Astros-Brewers Series Preview

HOUSTON - MAY 23: Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros receives congratulations from third base coach Dave Clark after hitting a home run in the fifth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on May 23, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

You know I like experimenting with content by now. I'm sure some of you long-time readers of the site may think it's funny, since you've probably seen it all before. But, instead of writing up a series preview in the GameThread, I thought we might post it before the series begins, to discuss possible outcomes. Feel free to leave any predictions you like, or catch something important I missed.

Our friends over at Brew Crew Ball have been on Macha Watch for a while now. Even though many people expected the Brewers to fire Macha on Monday, Kyle Lobner didn't think so and was proved right when it didn't happen. Why would a team that's supposed to contend be firing its manager in May? Because they just finished up a 2-11 stretch that saw them drop into fifth place in the NL Central. That's right, the Brewers are only two games better than Houston right now.

What else is going on with Milwaukee? All three of the starting pitchers that the Astros will face have ERAs north of 5.00. Their xFIPs aren't much better. David Bush has an XFIP of 5.43 while Randy Wolf is at 4.96 and Chris Narveson, the best of the bunch, is at 4.43. The Brewers have the fifth-worst team xFIP in the majors and they have the highest BABiP. More tellingly, eight different pitchers have started games for the Brew Crew, including the likes of Manny Parra, Marco Estrada and Jeff Suppan. For a team that not-too-recently traded for C.C. Sabathia, it's an ugly mess of a rotation.

The back end of the bullpen hasn't been much better. Trevor Hoffman sports a 6.85 xFIP, has blown five saves in 10 opportunities and may lose his job to Carlos Villanueva. Free agent signee LaTroy Hawkins has blown two saves as well but has been hurt more by his walks than anything. Hawkins is also striking out over 11 men per 9 innings and has given up just one home run. Hoffman? He's given up seven in 14 innings. Let's just say I'm not nearly as scared about seeing Hell's Bells as I was in San Diego.

As for the lineup, the Brewers co-leaders in home runs have six less than the entire Astros lineup this season. Both Casey McGehee and Corey Hart have nine home runs, followed by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder with seven each. Six of those home runs by Hart have come in the last two weeks, but it hasn't been enough to stop this tailspin by Milwaukee. In fact, it hasn't been the fault of the hitters for this extended losing streak. Seven different players have wOBAs over .400 during the last two weeks, including perennial Astro-killer Jim Edmonds leading the way at .545. Granted, that's only in four games, but he still scares the bejeezus out of me going into this series.

Consider this series a test case for the Astros. The Brewers are the exact opposite team from them right now. They're great offensively but struggle on the mound. The Astros have a surprisingly strong pitching staff but may have one of the worst offenses in 80 years. I can see a lot of 5-4 games as a result.

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