Narrative: Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy may have only gone one for four, but he was absolutely vital to Milwaukee winning the first game of their NLDS series with the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-1.

In the first inning, he took an awful throw from Ryan Braun in left field, squared up and perfectly blocked the plate and tagged out Willie Bloomquist who was attempting to go from second to home on a Justin Upton single. Then, with two out in the sixth inning, Lucroy hit a single in a four pitch at bat against Diamondbacks’ starter Ian Kennedy that knocked in Yuniesky Betancourt, who was surprisingly on base. The run ended up being the winning score for the Brewers.

Anatomy Of A Catcher Framing

In Mike Fast’s recent article for Baseball Prospectus he finds that certain catchers are better at framing strikes than other catchers. In other words, getting close calls isn’t completely dependent on luck, there’s a skill to it. Over the last five years, only Jose Molina has a better rate of winning close calls for strikes rather than Jonathan Lucroy, who is judged to have saved 24 runs per 130 games simply by framing the strike zone.

Let’s take a look at the called strikes today for Brewers starter Yovanni Gallardo:

I count ten borderline called strikes and six borderline called balls.

Here are Diamondbacks’ starter Ian Kennedy’s pitches:

I count four borderline strike and nine borderline ball calls.

The Most Important Play Of The Game

Prince Fielder hit a double with none out in the fourth inning that pushed Ryan Braun to third base. The next batter, Rickie Weeks was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with none out. Unfortunately, the bottom half of the lineup couldn’t capitalize on anything more than one run from the situation, thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jerry Hairston Jr. However, Fielder’s double increased Milwaukee’s win probability by 12.4%.

The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game

Justin Upton was massively disappointing for the Diamondbacks this afternoon, coming up to bat in several high leverage situations. His two strikeouts meant that he single handedly decreased his team’s probability of winning by 13.2%.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

Willie Bloomquist, a surprising choice from Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson to lead off, was the only position play for Arizona to have a positive influence on today’s game, going two for four, and giving his team a 7.5% WPA boost.

The Aggravating Thing That The Managers Did

Kirk Gibson’s lineup decisions were curious to say the least. With Bloomquist and Aaron Hill at the top of the order, Gibson’s first two batters had a combined on base percentage barely over .300 this year. That’s simply not good enough to get away with in the playoffs. Gibson caused more head scratching when he chose to pitch to Lucroy in the sixth rather than walk him to get to Gallardo on deck with two out. Lucroy ended up bringing the game winning run home.

The Statistics You Won’t Believe

Ian Kennedy collected only three swinging strikes on 111 pitches today. Yovanni Gallardo had six on 106 pitches.

Yovanni Gallardo has more vertical movement on his four seam fastball than any regular starter in the league this year.

D’Backs’ third baseman Ryan Roberts more than doubled his career wins above replacement in this season alone.

Carefully Selected Quote Cliche Of The Game

From Baseball Prospectus, tonight I’ll go with the Brewers perspective:

We don’t complain. The good thing is that we won the game. I felt all along our team would go on a roll somewhere. We definitely needed this one. That’s the team that we can be. We just keep battling and grinding and don’t give up.

Stray Observations Of The Game

A huge ovation from the Brewers crowd for Arizona’s first baseman Lyle Overbay. Many suggested it was as a thank you for his time in Milwaukee where he started his career, but I’m certain they were more than happy to see him on the opposing team.

I’m still shaking my head that the Diamondbacks started Willie Bloomquist and Aaron Hill at the top of the order. Bloomquist actually played really well, but in the first inning Hill’s infield fly out look all too familiar.

I was really impressed with Ryan Braun’s at bats. He made contact on pitches all over the strike zone, and they seemed to go a different way off his bat all the time.

I just can’t imagine the Diamondbacks mounting anything of a serious challenge against the Brewers. Every area where I imagine them having an advantage is quickly quashed by the players on Milwaukee’s roster. I suppose they’re probably better defensively, but there were times today when observations suggested otherwise.

Comments (1)

  1. I love that you include the pitch location plots, but there needs to be more differentiation between pitch outcomes for it to be useful. It looks like balls in play, runs and balls in play, no outs are the same, as are hit by pitches and balls. Maybe use different shapes to create some way of telling them all apart?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *