Before the season, you could already tell that the Brewers were pushing all of their chips into one pile. Yeah, there would still be a next year, but no organization in the game puts its sights on 2011 like this Milwaukee team did. Building a farm system? Yeah, that can wait a year. With Prince Fielder in tow for just one more season, the Brewers went all-in. They traded many of their best prospects- Brett Lawrie, Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar, etc.- to turn the club from a fringe contender into a full-fledged World Series possibility.
And now, they've completed Step One. They're in the playoffs. And as their rivals in St. Louis can remind them, once you're in the postseason pretty much anything can happen.
This afternoon, they begin Step Two with a match-up against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have a nice story of their own, having turned over a significant portion of the roster over the past two seasons in order to get to where they are today. But the key cornerstone, MVP candidate Justin Upton, has been around for a while, and lucky for Arizona, he won't be leaving too soon either.
Given that both clubs are pretty solid offensively, pitching is going to be key in this series. I personally prefer Milwaukee's pitching, which has me leaning towards them moving on to the next round, but Arizona's pitching didn't get them to the playoffs by accident.
Yovani Gallardo against Ian Kennedy
In this match-up, I'm guessing that most people would quickly take Ian Kennedy. He crushes Gallardo in terms of win-loss record, ERA, and innings pitched, and Gallardo has only a small lead in strikeouts. From a distance, Kennedy looks to be the clearly superior pitcher going into today's game.
All of that leaves out a good deal of the details, though. First, we'll start with the metrics. While Kennedy surpasses Gallardo in terms of ERA and even FIP, more complex metrics like xFIP and SIERA indicate that Gallardo is likely to pitch better going forward. Not only does Gallardo miss more bats, he also gets more grounders and has shown significantly improved command this season. Kennedy has made some serious improvement this summer, but he's still a flyball pitcher that can't miss bats like Gallardo does.
Oh, and there's another thing: Gallardo has been absolutely dominant of late. Since July 19, Gallardo has made 13 starts, posting a 2.72 ERA over 86 innings while posting a 10.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. And he's been even better over the past three weeks; covering 21 innings in three starts, he's struck out 36 hitters while walking only 3.
So while it may seem like the Diamondbacks are heading into a good situation in Game One with Kennedy on the mound, they should probably be aware of how well their opponent is pitching these days. He definitely hasn't looked like a mid-3's ERA pitcher of late.