As we move closer to the end of April, we’re starting to see which teams are emerging as the ones the majority may be chasing for the majority of the regular season. The Milwaukee Brewers aren’t playing very well right now, but they are in the middle of the pack in regards to their division at this stage of the year. However, the Dodgers and Don Mattingly have gotten off to a red hot start. Their fast start is a surprise to me, but they have come together as a team nicely quite quickly, and they haven’t been this quick out of the gate since 1981. That’s why I wanted to focus on these two teams for this week’s installment of Series of the Week, who start a three-game set tomorrow at Miller Park.
How they’re performing right now:
The Dodgers are currently taking the National League by storm and are dominating everyone with a 9-1 record. Even though the
Dodgers currently rank 14th in the MLB with a .252 team batting average, they are making the most of their hits because they are fourth in the league with 50 runs scored. The Brewers, on the other hand, are trending the oppositive way; their team batting average is 26th in the MLB at .228 and their 43 runs scored rank tenth. So, why is Milwaukee hanging around .500 and the Dodgers at the top of the league? Ah yes, you guessed it, that little detailed called pitching!
The Dodger pitching staff, lead by 2011 Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, currently ranks 7th in Major League Baseball with a 2.97 team ERA. Then comes what I think is the second most important pitching statistic, the WHIP. LA is even better in that department, with a 1.11 WHIP, good for sixth in all of baseball. On the other hand, Zach Greinke, Shawn Marcum, and company are a part of one of the worst performing rotations in baseball. Their team ERA currently sits at 5.65, second-to-last in the entire league, and their 1.57 WHIP is 28th out of 30 teams. So, it’s great to score lots of runs, but when you can’t keep opposing teams in check, it’s hard to win ballgames. Ron Roenicke is hoping that this is nothing but a small hiccup and his staff will get back to their 2011 form, which ranked in the top-ten in MLB in both these categories.
Probable Pitching Match-ups:
Even though their staff is struggling, the Brewers are running out some of their best pitchers to face a red hot Dodgers line up that includes the likes of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Scott Andes, the co-editor of Lasorda’s Lair, the FanSided site dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is very excited to see Chad Billingsley pitch opposite of the Brewers because he has seen lots of success against the team. The LA right-hander has only given up one run in 14.1 innings so far this season, and against the current starting lineup for Milwaukee, he’s only given up eight hits total, including one home run. The rest of the probable starters are below:
Recent head-to-head match ups:
This will be the first meeting between Los Angeles and Milwaukee this season. Over the past two years, the teams have traded season series wins. In 2010, both teams didn’t perform well overall and ended the season under .500, and you have a glimpse as to why they weren’t winning teams; neither of them won their head-to-head match ups at home. Two years ago, the Dodgers were the team to get the better end of the deal, winning the season series four games to two, and actually swept the Brew Crew at home. In 2011, the tables turned, and the Brewers took the season series from Los Angeles on their way to clinching the NL Central crown and heading into October baseball. NL MVP Ryan Braun and company won four out of the six games, and winning three out of four on their home turf.
As for new faces being introduced to this match up, the Dodgers didn’t add any big name free agents, but they locked up MVP runner-up Matt Kemp to a eight-year deal, and reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to a two-year deal. The biggest deal the Dodgers made this winter was getting new ownership, which will ensure that whenever these two players get together to play the Milwaukee Brewers, they will be doing so in Dodger Blue. For the Brewers, Aramis Ramirez makes his first appearance against LA with Milwaukee, who continue their first year without Prince Fielder wrecking havoc in the middle of their lineup.
What people are saying:
The Dodgers are obviously one of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball, and with good reason. I spoke to Scott Andes about LA’s quick start, and he had a unique point of view about it. Yes, the team is scoring runs and pitching well, but it’s the defense that has been setting them apart from the rest of the league: “Perhaps most impressive, is the Dodgers air tight defense, which is the best in the league. Despite what hardcore stat heads may tell you, defense is important, and teams that allow the fewest errors, generally win a lot of games. Well, the Dodgers have allowed the fewest errors in the Majors (with only two), have the highest fielding percentage, and are leading the National League in total fielding.
However, Scott did reference the offense performing well in the middle of the lineup leading to their fast start as well. Matt Kemp, a rejuvenated Andre Ethier, and Juan Rivera has been carrying the offense. However, he is a little concerned with this part of the lineup being the most productive; James Loney is off to a poor start, A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis, and Juan Uribe are all also struggling mightily.
Match-ups to watch for:
Scott also offered us various match-ups that he is excited to see this week as these two teams square off at Miller Park. He’s pumped up
to watch Chad Billingsley and Yovani Gallardo face each other and their opposing lineups because they have historically had success against the hitters they’re set to face. We already talked about Bilingsley’s success against the Brew Crew, but Gallardo has been able to dominate the Dodger lineup as well. Outside of Juan Uribe (3-9) and Matt Kemp (4-12) are the only Dodgers to record more than three hits off of the Brewers starter, who has struck out more than 200 hitters three years in a row.
Lou Olsen, senior staff writer at Reviewing the Brew, the MLB FanSided site dedicated to the Brewers, is excited to see Kemp face either Francisco Rodriguez or John Axford. Kemp is the third Dodger to hit six home runs in the teams first ten games, and Milwaukee has one of the best late inning combos in the league. Olsen is also excited to watch Chris Capuano come back to Miller Park: “I can’t wait for this game. Chris Capuano was one of my favorite Brewers, so I am really looking forward to facing him on Wednesday. This Brewers team tends to flourish against top tier pitchers and fall flat when up against sub-par pitching. Capunao falls into the latter. The timing could not be better for Cappy, however. Through the first 2 weeks of the season, the Brewers have yet to really get into any sort of groove offensively. That bodes very well for our old friend.”
Scott feels that the Dodgers will be able to take two out of three from the Brewers this week because they are so hot at this point in the year. However, he did offer up the fact that it may not be easy because the LA bullpen has struggled a bit over the past week, giving up two five-run leads and being a little overworked. However, the Dodgers are 20-13 at Miller Park since Milwaukee came to the National League, so he’s going with the hot hand.
Lou also feels that the Dodgers will win this series, but the Brewers have a chance to snake a couple of wins if Gallardo and Greinke can forget their slow starts and pitch like they’re in mid-season form. He’s still trying to get used to the fact that his once slugging Brewers are now considered a pitching team… that feels weird for me to say too. Lou’s craziest prediction is that Aramis Ramirez (.129/.200/.194) will come alive this week.
I am usually not not very good at making predictions, but right now I’m sitting at 1-1 thanks to the Phillies taking the last two games of their three game set against the Marlins. So, for me, this decision is important because I want to keep getting it right. Between these two teams, I think that the Dodgers are just too hot right now in all aspects of the game. Throw in coming to Miller Park, a hitter friendly venue, and I don’t think the Brewers are going to be able to turn their pitching around just yet. LA takes two out of three here, turning back the clock to 2010 by doing it as the visiting team.