Expect Two Strong Starters to Limit the Scoring in Milwaukee

Rainman M.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 4:47 PM UTC

Saturday, Jul. 15, 2017 4:47 PM UTC

The Brewers and Phillies combined for 15 total runs last night. Is another 'over‘ likely when each team sends its ace onto the mound?

Phillies vs Brewers

The Phillies and Brewers have seen little of the other team’s respective starter. The most promising batter historically is Odubel Herrera for the Phillies. He is 2-for-3 with two doubles in his career against Brewers’ starter Jimmy Nelson. He owes a lot of his success to being a left-handed batter: lefties are slugging .440 against Nelson in his career, while righties are only slugging .375.

 Probable Pitchers

Jimmy Nelson (8-4 3.30 ERA) takes the mound for the Brewers. He has a terrible history against the Phillies, starting with Herrera. Last season, he gave up six runs in four innings in his only start against them. But that was then: last season, he finished with an ERA of 4.62.  This season, his ERA is down by over a full point, he is striking over two batters more per nine innings, he is walking two batters fewer per nine innings and he is giving up fewer home runs. Nelson is a different pitcher than when he last saw the Phillies. The major reason for his improvement is that he is able to command the full arsenal of his pitches and throw each one for first pitch strikes. When he gets ahead of the count, he is able to induce strikeouts because his curveball has become more difficult for opponents to read and his slider has become tighter and more vertically elusive in the way in which it avoids the opponent’s bat by plummeting. In terms of FIP, (like ERA, but factors out luck) he struggled most in April, which is also the month in which he relied most of all on his fastball. He has since been throwing his curve ball at a 15% higher rate than he was in April while batters are whiffing at this pitch at a 15% higher rate.  He is throwing his slider at about the same rate, but batters are whiffing at it at a 20% higher rate. He has likewise made adjustments against left-handed batters, which is why they no longer pose such a threat to him as before. So not only is Nelson figuring out how to throw strikes and get ahead of the count, he is figuring out which pitch selection works best for him.

Aaron Nola (6-6 3.59 ERA) counters for the Phillies. He owned Milwaukee last year, giving up just one run in 13 innings pitched against them. He did struggle early in this season, and had to endure a DL stint in order to fix some issues with his velocity and stuff. But his last four starts have been superb, having lasted at least seven innings each time and given up a total of only five runs. Nola enjoys a variety of pitches and relies on his ability to throw each one effectively in order to remain unpredictable to opposing batters. One way in which he does this is by throwing his pitches at similar horizontal and vertical release points in order to mask which pitch is approaching a batter until it is too late. Whereas Nelson, a power pitcher, gives opposing batters a hard time in trying to keep up with his velocity, Nola’s opponents struggle to keep up with his pitches because of their variety, movement, location and deception. Nola is also able to throw certain pitches with higher frequency. For instance, against Seattle, which notoriously struggles against the curveball, Nola threw this pitch relatively often—and, for the same reason, he will likely do so again against the Brewers. Nola is dangerous because he has grown comfortable with the full arsenal of his off-speed pitches.


The Verdict

Two in-form pitchers with positive matchup advantages should be effective tonight.  Also note some trends: Nelson’s career FIP drops significantly when he pitches at home, as does Nola’s when he pitches on the road. Nola’s career ERA also plummets when he has 5 or 6+ days’ rest, as does Nelson’s. Both pitchers are also at their best historically (as measured by FIP) in the month of July. The Phillies are at their worst against power/finesse ground ball pitchers and should therefore struggle against Nelson’s versatility. Nola has already proven that he can do well against Milwaukee because of the quality of his finesse.  For your MLB Picks, expect solid performances from both Nelson and Nola but don’t trust either bullpen.

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