Rockies-Brewers Preview

Due to my rigid time constraints during mid-terms week, I won’t be able to get a full Braves-Dodgers preview up.  Instead, we’re going slap a Game 1 synopsis and a preview for the rest of the series on tomorrow’s ALDS preview column.

Anyways, here’s the Rockies-Brewers preview, which is a fascinating matchup given that neither team is that great at anything.

Colorado Rockies vs. Milwaukee Brewers

As soon as the Rockies despicably won Tuesday night, the first thing that popped into my mind was “Oh, this will be fun!”

Due to the pitching situations these teams are in, we might see some offense.  Milwaukee hit the 4th most home runs in the league this season, while Colorado hit the 8th most.  The Rockies were able to score runs without the long ball though; Colorado finished 7th in runs while Milwaukee finished 12th.

Lets first examine the pitching staffs of each team, since that matters more than anything else does in the postseason.  Colorado’s planned rotation looks like Antonio Senzatela in Game 1 and Tyler Anderson in Game 2.  The 23-year-old Senzatela has struggled in his 2nd year, not really improving on his underwhelming 2017 campaign.  He gave up even more contact in 2018 than his rookie year (His hits per nine innings increased from 8.6 to 9.4).  The bottom line here?  Senzatela is not someone we can trust to make a postseason start.

Tyler Anderson’s been just as rough.  The issues with home runs that came up last season didn’t leave; he’s giving up 1.5 HRs per nine, and that doesn’t matchup well with the Brewers who know how to hit them long.  Once again, we have another Rockies starter who doesn’t bode well for the postseason.

Things get better later in the series for Colorado though.  Before being inexplicably pulled against the Cubs, Kyle Freeland was dominating.  He was throwing fastballs all night and got away with it by overpowering with velocity.  It was awesome to watch.

I’d trust Freeland.  He’s young, sure, but the talent is there.  Plus, the stakes were higher in the Wild Card Game than they will be come Game 3 (assuming the Rockies aren’t down 2-0.  They shouldn’t be).

Same with German Marquez.  Marquez has easily been the Rockies 2nd best starter this season, with a 124 ERA+ and 230 strikeouts in 196 innings.  He has an electric arm and throws strikes.  At 23, his experience can also be called into question.  But Marquez’s talent overrules his flaws,  It alone is huge, given that the Rockies need all they can get to fall back on considering this bullpen.

I’m split 50-50 when it comes to guys I trust in it.  Adam Ottavino, the possessor of the best slider in the game (Sorry Chris Sale!) is the only certainty.  Falling slightly behind him is Chris Rusin, Wade Davis and Seunghwan Oh.  Then the fall really occurs: Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Scott Oberg and Harrison Musgrave round this pen of mediocrity out.

The Rusin-Davis-Oh tier is the tough evaluation.  Rusin’s been horrible but has good stuff.  Davis was once one of the league’s best closers but has dealt with control issues lately, and Oh likes giving up home runs in big situations.  As you’ll see with the Brewers below, there’s something to like with everyone here.  There’s also something to hate.

The Brewers pitchers are a bit more complicated.  Milwaukee’s starters aren’t the most trustworthy group, which means they could result to bullpenning.  But even that has its downfalls; Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress are the only impactful relievers Milwaukee has.  Everyone else is kind of an innings eater.  That type of bullpen talent isn’t gonna get you too far.  You need stars, not guys who are just fine.

There’s three starters I’d feel okay about for the Brewers this postseason: Wade Miley, Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin.  Miley’s an incredible surprise on this list.  At 31-years-old (which feels like 35), he’s still cranking.  With an impressive 2.57 ERA and almost no home runs given up, Miley gets the job done.  He’s probably a little susceptible to the Rockies’ groundball tendencies; that’s the way Miley likes to get outs, and it’s the way the Rockies like to score runs, but some of those grounders aren’t gonna get through.  Other pitchers in the Brewers rotation will allow those hits to come off of much harder contact.

Jhoulys Chacin has been the Brewers’ ace this season.  His two-seam fastball is nasty, with ridiculous tail that made the Cubs look silly on Monday.  His numbers aren’t insane, but these are the Brewers starters we’re talking about; the numbers aren’t gonna be pretty even from their best.

Chacin giving the Brewers outings like he did Monday would be a huge boost this postseason.  To go 5.2 good innings takes a huge stress off the bullpen, which is going to be maximized with the shape of the other starters.  Chacin is currently lined up to start Game 2, which would be on very minimal rest.  The plan seems to be to leave him in for a limited amount of time, then go to the bullpen.  It’s an odd strategy.  The Brewers have three pitchers they can rely on for lengthy starts.  Why waste one for 2-3 innings early in a series?  If the Brewers want to bullpen, they can save it for Games 3, 4 and 5.  That way, the pen isn’t exhausted for the most critical games of the series.

Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.  We may realize early in this series that the Brewers are screwed no matter what pitchers they throw out there, starters or relievers.  The Rockies offense is unrelenting; they have multiple guys who you should be scared of in a postseason at-bat (Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, I guess now Tony Wolters and definitely not Ian Desmond).  The Brewers pitching staff faces a tough test.  They should rely on six guys, and with their current game-plan are only gonna rely on 3-4 (Hader, Jeffress, Knebel, Chacin).  Either the lack of talent will show or the reliables are gonna get tired.

This series could be a crapshoot.  You can’t have confidence in either of these pitching staffs.  A massive lack of talent and trust exists on both sides.  When it comes to the good side of these staffs, the Brewers probably have more talent (Chacin, Hader, Jeffress, Knebel vs. Marquez, Freeland, Ottavino).  But wear can tear down either of those staffs and ruin them.

So what’s it come down to then?  Clutch hits and bench guys.  The Brewers are gonna have one of Jonathan Schoop or Orlando Arcia, Curtis Granderson, Hernan Perez and Domingo Santana on their bench at all times.  There’s not a lot of high OPS guys there, but given the clutch hitting we’ve already seen this postseason, anything is possible.

The Rockies bench consists of one of David Dahl or Gerrado Para, now-hitter Tony Wolters, Ryan McMahon, and Matt Holiday.  Now there’s some OPS for you.  Milwaukee has more utility men, but I’d put my trust in the Rockies to come up with a clutch hit in a big situation.  The Brewers might have the NL MVP Christian Yelich, which matters significantly in a series so evenly matched, but the Rockies can keep their pitchers more well-rested and have guys who can rise to the occasion when it matters most.

Prediction: Rockies in 5