Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Preview – Five Insights

MARYVALE, FL - MARCH 14: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes some contact at the plate during the Spring Training game against the Angels of Anaheim at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 14, 2019 in Maryvale, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day is here! It was not long ago that the Brewers swept the Cardinals in St. Louis, forced Game 163, and beat the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central in a Cinderella ending to the regular season. As everyone knows, afterward was a long, cold, winter in Wisconsin. An outsider might think Brewers fans are sluggish coming out of hibernation. However, Brewers fans have the Opening Day fever like they always do! Here are five unique insights on Opening Day to feed the fever!

Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day – Give Me Five!

Money, Money, Money

According to Spotrac, the Cardinals dolled out $163.8 million total adjusted salary in 2018 and the Brewers issued $108.9 million. Obviously, the Cardinals hope to catch the NL Central Champion Brewers this time around. They did not make any massive pay cuts this year. Instead, they are shelling out $159.9 million in total adjusted salary for 2019, a figure similar to last year. On the other hand, the Brewers are extending their financial reach to a team record $124.8 million.

The Cardinals had 88 wins last year and the Brewers had 96. Undoubtedly, Milwaukee made better use of their salary expenditures. How much? Well, to put things in perspective, the Brewers spent about $1.13 million per win and the Cardinals spent approximately $1.86 million per win. The Cardinals were over 50% less efficient with their money. If the same efficiency rates transfer over to this season, the Cardinals will win 86 games and the Brewers will win roughly 110. While this certainly is not a realistic projection, it definitely is good banter conversation for a Cardinals fan in the stands or parking lot on Opening Day.

Most Likely Hero

St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas has been kryptonite to the Brewers throughout his career. The Brewers have flailed a line of .225/.252/.402 with an OPS of .654 against him. If that is not bad enough, Mikolas rubbed it in with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.5/1.

However, there is one who brings hope! Travis Shaw. Shaw has faced off against the Brewers archnemesis in 12 plate appearances. In this sample, he hits for a super-human, .455/.500/.909/ for a 1.400 OPS. No other Brewers player has even come close to putting up excellent numbers against Mikolas. Kryptonite may stop Superman, but it does not stop Shaw!

Chacin’s Competition

Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin has had difficulties in his career against a number of current Cardinals hitters. Four of them carry an OPS against him of over .900. Dexter Fowler‘s OPS is 1.667 in 12 PAs, Marcell Ozuna 1.200 in 15 PAs, Matt Carpenter .916 in 23 PAs, and Paul Goldschmidt .907 in 27 PAs. All four are in the projected starting lineup for the Cardinals. Of the 3 players, only Carpenter had a significant drop-off in production against Chacin last year. Carpenter’s OPS dropped to .629 in 14 Plate appearances. Chacin held him to a .200 BA last year, which definitely helped. However, he may have been pitching around him, as evidenced by Carpenter’s .429 OBP. The opportunities to pitch around Carpenter will be less on Opening Day with Goldschmidt on board this year.

Baserunning

Chacin has a Caught Stealing percentage of 38% each of the last two years. Yasmani Grandal, the Brewers opening day catcher, has a caught stealing rate of 28%. While Grandal’s percentage is adequate, the Brewers have another option for late innings if they desire. Out of catchers that played in at least 60 games last year, Manny Piña led the entire NL at throwing out runners.

On the Cardinals side, Mikolas had a caught stealing rate of 33% last year. His savvy veteran catcher, Yadier Molina, caught 31% of baserunners last year. While that number is trending down from previous seasons, Molina is certainly no slouch to run against.

There is no room for kleptomaniacs in either dugout today. Runners should not be stealing like crazy. The chance of getting caught is too great. If a runner is going, it is very likely he has a good jump.

Manager vs Manager

No Brewers fan will be surprised to learn that Craig Counsell enters Opening Day with a career managerial record of 32-37 against the Cardinals. Milwaukee’s teams in his early years just were not that good, and the Cardinals were always in playoff contention those years. What many Brewers fans might not realize is that Counsell’s managerial record against the Cardinals at Miller Park is much worse than his record against them on the road. For his managerial career at home, Counsell has a record of 13-21 compared to 19-16 at Busch Stadium.

However, this should not stymy enthusiasm for Thursday’s opener. Since Mike Shildt took over as Cardinals skipper, St. Louis is 1-5 against the Brewers. They bring five consecutive losses against the Brewers into Opening Day. This will be Shildt’s first game as Cardinals manager at Miller Park.

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