers at 7:05 pm and the Rockies and Nationals at 8:10 pm, we have the whole day to savor the possibilities for chaos. Enjoy!

The Brewers Used a LOOGY as a Starter

On Monday night in St. Louis, left-hander Dan Jennings received the start for the Milwaukee Brewers. It was notable because, of his 381 prior MLB games, he’d entered every one as a reliever. Outside of a few rehab games, Jennings’ previous 193 appearances in the minors had come in a relief capacity, as well. With the exception of 13 starts at Low-A back in 2008, in fact, Jennings had worked in relief for a decade solid.

Jennings’ appearance as a starter on Monday isn’t notable for what it says about Jennings, though. It’s notable for what it might reveal about the Milwaukee Brewers. Jennings didn’t pitch deep into the game. He didn’t exhibit an expanded repertoire. Instead, as he has on multiple occasions this year, he faced a single batter, recorded a lone out, and then departed the game in favor of a right-hander. Even with the use of an Opener spreading rapidly throughout the game, though, this was rare.

Chase Anderson had originally been on turn to start that night. After a solid 2017 campaign, Anderson has prevented runs well this year, too, recording a 3.93 ERA in 158.0 innings. He’s striking out fewer batters, though, walking more of them, and allowing more home runs. He’s been particularly vulnerable at Miller Park, which is friendly to hitters. As of Monday, he hadn’t pitched more than five innings in his last six starts and compiled only 7.2 innings over his previous two starts combined, putting up a 5.81 FIP and 4.57 ERA since the beginning of August. With one week to go and playoff ramifications attached to every game, Craig Counsell and the Brewers faced the choice of going with Anderson or doing something else. They chose something else.

The team could have opted to pitch Gio Gonzalez on regular rest, but that would have meant using Jhoulys Chacin on short rest the next day or relying on the bullpen to take care of that game. The team opted to get the bullpen game out of the way. The Cardinals’ lineup presented the team with an interesting opportunity. Over the 10 previous games, with 80 starting lineup spots to give out, the club had used left-handed batters in only 15 of them — including eight for leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, one for Matt Adams, and seven for Kolten Wong, who had been out of the lineup the previous two days with an injury. That meant that, no matter how the Cardinals’ lineup looked on Monday, it was likely to include just one left-hander and that lefty would likely bat leadoff in the form of Matt Carpenter.

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Sunday Notes: Tyler Clippard Sees a Save-Opportunity Disconnect

In all likelihood, Tyler Clippard’s numbers are better than you realize. In 696 career relief appearances encompassing 752 innings, the 33-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander has a 3.17 ERA. Moreover, he’s allowed just 6.5 hits per nine innings, and his strikeout rate is a healthy 10.0. Add in durability — 72 outings annually since 2010 — and Clippard has quietly been one of baseball’s better relievers.

He also has 68 saves on his resume, and the fact that nearly half of them came in 2012 helps add to his under-the-radar status. It also helps explain the size of his bank account.

“My biggest jump in salary was the year I had 32 saves, and that was essentially the only reason,” explained Clippard, who was with the Washington Nationals at the time. “My overall body of work was pretty good, but numbers-wise it wasn’t one of my better seasons. I had a bad stretch where I had something like a 10.00 ERA, so I ended the year with a (3.72 ERA). But because I got all those saves, I received the big salary jump in salary arbitration.”

Circumstances proceeded to derail the righty’s earning power. The Nationals signed free-agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $22M contract, relegating Clippard to a set-up role. While Soriano was saving games, Clippard was being paid less than half that amount while logging a 2.29 ERA and allowing 84 hits in 141 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Orlando Arcia Bunted for a Double

During their Friday night game in Milwaukee, the Pirates wouldn’t have expected Orlando Arcia to be such a nuisance. Out of every batter this season with at least 250 plate appearances, Arcia ranks third from the bottom in wRC+. Taking a deeper look at expected wOBA, based on Statcast-tracked batted balls, Arcia ranks dead last. Furthermore, and more importantly, Arcia wasn’t even in the starting lineup. The Brewers had Jonathan Schoop at shortstop. Arcia only entered during a top-of-the-fifth double-switch.

But by the time the evening was over, Arcia had finished 3-for-3 at the plate. The first time he came up, facing Chris Archer, he tried his damnedest to injure Archer and knock him out of the game.

And then, the second time he came up, facing Steven Brault, he drove in a couple of runners. It’s not uncommon for two runs to score on a double. It is uncommon for said double to come on a bunt.

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Contending Brewers Trade for Often Good Pitcher

The National League Wild Card race is nuts. Here’s the currently field of clubs competing for it, through Thursday’s games, with our playoff odds.

National League Wild Card Race
Team W L GB Proj W Proj L ROS W% Win Division Win Wild Card Make Playoffs
Cardinals 75 59 0.5 88.8 73.2 .494 4.1% 63.0% 67.3%
Brewers 75 60 0 88.7 73.3 .508 4.5% 61.8% 66.4%
Rockies 72 61 2 86.2 75.8 .491 14.6% 14.7% 29.4%
Dodgers 72 62 2.5 89.2 72.8 .616 56.4% 17.4% 73.8%
Phillies 71 62 3 86.2 75.8 .525 35.3% 6.2% 41.6%

That’s just nuts! In the American League, the next closest Wild Card team, the Seattle Mariners, is 4.5 games out of a playoff spot. The next closest team behind them is the eight-games-out Rays. The next closest NL team, as you might notice, is significantly closer than that. The NL has eight teams whose odds of making the playoffs are over 25%; the AL, meanwhile, has just five such teams.

And so, with the NL’s relative nuttiness in mind, the Brewers traded this afternoon for left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to bolster a rotation that is still in search of reinforcements after losing Jimmy Nelson to a shoulder injury before the season started and Brent Suter to Tommy John surgery in July. In return, the Nationals will reportedly receive two minor leaguers, though at the time of publication, those players’ identities are still unknown. As such, we’ll evaluate this trade in terms of Gonazalez’s merits for the Brewers and what the trade signals for the Nationals’ late-season tear-down. We should also note that the trade, famously a disruptive event, was remarkably convenient for Gonzalez, who — as a result of the two teams playing one another today — simply had to walk across the field to the Brewers’ dugout.

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Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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