MLB: NLDS – Brewers vs Rockies Preview

After a 163 game dog fight in the NL West, the Rockies fell short of landing the division crown and now find themselves facing the league’s #1 seed in the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers won the season series between the two clubs 5-2, but we all know that means little to nothing once October baseball gets started. Let’s take a deeper look and see how the teams match up, and set forth a prediction.

Milwaukee Brewers vs Colorado Rockies

Game One – Thursday, October 4th @ 5:07pm ET – Miller Park – Milwaukee, WI

Game Two – Friday, October 5th @ 4:15pm ET – Miller Park – Milwaukee, WI

Game Three – Sunday, October 7th @ 4:37pm ET – Coors Field – Denver, CO

Game Four – Monday, October 8th @ TBD – Coors Field – Denver, CO (IF NECESSARY)

Game Five – Wednesday, October 10th @ TBD – Miller Park – Milwaukee, WI (IF NECESSARY)

Note: Game 1, 2 & 4, 5 will all be broadcast by FS1 while game 3 will be on MLB Network

 

The Pitchers

Let’s get the ball rolling by taking a gander at what the Brew Crew have going on. I’ve gotta be honest, when you look at the pitching for Milwaukee, it’s kinda hard to figure how they got here. While there are other totally worthy candidates, Brewers manager Craig Counsell probably deserves National League manager of the year. While mixing new school sabremetric knowledge with old school baseball chops, he successfully navigated a challenging NL Central and got Milwaukee to the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history.

For game one, Counsell has chosen to go bullpen by committee and Brandon Woodruff will get the ball as the “opener”. Woodruff made 17 starts in the minors this year (and four for Milwaukee), but was at his best out of the bullpen with an 0.73 ERA and 11.7 K/9 mark in that capacity. In game two, the Crew will turn to veteran Jhoulys Chacin who also started the game 163 contest against the Cubs. Past Chacin, veterans Brett Anderson and Wade Miley seem to be the most likely candidates to pick up NLDS starts, but Counsell is yet to announce his intentions for anything past game two.

While it might be hard to figure what exactly Milwaukee will do with their rotation, once you get to the pen, it’s easy to guess. Lefty fireballer Josh Hader has appeared in 55 games this season and has a 2.43 ERA / 2.23 FIP which also comes with a ridiculous .088 batting average for left handed hitters who dare to try to reach base off of him. it’s not like right handers fare much better, hitting a paltry .188. Also out of the pen, you have to worry about Jeremy Jeffress, who has a 1.29 ERA / 2.78 FIP on the year and has accumulated 15 saves. If you wanna score on Milwaukee, you’d best do so early in the game.

For the Rockies, again, the starting pitching picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Antonio Senzatela will get the ball for Bud Black’s crew in game one, but his numbers don’t exactly scream game one starter. I’m sure Black would love to give that start to staff ace Kyle Freeland, but he started the NL Wild Card win over the Cubs. Still, Freeland looks in line to make an appearance in game three as he looks to build on that outstanding NLWC performance.

Lefty Tyler Anderson looks as though he will likely get the nod for Colorado in game two and unfortunately his 5.02 road ERA this season may be slightly less than inspiring. His appearance here allows the Rockies to use Kyle Freeland in game three and German Marquez in game four on full rest, so the gamble of seeing what Anderson can do is worthwhile. We’re confident that his leash will be exceedingly short if things are to start to get away from him. Speaking of Marquez, his season is worth additional note as he’s emerged as probably the Rockies second best starter behind Freeland. The 23 year old right hander posted a 3.77 ERA / 3.40 FIP mark this year in just his second full season in the bigs.

When it gets to the Rockies pen, it could be a bit of an adventure. Colorado committed a staggering amount of money to this group in the offseason, and that investment has often not looked worthwhile. Veteran closer Wade Davis brings World Series experience though and Bud Black won’t hesitate to go to him often. The 4.0 overall bullpen WAR for the season wasn’t terrible, but a ton of that value (half of it, to be exact) can be attributed to lethal set up man Adam Ottavino. The 32 year old right hander had by far his best season in the majors, pitching in a whopping 75 games and posting a massive 12.98 K/9 and a minuscule 0.58 HR/9. He’s been pretty good.

 

The Bats

The Rockies score a lot of runs. Shocking, right? Big time offense has been the calling card for this franchise from the moment they were conceived, and that’s no different this year. Lead by legitimate NL MVP candidate third baseman Nolan Arenado, he combines with shortstop Trevor Story to form one of the most lethal offensive combinations in the National League. The two combined for 77 home runs, 228 RBI and a 10.7 WAR. Did we mention that they’re both great defenders? They are.

But, this dynamic duo could use a little help, and at times that has been an issue for Colorado. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon has had a solid season at the dish, hitting 29 home runs and 70 RBI himself out of the leadoff spot, but his defense has graded poorly and eroded a decent chunk of his overall value. His 2.8 WAR this year was a significant down turn from the 6.5 and 4.7 marks he managed the previous two seasons.

If Colorado is to make a real run at the Brewers and try to reach the NLCS, Arenado and Story will need help. That could come off the bat of outfielder David Dahl who finished the season on a hot streak where he hit 9 of his 16 home runs in September. Elsewhere, the Rockies will look to a veteran group that includes Matt Holliday (seriously) and Carlos Gonzalez. Both of these guys used to be great, but their best days are solidly behind them. Still, if one of them can step up, it would greatly improve their chances of moving on.

Turning out attention to the guys from Milwaukee, this offense can get after it. Lead by my vote for NL MVP Christian Yelich, the Brewers have put together a formidable offense that can score with anyone. We’ll talk about Yelich first, because frankly he deserves every positive predicate in which is penned about him. Acquired in the offseason from the Marlins for a slew of prospects, Yelich has gone crazy for the Brewers to the tune of a 7.6 WAR which was accumulated by playing plus defense while hitting 36 home runs, 110 RBI and making a run at the NL Triple Crown with a .326 batting average as well. He’s been real good.

But Yelich hasn’t been doing this alone, as another offseason addition to the club has paid massive dividends. Milwaukee got aggressive in the free agent market and gave Lorenzo Cain five years and $80 million to patrol center field. That gambit has proven to be a positive one at least in the short term as Cain has rewarded the Brewers with one of the best seasons of his career out of the leadoff spot. Cain hits for average, gets on base, plays plus defense in center and has provided a veteran presence for a team hungry to get the World Series ring that he already has. He’s been everything Milwaukee expected and more.

That’s all well and good, but the Brew Crew’s offense isn’t a two man show. Far from it, actually. The big boy at first, Jesus Aguilar, burst onto the scene in earnest this year by hitting 35 home runs, 108 RBI and providing 3+ wins in overall value. Elsewhere on the infield, in an attempt to even further improve their offensive unit, Milwaukee went out before the trade deadline and picked up third baseman Mike Moustakas from Kansas City. That move forced incumbent third baseman Travis Shaw to second (where he had never played in the majors), but for the most part the move has worked out positively. Oh, and we didn’t mention than former NL MVP Ryan Braun is still in Milwaukee and he’s hitting again. That helps too.

 

Prediction

There’s a lot to like about this Rockies team, but there’s just not enough. People will keep overlooking Milwaukee, but their line up is deep, their pitching will surprise and they’ll just keep on ballin’.

Milwaukee wins series 3-1, advances to NLCS

 

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