With the Reds losing 5 of their last 6 and clinging to first place by one game over the Pirates and (more importantly) two games over the Cardinals, the Brewers come to town. It's been about a month and a half since we faced the Brew Crew, and in that time the team has started to take a bit more of a clear shape in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.
Offensively, they seem almost a perfect match for the Reds, with strengths in power and weaknesses in on base ability. The difference is that they've posted their numbers in a bit less of a hitting friendly environment at Miller Park, which results in their 102 wRC+. Their starters have also posted similar numbers to the Reds, with better peripherals but poorer results. What separates the two teams, then, are two things: the bullpen and the fielding. The Brewers haven't seen much success in either department, whereas the Reds have been solid if not superb.
Methods note: the WAR I'm reporting here is based on FanGraphs' WAR, but is using my composite fielding stat above, which is a composite of multi-year UZR, TZ, DRS, and Fan Scouting, plus current-year nFRAA.
Drew Stubbs is expected back today, and I've taken the liberty of demoting Willie Harris off the roster to make room for him (haven't heard that this is official as of press time, but it's the obvious move). Drew has had a tough season thus far, and I'm hoping this will be a chance for him to start fresh. I'll be cheering for him to get off to a good start tonight.
The Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox last night, and their situation with Wil Middlebrooks and Youkilis is an interesting parallel to the Reds' Scott Rolen / Todd Frazier "problem." Rolen's going to have to start hitting within the next week or two, I'd think, or Frazier may well take his job. I know Dusty likes to stick with his starters from spring training, but you can only keep running a guy out there for so long. For what it's worth, THT Forecasts projects Frazier at a 0.328 wOBA the rest of the way, while Rolen is projected at a 0.337 wOBA. Therefore, I don't think it's ridiculous to favor Rolen at this point, especially given his superiority with the glove. But if he can't find his stroke, there will be a time at which enough is enough.
The other interesting Youkilis/Rolen parallel, of course, is that both have now been traded for former Reds farmhand Zach Stewart!
Since we last saw the Brewers, Corey Hart has moved from the outfield to first base to fill the hole left by the loss of Mat Gamel. Cesar Izturis is still playing for the injured Alex Gonzalez, and Norichika Aoki has been playing pretty much every day in the outfield. Aoki is having himself a nice season, posting nice on base and slugging numbers. Last year in Japan, he hit .292/.358/.360, so I think there's reason to be skeptical about the power. But Milwaukee has to be pleased with what he's done thus far, as he wasn't expected to be much more than a bench bat when he signed last offseason.
Rickie Weeks has really stunk this year. He's still walking like crazy, but that's about the only positive thing you cna find in his hitting line. Weird.
For whatever reason, Homer Bailey isn't currently listed (as of Sunday night) as Wednesday's starter, but it would be his turn in the rotation. He gets a tough draw, as Greinke has been dominant this past month, with his overall ERA dropping from 4.11 in early May to 2.81 now. His SIERA and xFIP haven't moved as much, but they're both improved as well. He's scary, and could make a legitimate run at the Cy Young.
On Tuesday, the Reds face Marco Estrada in his first appearance back since leaving with a leg injury against San Francisco last month. I continue to be pretty impressed with him, but he is an extreme flyball pitcher...which might not play well at Great American Ballpark.
Like early in the season, John Axford has not been good of late, and there's rumblings (in fantasyland, at least) about him losing his job to Francisco Rodriguez. I'm not sure he's much of an improvement, but he's been solid enough, I guess. This whole pen has been sort of ok, but no one is really having a great year. Kameron Loe has been particularly disappointing, given what I thought he was. Also: Livan Hernandez sighting! Livan just got released from the Braves last week, and this is where he wound up. I've already written a bit about him this year.
Bill Bray is back. His numbers don't mean anything yet, and I'm looking forward to having him in the pen. Having the extra lefty might let Dusty use Marshall in more of a typical setup role (i.e. designated 8th inning guy), and use Bray more for match-ups in the 6th and 7th innings. Hope so anyway. Another thing I hope: Chapman can snap out of this recent slide and start being amazing again.