Series Preview: Brewers vs. Braves (NLDS):

Overview

Playoff baseball is finally here! Led by the hot bats of Soler, Riley, and Freddie, and the hot hands of Fried, Morton, and Anderson, the Braves have set off for Milwaukee to take on the Brew Crew for the first two-game stand of their NLDS. Just two months after the Braves’ playoff odds were in the tank, here we are; not in a Wild Card slot, but champions of the entire NL East! However, Milwaukee should not be underestimated under any circumstances. After clinching the NL Central on September 26th and punting the last 7 games of the season, the Brewers still managed to finish 28 games above .500. This is one of the sharpest Braves teams we’ve seen in years, and we still only finished 15 games above the break-even point.

What I find most interesting about the Brewers is that they don’t seem to have too many big-name stars, with the exceptions of Christian Yelich and perhaps Kolten Wong. Compared to the volume of Tatis, Guerrero, and Ohtani highlights that inundated everyone’s social media feeds this year, you probably didn’t see a whole lot of flashy Brewers clips; instead, the Milwaukee roster consists of humble, hard-working professionals who show up and get the job done. While their individual batting numbers aren’t overwhelmingly impressive, a combination of day-to-day consistency, solid hitting throughout the order, and a phenomenal pitching staff makes them a very dangerous team. Milwaukee’s leader in home runs and RBI is right fielder Avisail Garcia, with 29 HR (tied for 44th in the MLB) and 86 RBI (tied for 47th). The Brewers have only one active starting fielder with a slugging percentage above .500, and that’s shortstop Willy Adames. The Braves, on the other hand, have five (Rosario, Riley, Duvall, Soler, Freeman). Milwaukee’s infield is rounded out with veteran Eduardo Escobar at third, star second baseman Kolten Wong, Rowdy Tellez at first, and Omar Narvaez at catcher. Rounding out the Brewers’ defense is Christian Yelich in left field, a three-man platoon in center which most prominently features Jackie Bradley Jr., and Garcia in right. Bradley Jr. represents the weakest link offensively, slashing only .163/.236/.261 through 134 games.

Milwaukee’s offense can content itself with consistently mediocre batting averages, because their pitching staff has been superb all season with a team ERA of 3.48. Only the Dodgers and the Giants had better team ERAs during the regular season, and both of those teams had over 105 wins! Corbin Burnes, who boasts a 2.43 ERA through 167 innings pitched, leads off the Milwaukee rotation this series, and will likely be followed by Brandon Woodruff then Freddie Peralta. The Brewers’ relief unit provides no relief to opposing hitters, with Hunter Strickland, Brad Boxberger, and Brent Suter shutting things down in late innings. However, Milwaukee is missing their second-best reliever, Devin Williams, because he punched a dugout wall in celebration and broke his pitching hand (sound familiar?). Closer Josh Hader has been absolutely phenomenal this season, allowing only 8 earned runs in 58⅔ innings pitched. Will Smith, who has somehow become the Braves’ best closer this year, has allowed 26 earned runs in about 10 more innings. Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, Strickland, and Hader all have a WHIP (average walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) below 1.0. This means that, on average, those pitchers allow less than one baserunner per inning. For context, Jesse Chavez is the only pitcher on the Braves’ current 40-man roster with a WHIP of less than 1.

Much like the Braves, the tight-knit Brewers are a dangerous group to face in the playoffs, because they don’t back down from adversity; they embrace it and let it unify them. We all witnessed the Padres’ implosion when it became apparent that they were not destined for a Wild Card spot, and the ensuing shouting match between Machado and Tatis. (I don’t fault the passion, but letting the egos destroy team morale is not cool.) That type of demoralizing implosion is not going to happen with the Brewers, and we can’t rely on early-game leads to break their spirits. Atlanta will have to fight through every inning of this series, because the Beermakers thrive in close games.

The Braves’ first three scheduled starters for the series are Morton, Fried, then Anderson. Throughout the season, that trio had a combined 3.34 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. In the Braves and Brewers’ 6 matchups so far this year, Milwaukee has faced both Morton and Anderson once apiece, but not Fried. Charlie and Ian both went 6 innings, with Morton allowing 2 earned runs in a game we somehow lost 2-1, and Anderson only allowing 1 in a 5-1 victory. So, with a very small sample size, both Anderson and Morton have dominated the Brewers this year, and Fried will, of course, do what Fried does best.


Head-to-Head Stats

Here’s a brief team stats comparison, showing how the two stack up and where they rank in the MLB in a few interesting categories. The only real conclusion I can draw from this is that this series is a complete toss-up. Braves are better hitters, Brewers are better pitchers; seems like a recipe for a fascinating set of games!

StatisticBravesBrewers
Team batting average0.244 (#12)0.233 (#27)
Team ERA3.88 (#8)3.48 (#3)
Average runs scored per game4.91 (#8)4.56 (#12)
Run differential+134 (#7)+115 (#8)


Keys to the Series

1. Score early, score often.
All season long, the Braves have relied on early runs to win games. Against the Brewers, early runs are a must-have, because you do not want to face Josh Hader in a losing situation. Hader has allowed 8, albeit in 10⅓ fewer innings. With rest days built into the NLDS schedule, we can count on the Brewers using Hader as often as needed.

2. Be aggressive on the basepaths.
As previously discussed, the Brewers’ pitching staff does not let many runners get on base. As such, we need to leverage every opportunity to advance runners into scoring position. When guys like Dansby, Ozzie, or Duvall get on first, we need to be thinking “steal.” Additionally, Brewers’ catcher Omar Narvaez has allowed 62 stolen bases and only caught 17 runners, a caught-stealing percentage of .215. I would—almost literally—send Ozzie against every right-handed pitcher.

3. Let starting pitchers go the distance.
Morton and Anderson have proved they can dominate the Brewers this year, and Fried is, of course, a genius. Don’t be afraid to let these guys go 6-7 innings before turning things over to the oft-shaky bullpen.
 
4. Win Game 1.
While I mentioned earlier that Milwaukee is always in danger of making a comeback within a game, a comeback within a series is a totally different matter. The Brewers are 62-33 following a win, and 32-34 following a loss. Atlanta, on the other hand, is 46-41 after a win and 42-30 after a loss. This implies that the Braves aren’t affected at all by positive or negative momentum within a series, but the Brewers are hugely impacted by positive momentum stemming from a win. It is critical for the Braves to take this first game on the road.


Summary / Prediction

I’m feeling pretty good about this one, to the point where I’ve already started the document for the NLCS Series Preview. My optimistic prediction is that the Braves win games one and two, with Morton and Fried on the bump, and can take the series in four or five. However, I’m really hoping for a Braves’ sweep for two reasons: 1) I’ll be at Truist for Game 3 (foregoing my typical ballpark Miller Lite in solidarity), and 2) it’s only been a week since we clinched the division and I’m already sick and tired of trying to spell the word “Milwaukee.” Let’s hope that, just like the word “Milwaukee,” the Brewers find themselves in possession of an unexpected “L” this weekend! 

103 thoughts on “Series Preview: Brewers vs. Braves (NLDS):”

  1. Great preview! I don’t think we can take anything for granted – end of the day, this whole October comes down to whether our bats hit a hot streak or a cold spell. We’ve seen a lot of both over this crazy year. If Dansby can carry over how well he was hitting at the end of the year, and Soler, Freeman, and Riley can keep hitting for power and average, I like our chances to win some squeakers.

    But last night’s Rays game… my goodness, that team is stacked. Randy Arozarena is a joy for the game of baseball, and hearing him torment the Red Sox is truly a high pleasure. A straight steal of home!

    I listened to the radio call because I don’t have cable. Rob, I have to say that the Rays radio guys struck me as entirely decent – not incredible but totally listenable and way better than Chip. What’s your feeling about them?

  2. @27 from the previous thread, I agree with 97% of your post, but I expect many of the regular posters here can remember a Georgia national championship. Some of us are so elderly that we were even aware of Herschel before he played for Georgia – he nearly outscored my high school track team by himself at the 1979 state class A championship (and we finished 3rd).

  3. On Arozarena and the Red Sox.

    I have gotten to the point where the Red Sox are nearing the same hatred level as the Yanks, Dodgers and Cardinals and one of the main reasons is how their games are so darn long. Every Yanks/Sox game has turned into a 4 hour affair and it has bled over it seems. I was at the game at Truist where Christina Arroyo hit the slam off of Minter and though it was a 10-8 game to be fair, it took 4:10 for a 9 inning game and it really felt like it. The Sox hitters take forever getting ready in the box and the pitchers, especially the relievers, took 60+ seconds between pitches.

    That is why seeing Arozarena say “screw this” and steal home as yet another Sox reliever pranced around the mound for what seemed like eternity before deigning to throw a pitch, really warmed my heart.

    If the Braves can’t win it all, I sure hope the Rays do.

  4. Well-done preview! I’m not as bullish about the Braves chances as you are, but it’s the playoffs, so who knows. I’m strangely at peace with whatever happens, considering that for about 2/3 of the season, I had little reason to think the Braves would be here. After they disposed of the hated Phillies, anything Atlanta does from here on is gravy.

    A couple of other thoughts: your comments about the Brewers’ nondescript excellence (paradoxical, I know) also seem somewhat true of the Giants (although they are a better slugging team). Also, I have a feeling that, after all the wildcard chaos that many were hoping for–e.g., a four-way tie in the AL–did not materialize, the postseason will be similarly unsurprising. The teams that are expected to win will do so, and we’ll wind up with a Dodgers-Rays rematch, with the superior Rays taking it all this time.

  5. The Braves ding’d both Burnes and Woodruff during the season (and also Hader). Take a look at the game the Braves lost 10-9 and see who gave up all the runs for the Braves (hint: think Biddle/Tomlin and this was also the Huascar hand game). And the series the Braves won up in Milwaukee was the first series after the deadline acquisitions. I think this Braves team is not only better than its season stats but also better than the Brewers, although I agree with Alex that a cold streak could sink our chances. But I also think a cold streak is less probable this year because it seems like someone else gets hot when someone goes cold (e.g. Dansby and Duvall ended cold but Soler and Rosario picked up the pace).

  6. Seems to me that win or lose on the Braves is driven by the bullpen. That si based on who actually pitches, and how they pitch. If we get an 80 percentile or above performance (compared to season average) we will win the series. If we get season average or lower, Braves are probably destined for a toasty status.

  7. Normally I’d like to look at a whole season of data when I have it, but there are tangible reasons to believe the Braves are a different team since the trade deadline. They have also been good on the road this season.

    I will go out on a limb and say 50 – 50. (this is also the limb I will be on for any subsequent series.)

  8. Honestly, the only thing that seems unlikely is Brewers in 3. I could see any other outcome happening.

  9. Alex, honestly, I’m not a big enough Rays fan to have listened to them on the radio. I do have some friends that listen to the radio broadcast a lot and they really like them.

  10. Something tells me that if Yelich puts up numbers like he’s done all year, we’ll be okay. The guy has a 99 OPS+ and a 1.3 WAR – not much to write home about. I know their pitching has the clear edge, but if our top 3 pitchers can hold them at bay, I think we have an edge at 5 of the 8 positions – at least. Miwaukee’s biggest hope is for someone like Yelich to catch fire.

  11. Gore is by far the biggest surprise for me. Wow.

    And what a fall for Richard Rodriguez. Shame about Elessar, too.

  12. No Martin either. Weird to take Webb over Martin, RichRod, and Strider.

    And Gore and Arcia over Pache? Ugh.

    Only 12 pitchers. That is certainly against the Snit grain.

  13. Is Gore a decent outfielder, or strictly a pinch runner? I guess my question is: is Gore a better outfielder than Eddie Rosario?

  14. Gore never plays the field. He has literally played 168 1/3 defensive innings in his eight-year pro career, and he has not made an appearance in the major leagues thus far this year. By comparison, Eddie Rosario played 220 1/3 defensive innings for the Braves this season in about a month’s worth of games.

    For what it’s worth, they are NOT doing the extra innings free man on second thing during the playoffs. So Gore’s role, I guess, will be to steal a run on the basepaths late in the game, when the stingy Brewers bullpen is unlikely to give up hits in clusters. Will Snit start more hit-and-runs? If Gore manages to steal second and take third on a grounder to the right side of the infield, would Snit consider a suicide squeeze?

  15. Thank you, Michael, for the excellent precap.

    After the Braves take the whole shebang, it would be a nice exercise for someone (else!) to catalog and attribute all the doom and gloom pronounced from day one. I personally was wrong a lot, confirming that for all my words I usually don’t have a clue.

    Hoist the flags, boys.

  16. FWIW, I looked up RichRod and it looks like he was not his best against the Brewers (SSS) and he pitched more ABs against the Brewers than almost any other club. They may have figured that the Brewers, in particular, are a bad match for RichRod.

    I still think Lee is Will Smith 2.0 which is good and bad. Both have good K rates and both seems likely to leave sliders up in the HR-zone. And I’m not sure why anyone thinks we need 6 lefties.

  17. @12 – I totally disagree that there are not a lot of surprises. 14 position players and only 12 pitchers is a surprise. Gore is a surprise. Arcia is a mild surprise. No Martin, RichRod, or Strider is a huge surprise – especially Martin. Lee is a surprise. I’m kind of shocked with everything taken together.

  18. 20 – Brewers took only 11 pitchers FWIW. I agree I was surprised by all of the things that you were.

  19. @12 – I must have misread your post – or you went in and made some edits. Whatever the case, we are in agreement that the roster is much different than expected. I think I’m okay with it but we’ll see – Gore is very interesting as has been pointed out.

  20. Gore is definitely a good outfielder and fills the late inning replacement role, but he’s known for his remarkable speed.

    @td
    Didn’t change the comment. You ok, dude? 😂

  21. 4th straight division title and 4th straight postseason roster that reveals some shortcomings on the team bench and bullpen depth. I think it tells something that a roster with surprise Terrance Gore Jr is STILL the best bench they’re brought to the postseason in 4 trips.

  22. From the last thread… I’ve always had a theory that there is an X and Y axis plot for managers that compares and contrasts their tactical skills with their soft skills (players manager/motivator/charisma) and overall intangibles whereby there’s a point on that graph where if the latter is of sufficient height, that the former can be pretty damn bad and the manager can still be successful.

    Clearly Snitker and to some extent Cox exhibited this although I think Cox’s overall tactics were better, if slightly.

    There’s probably a limit to this, but I’d like to see how bad one or the other can be and still enable a manager to have success. Obviously much of this is wholly talent dependent. I could have managed the ’27 Yankees and been successful.

  23. Didn’t take Chris Martin long to get over getting cut. He’s already recorded a song about it.

  24. @ 23 – For some reason I read a “not” in the sentence. I officially got off work about 3 hours ago, but I’ve been going back and forth since then – not doing a good job of multi-tasking. Sorry for the confusion.

  25. All right folks. Let’s do this!

    Game 1 random prediction utilizing very little rationale: 6-5 Braves

    Braves get out front in the 2nd & 4th innings 5-0…and have to get an extra late run due to Brew Crew making a furious albeit too late comeback.

  26. Atlanta 2-1. Get 2 early off Burnes and barely make them hold up as Smith enters the 9th with a 2-0 lead and K’s Adames with 2nd and 3rd to end it.

  27. Atlanta 1, Brewers 0, Gore hits a homer to break the tie in the 10th

  28. Ha!! I was right about RR not making the roster. The only big surprise for me was Martin not making it. A little surprised about Lee over Strider but he’s a lefty. Not surprised about Arcia or Webb, I had them both on my predicted roster. I was only slightly surprised by Gore. I think I had mentioned that teams often take a speedy, base stealer type. I just thought he had to be on the 40 man roster to make the playoff roster.

    LET’S GO BRAVES!!!

  29. @25 Chief, you’d have benched Babe Ruth after his first 0-10 skid.

    I’m just ribbin’ ya.

    When did the game time change to 4:30?! I thought I read all the friggin’ tweets. This is a Christmas miracle!

  30. Rob, I say this as a friend: you never wanna read all the tweets.

  31. Listening to the radio & watching the TV feed. Radio is about 20 seconds ahead. One of the broadcasters just said Narvaez and the other Brewer catcher have good arms. Oh well.

  32. That was a huge swing there. Geez. Burns looked frazzled on the mound and then after the dp looked like a different dude. That may be the best chance they had all game.

  33. It’s early, but Frenchy sounds really good here.

    Also super good stretch by Dansby there.

  34. The Brewers unis look damn fine, gotta give them that. I just noticed the wheat stalks as the baseball seams on the arms patches. Glorious.

  35. GG typical braves playoff baseball, from the baserunning blunder, to leaving Morton in after he clearly lost it in the 6th.

  36. I never imagined Morton would ever be sent out to the mound again after basically losing the strike zone in the 6th. I guess that was the argument. That’s squarely on Snit. Bad decision.

  37. I love Snit, but I do believe that almost every other manager in the game would have removed Charlie before that inning—or certainly after he hit a batter.

  38. Greetings from downtown L.A…

    Rowdy Tellez looks like he should be on a Georgia Championship Wrestling undercard.

    Gotta go get ’em, Braves… there you go, Joc!

    #3
    Yeah, I remember, too. I was a freshman at UGA when Herschel was a soph. And my high school was in the same football class as Johnson County, Herschel’s HS.

    At one point during our season my junior year, our team saw some film of him running over & thru a team we were going to play the following week & thought, “OMG, this guy’s like Superman… hope we never have to play him.” So, his superhero act the next year wasn’t completely surprising.

  39. @64 My high school team played Curt Warner’s team (Seattle RB, not the QB). I can remember 5 of our guys hanging on him as he scored 1 of his 5 touchdowns. We had a guy that went on to play a couple of games for the Steelers so our team wasn’t awful. If Curt had not hurt his knee he would have had a great NFL career. I think he won ROY.

  40. @3 Let’s say you’d have to be around 6-7 years old to remember an event. I’d say less than 40% of the board is over 47-48, no?

  41. @72 WVU fans know him too. We were so mad when he chose Penn State. Really nice guy though.

  42. If you don’t like postseason baseball then become a Mariners fan. We are lucky to have a team in this every year. That being said, using Arcia was dumb.

  43. Ugh, I could almost almost hear Chip Caray in my mind: “the braves might not always win, but they give you a show till the very end”.

    Screw that.

  44. Morton number three in hit batters. Two Padres ahead. Not everyone of the bench can hit a home run. But can they at least hit 200 or above?
    The Braves lead the major leagues in playoff one run loses with 48. Don’t look it up, I am kidding. Or am I?

  45. @71, I’m not so sure, at least of the frequent posters. From what they’ve written, I’m pretty sure that I, ububba, JonathanF, coop, CindyJ, and our favorite probably-not-a-Russian-bot-journalist are of that vintage, and I think some of the other recappers might be as well. Also, you said “a Georgia national championship that any of us can remember.”

    Another way to categorize us might be those who think of Lord of the Rings as books and those who think of it as movies.

  46. It’s true that you’d have to be almost 50 to have clear memories of the 1980 UGA season. On the other hand, my son, who was born in 1986, has heard me talk about that season so much that he feels like he remembers it. For instance, he can recite Munson’s call of the Lindsay Scott td against UF verbatim.

  47. Using Arcia to pinch hit for Rosario is the sort of thing somebody who has watched way too many bad sports movies would do. Just sayin’.

  48. I get not wanting to have a lefty up against Hader, but righties don’t hit him either. I’d have probably used Adrianza, but looking back Rosario was probably the best play. Probably not 5% difference either way though.

    Getting Joc in before Hader came in was a good move though. I was afraid he wouldn’t use him in the 8th with 2 outs, unless he was the tying run.

  49. @89 Indeed, literally speaking, there are some people that can remember it, regardless of how incredibly long ago it was.

    That yes, even though it strains the mind to reach that far back into the annals of history, with 40 seasons ending in crushing, humiliating defeat while every other rival has won a championship, some people indeed can remember.

    I stand corrected.

  50. The debate over Rosario or Adrianza or Arcia vs. Josh Hader really says more about the roster assembled than a sincere debate over managerial tacticary.

  51. @93, yes, and some of us may even be old enough to remember the last four Florida teams that have been banned from bowls (1957, 1984, 1985, 1990), but none of us are old enough to remember the last UGA team banned.

  52. The bench this year is a lot better than it was last year (Culberson, Camargo, Pache, Sandoval)……blech. Hader is the best reliever in mlb……the best bench in mlb would struggle. Arcia was a poor choice though. IMO, the game was lost in the 1st.
    Tomorrow is a must win game.

  53. Well, 2-1, a loss sucks, but hell, playoff baseball is awesome. The game was lost in the 1st inning, can have 1 and 3 no outs and not score against Cy Young Award caliber pitcher.

    P.S. 49

  54. @95 James, I have a lot of fun with college football trash talk, and it can rub people the wrong way, especially on a Braves blog that has a bunch of Dawwwwwg fans, so I’ve gotta bow out here.

    I love where the rivalry is right now, I’ll say that. With Florida’s goals largely ruined because Dan Mullen won The Kirby Smart Award last weekend, I’d love to see Georgia go ahead and win their first natty in my lifetime. There are no excuses for them this year.

  55. Thanks, Rob. That’s mighty gracious. I somehow doubt, though, that you’ll be pulling for the Dawgs in Jacksonville :)

    My comment on 1980 wasn’t so much a brag about the awesomeness of the 1980 Dawgs team, as a rueful acknowledgement that folks my son’s age haven’t had any comparable memories in their own lifetimes.

  56. @99, all good. I’m just joking too, and was really more interested in the board-poster-age-perception implications of “that any of us can remember” than in the football implications.

  57. Member of my church and his neighbors bought whatever it is, license, permit, whatever, and bagged three gators last weekend. I thought one was you; Rob. Glad to see you are still with us.

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