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Series Preview: Rebuilding Reds take on the Rebuilding Brewers

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There're building blocks here, but we're still years away.

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Game Times and Probable Pitchers

Miller Park

Friday, May 27, 2016, 8:10pm EDT: LHP John Lamb vs. RHP Zach Davies

Saturday, May 28, 2016, 4:10pm EDT: RHP Alfredo Simon vs. RHP Chase Anderson

Sunday, May 29, 2016, 2:10pm EDT: LHP Brandon Finnegan vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson

So, this'll be something. The Reds have slumped hard through the month of May and will be bringing a 10 game losing streak into Miller Park. The Reds and Brewers were supposed to compete for the bottom of the divison, but the Reds current slump have them well back Brew Crew, who're a better-than-expected 6 games under .500.

It's been a struggle for Zach Davies this year. The rookie has given up four or more earned runs in four of his seven starts this year, and most recently got beat to the tune of four earned in 5.1 innings pitched against the Mets his last time out. Left handed batters are crushing Davies this season (1.030 OPS against). This is good news for Jay Bruce and, hopefully, the scuffling Joey Votto.

Then again, worse pitchers than Davies have used the Reds offense to "get right."

Chase Anderson will spin them against Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. The last time the Reds saw Anderson was on Cinco de Mayo. The Reds had a fiesta, lighting up Anderson for six earned runs including dingers by Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. The Reds won that game and moved into fourth place in the NL Central, a half game up on Milwaukee.

It didn't last.

Anderson's been better recently; in his last 11 innings pitched, he's given up zero earned runs on eight hits, striking out nine and walking only two. Those 11 innings include six shutout innings in St. Louis. The Brewers have won Anderson's last two starts, both 6-4.

Jimmy Nelson has been the ace of the Brewers staff thus far (which is the kind of half-hearted praise we Reds fans thrust upon Dan Straily, because this Brewers rotation is not very good). Nelson's ERA currently sits at a cool 2.92 and his ERA+ is at an all time high of 139. Nelson's been legitimately good, though a 4.42 FIP and a strand rate that's nearly 80% might ultimately make a dent in those numbers.

The last time the Reds saw Nelson, they beat up on him, too, for five runs in five innings in what ultimately was a Brewer win. Since, he's been lights out: 21.1 IP, 3 ER, 18 K, 8 BB.

Lineup

C Jonathan Lucroy

1B Cris Carter

2B Scooter Gennett

SS Jonathan Villar

3B Aaron Hill

LF Ryan Braun

CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis

RF Alex Presley (Domingo Santana on the 15 day DL)

The most familiar names in the Brew Crew lineup, Lucroy and Braun, are enjoying great seasons thus far. Ryan Braun appears to be back to his MVP level form at age 32, sporting a very healthy 1.025 OPS, while Lucroy is back healthy again, already having 176 ABs good for a 111 OPS+. Jonathan Lucroy. Ryan Braun. They're good. you know that.

This past offseason, the Brewers signed 29 year old 1B Cris Carter to a cheap one year contract, and he's still controllable through 2019. Houston let him walk presumably because of his somewhat advanced age (he'll be 30 in December) and the fact that they have a minor league system filled with similar kinds of bats. Plug and play, if you will.

It hasn't exactly worked out for the Astros; they're in fourth in the AL West and sport a worse record than that of the rebuilding Brewers. Carter has been brilliant for the Beer Makers, bashing heads as the big bopping bat at first base. He doesn't get on base much at all (.297 OBP), but he makes trips around them regularly (13 HR, .558 SLG).

A guy that has been getting on base very regularly this season is shortstop Jonathan Villar played alongside Carter in Houston last year, but was sent to Milwaukee in an offseason trade for AA pitcher Cy Sneed. Villar has rewarded the Brewers by leading the team in ABs, getting on base at nearly a .400 clip, and leading the league in stolen bases.

In fact, the former Houston duo are one and two in team at bats, just in front of the aforementioned Lucroy and Braun.

Bullpen

Jeremy Jeffress

Carols Torres

Blaine Boyer

Michael Blazek

Tyler Thornburg

David Goforth

Jhan Marinez

First things first: David Goforth is a bad name for a pitcher.

Tyler Thornburg has a relatively bleh ERA for a reliever at 3.48, but some of the peripherals are very solid. He strikes out 13.1 per 9 innings pitched, with a 0.968 WHIP. He chucks the fastball up there at around 95 mph, dialing it up to a maximum of 97. Hitters are hitting .152 against it.

Jeremy Jeffress is the closer for the Brewers. He doesn't really strike out anyone from the back end of the bullpen, but he's blown only one save and sees his ERA currently sitting at 2.05, so the job is getting done.

Carlos Torres has gotten the most work from the pen, and things look dicey at best. His 3.20 ERA is fine enough, but FIP rates it more as a 5.22. The 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched looks fine, but the 5.33 walks doesn't. So far, he can chalk up success to a BABIP that's 40 points less than his career average and a 90% strand rate.

Outlook

As I mentioned at the top, this was supposed to be a race to the basement. Milwaukee hasn't held up their end of the bargain, mainly because of their former stars returning to star form and some savvy moves along the lineup.

The starting pitching is bad and can be jumped on in a hurry. See if you can believe this, Brewers starting pitching has two fewer quality starts than Reds starting pitching, that has regularly and routinely struggled to make it to the sixth inning without fail. Brewers starters do make it a little longer into games than Reds starters (5.4 innings to 5.2 innings) but here's what I'm trying to illustrate: you've watched bad pitching all. You know what it looks like.

Brewers pitching is nearly as bad and or worse in some cases.

That being said, do you trust this Reds team to win a game right now? Sure, after ten straight, you could argue they're due? But then I could look at results and say, "they stink."

I expect Joesph Daniel to break out of the slump sometime soon. I'm starting to get the feeling that we may very well look back on 2016 as "not a very Joey-like season," but he's not going to be this bad for the duration. If Votto breaks out and slams Zach Davies like he's capable of doing, it could be the start of good things.

But, the pitching on both sides is bad bad bad. It's really going to be on who gets on the other first, and which bullpen doesn't melt it away.

Feeling confident yet?