Category Archives: Projections

Raining on a non-existent parade

Posted by Steve

I was very busy during the first couple weeks of the season. Then I was on vacation. Then things were going SO well that I figured I wouldn’t do anything to jinx it. But today, a topic has come up that has caught my attention, and I couldn’t stay away any longer.

The Brewers are playing incredibly well and far above expectations. The starting rotation has been excellent, but the more surprising area has been the bullpen.

Rightfully so, the pen has started to garner some national attention. Dave Cameron at Fangraphs has a post today that does a great job of illustrating just how incredibly good the bullpen has been. You can choose your own favorite amazing way of illustrating how good the Brewers’ bullpen has been after reading that article. I think my favorite is that it has essentially been twice as good as the fourth-best bullpen in the majors.

Cameron does draw a conclusion, however, that I sort of take issue with. His conclusion, that the Brewers and their bullpen will inevitably regress, is not wrong; I happen to agree with it. My problem is that his conclusion isn’t really even newsworthy.

Cameron is great, so I don’t want to single him out, but he’s arguing something that really has no opposition. So are other national writers/talking heads. In the few minutes at a time that I can stomach non-Brian Kenny portions of MLB Network, announcers routinely make claims like, “Well they’re not going to run away with the division,” or “They aren’t going to keep up this pace!”

The Brewers’ current pace for the entire season would land them at 118 wins. They aren’t going to do that, you say? No kidding. But who has argued that they will? I’ve yet to see that argument anywhere. They’re raining on a parade that isn’t even taking place.

Cameron, to his credit, does mention that the Brewers don’t need to be a great team from this point on with the cushion they’ve built for themselves. That’s true, although we have been in this situation fairly recently with the Brewers, and it didn’t end well at all.

Still, they’ve put themselves in great position, and I don’t understand everyone’s need to point out that they probably won’t win 100+ games. I wouldn’t bet on them being an elite team at this point, but they’re now in a situation in which they could be buyers at the deadline, making themselves even stronger (Kendry Morales after draft day, anyone?).

Can we simply be excited about a great start without having to damper expectations that aren’t even there?

Catching Up

Posted by Steve

After a hiatus, there are a number of things to write about. To cover some of what we’ve  missed, let’s roll out a Pitchers and Catchers Report Cornucopia of Thoughts (#ThoughtCornucopia).

——–

I might as well address the Ryan Braun thing first, even though I’m already tired of it. All I know is that we don’t know if Braun has used anything, and I’m plenty annoyed by people acting like they do (either way). All I know is the only “evidence” to prove him guilty is two pieces of handwritten notes. Additionally, articles like this exist.

It’s my personal opinion that a sizeable percentage of MLB players are using some sort of PED, and it’s become hard for me to care too much. My problem is the double standard that exists. Todd Helton and Tony La Russa get DUIs, something that literally endangers the lives of others, and they can still be seen as “great baseball guys” or better yet, “great guys.” Just watch Todd Helton this season. He won’t be booed at opposing parks, yet Ryan Braun will be skewered. And I’m not saying Todd Helton necessarily deserves to be booed—just trying to illustrate this strange hatred of PEDs.

A quick Google search reveals several writers mentioning Braun and Helton in the same article, and even a Baseball Nation article titled “Todd Helton’s arrest and Ryan Braun’s involvement with Biogenesis.” Might as well have been “Poker tips and the mating rituals of lemurs.” They’re just as similar, and I’m equally uninterested in reading both articles.

Same thing with the BBWA voting nobody into the HOF despite many deserving candidates. Will Tony La Russa have any trouble whatsoever getting into the HOF? Of course not, even though what he did was more harmful, dangerous, and reckless than using PEDs.

The same goes for the crazy double standard that victimizes baseball. The NFL has incredibly lenient testing, while baseball uses freaking blood tests. Yet which sport is seen as having a substance abuse problem?

Anyway, this ended up being less about Braun and more about baseball in general. Hopefully he can avoid a suspension.

——–

The news of the day is the re-tear of Mat Gamel’s surgically repaired ACL. You have to feel awful for Gamel, but to be honest, it’s likely that this is not a huge loss. The two options that might seem the most obvious are to either let Taylor Green, Hunter Morris, or Khris Davis have the first base job while Corey Hart is out. I have supported letting Taylor Green play third and moving Aramis Ramirez to first base in the past, but I don’t see that happening for two reasons: One, Corey Hart should be back by mid-May (don’t see them moving Ramirez for just six weeks), and two, the Brewers just don’t seem to like Taylor Green that much.

I think it’s more likely that we see Alex Gonzalez play first, which is not a pretty thought. Gonzalez as a shortstop is just fine and dandy, but certainly not as a first baseman.

________

Meanwhile, the Brewers ended up not signing a starting pitcher. While I am a bit surprised, I am not disappointed. If the choice came to either no free agent SPs or three years for Ryan Dempster, I’m fine with no free agents.

The Brewers did make a couple nice, low-risk signings in lefty relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, but relievers are not the difference makers that starters are.

________

This all goes to my last post, which still holds true a couple months later. The Brewers are very likely not making the playoffs this year. The fact that they are now down to their third string first basemen (and we aren’t even sure who that is yet) doesn’t make me feel any better than I did a couple months ago. PECOTA projects the Brewers for a 79-83 record and an 18.3% chance of making the playoffs. That sounds about right to me, and in fact, I’d say they have a greater chance of finishing last than first. The awful Houston Astros added a few wins to the Brewers’ record last year, but without them in the division there shouldn’t be a truly awful team in the NL Central (I actually kind of like the Cubs’ starting rotation).

Just because I do not have the same optimism that I had the last couple years at this time doesn’t mean there isn’t much to look forward to this season. I am anxious to see how some of the young starting pitchers do, I am excited for Jean Segura, and I have hope that Carlos Gomez can build on a career year. And if they are struggling, the trade deadline should be an exciting time. Gomez, Nori Aoki, Ramirez, Corey Hart, and a number of others would all be candidates to be traded.

________

And finally, just because I don’t want this to seem entirely negative, I’m a big fan of the fan-designed uniforms the Brewers will be wearing in Spring Training. The hats are okay, but the uniforms are pretty slick in my opinion. I really like the idea of combining the old logos with the more current colors, which is what I was hoping the Brewers would do a few years ago when they introduced the current retro unis instead.

NL Central Predictions

Posted by Steve

Everybody is spitting out their MLB predictions now that the season is just about underway. I might as well do the same, but I’ll mainly focus on the NL Central. Let’s do this in reverse order of projected standings.

6. Houston Astros

Oh, Astros. How incompetently run you’ve been for years now. Thinking about the ‘Stros and their ridiculous run, I wondered whether it could very well coincide with their horrendous overpayment of Carlos Lee. Sure enough, Baseball Reference tells us that Houston’s record since signing Lee is 365-444, good for a .451 winning percentage. Yeesh. Then I thought, ‘Has Carlos Lee ever played on a good team?’ Answer: Yes, barely. He has in fact played in the playoffs. As a 24 year-old, he played in one playoff series with the White Sox. Still, one playoff series in a 14-year career (and let’s be honest, that’s going to be 1-15 after this year) is pretty rough.

Anyway. Houston is likely on the way back up, now that their incompetent owner is gone. They’re leaving for the AL after this year, which in the long run is likely a good thing for the Brewers–they’ll only have to beat out four other teams to win a division instead of five–but short-term, we’ll miss those Astros. They’ve been good for a bunch of wins lately. Still, they’ll be generous to the rest of the NL Central in their farewell year.

5. Chicago Cubs

It was so much more enjoyable last year when the Cubs had a bad GM, a doofus one-and-done manager, and overpaid veterans who hated playing with each other. Now, it will still be enjoyable because they’ll still be bad, but they’re much less dysfunctional. Jim Hendry is gone. Big Z is gone. Mike “Baseball Etiquette Handbook Editor” Quade is gone. In their place is a much more competent team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. They’re rebuilding the smart way. Enjoy the bad Cubs while you can, because they’re likely to be gone within a couple years.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

They’re no longer the laughingstock of the division, which says something, I guess. But it’s still been two decades (!) since they’ve had a winning season. With the Cubs and Astros, I suppose they could luck their way to a .500 record this season, but it isn’t likely. Still, they have some young talent down the line (as opposed to years past), so the the future is sure brighter for them than the past. Plus, the extension they gave Andrew McCutchen is starting to look like a bargain compared to some of these recent deals.

3. Cincinnati Reds

There is quite a bit of Reds love this season, and I don’t get it. I really don’t. Even before Ryan Madsen was lost for the season, I felt this way. They had 79 wins last year. Are the additions of Mat Latos and Sean Marshall supposed to add 11 wins? Because other than that, this is the same team that was below .500 last season. I’m sure they’ll be better, but I don’t see them making the playoffs. Plus, they still have Dusty Baker. Check out the latest Dusty Gem. This time he’s working his magic on Aroldis Chapman, the fireballing phenom who got a six-year contract from the Reds before 2010:

Left-hander Aroldis Chapman is headed back to the Cincinnati Reds‘ injury-depleted bullpen after spending spring training getting ready to be a starter.

Chapman, entering his third season with Cincinnati, had hoped to get back into a starting role after spending most of the last two seasons pitching in relief. Manager Dusty Baker said injuries forced the change in plans on Monday.

“That was a very, very tough decision because Chapman could be one of our best starters or best relievers,” Baker said. “It is a situation where with the injuries that we have, starting out early in the season when the starters are lucky to go five or six innings, we had to shore up our bullpen.”

More:

“This early in the year, the bullpen does a third to half the work,” Baker said. “It only takes one dude to have one bad inning. One dude can have a bad inning and ruin hours of work.”

“And if one dude has one bad inning, all the other cats have to pick up the slack. And that gives us some seriously stressed hombres in our pen. They’ll be all, ‘come at me bro!'”

Honestly, Baker is keeping Chapman out of the rotation but keeping Bronson Arroyo in it. Who knows how Chapman would be as a starter, but it really can’t be worse than Arroyo was last season. He was the only starting pitcher in baseball to be below replacement level. And it wasn’t just -0.2 or -0.3. He was 1.3 wins below replacement level. Poor Reds fans.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

I’ve been going back and forth between the Brewers and Cardinals as division winners, but I settled on the Brewers because I hate the Cardinals.

Nah, just kidding. Not about hating them, but about that being my reason. Obviously the loss of Pujols is huge, but they did a solid job in adding Carlos Beltran. And Pujols leaving is likely good for the team long term. I just still come back to other things that seem likely to hurt them:

1. As much as I hate to admit it, the loss of Tony La Russa hurts the Cardinals. Even though he out-thought himself quite often, he was still the best in-game manager at least in the division.

2. The Cardinals are old. The odds of Berkman, Beltran, Furcal, and Carpenter all staying healthy are very unlikely. It’s actually probably more likely that all four miss time than all four stay healthy all year (even aside from Carpenter, who will already miss at least a month). Other players, like Freese and Holliday, have been injury prone. I expect Wainwright to bounce back after missing 2011, but who knows exactly how good he’ll be?

3. They’re still the Cardinals, and they find ways to squeeze career years out of people all the time. I fully expect Lance Lynn to have the season of a number 2/3 starter. Half joking here, but Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, Jeff Suppan, etc. all did it.

Still, that offense is great, even without Pujols. Whether it’s by winning the division or by winning one of the wildcards, I expect the Cardinals to reach the playoffs.

1. Milwaukee Brewers

Call me a homer if you’d like, but I’ll happily explain this pick.

The same pitching staff is returning, and it’s healthy. They were a top rotation by secondary numbers, but bad defense hurt their ERA. They’ve replaced terrible defenders Yuni Betancourt and Prince Fielder. Even though Mat Gamel is a question mark, it’s clear Alex Gonzalez will provide a huge defensive upgrade.

Even though I despise the Aramis Ramirez signing, it should go a long way toward replacing the offense of Prince Fielder for this season, anyway. Casey McGehee was so bad last season that I don’t see why 2012’s Gamel+Ramirez can’t equal 2011’s Fielder+McGehee. This should still be a good offense.

Another reason is health. The Brewers had a remarkably healthy Spring Training, particularly compared to the Reds and Cards. Basically the only injury carrying into the season is Brandon Kintzler, and he was unlikely to make the opening day roster anyway. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are hoping Carpenter is back by May, and the Reds have lost Ryan Madsen for the season. That’s not to say the Brewers couldn’t catch up quickly, but at least they’re off to a healthy start.

Even though I’m picking the Brewers, my guess is they finish with about 89 wins. I’ve been over why I think the Brewers have successfully replaced Prince Fielder, so then why wouldn’t I expect the same win total as last season? Basically, because even though they won 96 games, they weren’t a 96-win team. Their expected win total based on runs scored and allowed (pythagorean record) was 90-72 last season. They definitely had some good luck last season. 90 wins or so is is a better gauge for their talent level, and it’s the level I expect them to play at in 2012.

For what it’s worth, Baseball Prospectus has the Cards as the division favorite and a 76.3 percent chance to reach the playoffs. They like the Brewers too, giving them a 61.4 percent chance. Reds? Not as much–45.9 percent. By the way, congrats to the Houston Astros on being the only team with a 0.0 percent chance of reaching the playoffs! Slogan: We won’t be good. It’s a mathematical guarantee.

Elsewhere, ESPN has their “experts'” predictions, and man alive, do they have a lot of them–49 to be exact. Out of those 49 predictions, the NL Central victor was split fairly evenly between the three main teams. 18 picked the Reds, 20 chose the Cardinals, and 11 chose the Brewers to win the division. Five more have the Brewers winning one of (ugh) the wildcard spots. And two bold predictors, David Schoenfield and John Kruk, have the Brewers in the World Series, although both have them losing.

Aside from the relative parity of the NL Central, the thing that jumped out at me about their predictions were the fact that 18 have the Anahem Angels winning the World Series. Gun to my head, I wouldn’t even pick the Angels to make the playoffs.

Another interesting thing is that all of one person did not pick the Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central. A bad sign may be that said person is David Schoenfield, he of the Brewers-to-the-World Series prediction.

Anyway, I’ll make my picks for the rest of baseball, just because I feel like doing it.

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Rangers
AL Wildcard: Rays, Red Sox

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Brewers
NL West: Diamondbacks
NL Wildcard: Cardinals, Nationals

Let the good times roll

Posted by Steve

Things are looking pretty darn good these days for the Brewers. They’re on a serious roll, having won 11 of 12 games, including six over the hapless AAA team from Houston. On one hand, you could argue that it’s not as impressive coming against teams like the Cubs and Astros. On the other hand, you could say the Brewers’ brutal first half schedule is finally evening out, and they’re taking full advantage of it.  That’s the hand I’m going with.

The starting pitching has been solid, and the top 3 starters have been great. The bullpen has been great. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are carrying the team, although Yuniesky Betancourt, of all people, has been the one to replace Rickie Weeks offensively. All Yuni’s doing is starting to make up for the horrible impact he had on the team the first few months of the year, but at least he’s doing something now.

Baseball Prospectus has the Brewers at 75.8% to make the playoffs (that’s as of Sunday morning, so it’ll be a bit higher after yesterday’s win). They’re really in great position. The only frustrating thing about this past week is the Cardinals haven’t lost either. Pretty incredible that neither team has lost since that wacky series in Miller Park ended.

Even though they haven’t gained ground on the Cards, they’ve still improved their playoff positioning. They’re now only a game behind wildcard-leading Atlanta, so if the Cardinals somehow caught fire, the Brewers would still have a chance to get in. Likely more important, though, is that the Brewers are now ahead of every team in the N.L. West. Obviously the main concern is to just get in the playoffs, but after that, you’d certainly like to avoid playing the Phillies in the first round. If the playoffs started today, the Brewers would play Atlanta instead of Philadelphia.

First things first though. There is still a lot of baseball to go, and a three game lead can disappear quickly. This Cardinals series is huge, but the pressure is on St. Louis. All the Brewers need to do is not get swept. The Cards probably need to win 2 of 3. Anything more than one in in this series is gravy in my eyes. The Brewers will leave St. Louis either tied, two games ahead, four games ahead, or six games ahead. I’ll be fine with a two game lead, and like I said, anything more is icing on the cake.

That’s the rational way of thinking. The fan in me wants to stomp on the Cards a la 2008 when Braun pimped his go-ahead homer that gave the Brewers a 4-game sweep in St. Louis–still the most satisfying mid-season series in my lifetime. I’m so sick of the Tony La Russa, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter, and Albert Pujols (in that order, probably) that I want to put the division out of reach for them.

One thing I am happy to praise Ron Roenicke for is he hasn’t fallen for any of La Russa’s head games–the same ones that chewed up Ned Yost and spit him out. Here’s hoping that continues in another pivotal Cardinals series.

PECOTA Hitting

Posted by Steve

On to hitting projections. I’m doing my best to get this done before Opening Day, so here goes.

Rickie Weeks

.259/.359/.440, 16 HRs, 12 SBs, 2.0 WARP

While this is still a valuable player at second base, they have Weeks taking a big step back from his 4.6 WARP season of 2010. Most of it comes in the fact that he has an injury history, and they project him for 484 plate appearances compared to last year’s 754. Basically, what this is saying is that if Rickie’s healthy, he’ll produce–which he always has.

Carlos Gomez

.245/.293/.343, 5 HRs, 22 SBs, 0.1 WARP

Gross. Just gross. And Roenicke’s going to hit this joker second in the lineup. Gomez is what he is at age 25, and that is someone who swings at everything. His defense is very good, but his bat makes him nothing more than a backup outfielder, and that’s what he’s most likely to be for the rest of his career. A platoon with Nyjer Morgan is ideal at this point.

Ryan Braun

.303/.364/.531, 30 HRs, 16 SBs, 4.8 WARP

Finally, someone projected to improve upon last season. I think this is the first one between the pitcher and hitter projections so far. They pointed out his odd struggles against lefties last season after mashing them all of his career, and say it’s likely that it’s a small sample fluke. These projections aren’t really meant for guys like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder–you know those guys are going to hit.

Prince Fielder

.279/.394/.528, 36 HRs, 3 SBs, 3.9 WARP

Another player likely to improve. Fielder showed great discipline, drawing 114 walks last season, but his slugging percentage was just .471. It’s hard to believe Prince is still only 27. He’s had a great tenure in Milwaukee, and there should be no hard feelings when he takes a huge contract somewhere else. Before then, though, he’ll anchor the Brewers’ lineup for one more playoff push.

Casey McGehee

.280/.336/.437, 16 HRs, 1 SB, 1.7 WARP

McGehee continues to reward the Brewers for their waiver pickup in 2009. His defense was awful last season, but his bat still made him a solid starter. Here’s hoping being a full year removed from knee surgery has helped him get into good shape and that he’ll be able to move around better at third base. The Brewers need all the range they can get on the left side of the diamond with Yuniesky Betancourt playing shortstop.

Corey Hart

.277/.334/.473, 18 HRs, 14 SBs, 1.4 WARP

Hart is due for some regression, though hopefully not much, if he performs at a similar level. His BABIP was .324 last year, and while that isn’t astronomical, it’s much higher than his career norm. I’d love to see Hart take more walks, but at age 29, he is what he is. I should be fair and mention that Roenicke is probably only using Gomez in the second spot until Hart comes off the DL.

Yuniesky Betancourt

.263/.287/.378, 9 HRs, 5 SBs, -0.1 WARP

Ladies and gentlemen, your starting shortstop! That’s right friends, your starting shortstop is projected to be below replacement level. What a nightmare of a decision by the Brewers to hand him the job. Best case scenario is that he’s so bad early that the Brewers make a transaction to replace him as early in the season as possible.

Jonathan Lucroy

.264/.328/.384, 9 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.4 WARP

I’d certainly be pleased with this line from Lucroy in his sophomore season. Last year, he was .253/.300/.329, so that’s a big jump. BP points out that he had good on-base ability and double digit home run power in the minors, so they expect him to grow into a solid, everyday catcher. His defense has drawn rave reviews as well.

Nyjer Morgan

.274/.330/.353, 3 HRs, 34 SBs, 0.8 WARP

The vast majority of Morgan’s value comes through defense and baserunning, but he’s definitely an offensive upgrade to Carlos Gomez. I’m anxious to see how long until Gomez’s inability forces a strict platoon with Morgan. I’ll say by the end of May.

Mark Kotsay

.250/.308/.350, 4 HRs, 4 SBs, -0.9 WARP

Encouraging that we’re already on our second player on the 25 man roster that’s below replacement level. -0.9 is truly impressive. This is another terrible decision to have Kotsay over Joe Inglett, Brandon Boggs, or really, anyone else. Gotta love this excerpt from BP, which was written before he signed in Milwaukee: “Given Kotsay’s limited value at any position or at the plate, you can reasonably wonder where he’ll wash up, but places like Houston and Pittsburgh might suit him.” Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Kotsay!

George Kottaras

.233/.329/.400, 9 HRs, 1 SB, 0.8 WARP

There are good things about George Kottaras, especially when compared to most catchers. He has a great eye at the plate, and he’s got a bit of pop in his bat. Unfortunately, he hasn’t ever carried a high batting average. More unfortunately, his defense was horrific last season. Opponents stole on him at will, which led to him losing his job to Lucroy. Kottaras will get a shot at some starts while Lucroy is on the mend, and when Lucroy returns, he’s likely to be kept on as the backup catcher.

Jeremy Reed

Not even noteworthy enough to garner a projection by BP, but he is quite possibly the third man on the 25-man roster who will be below replacement level. His WARP was 0.0 last season.

Erick Almonte

Same story. A 33 year-old who has all of 100 days of major league service isn’t going to get a BP projection. Odds of Almonte, Reed, or Kotsay staying on the big league team all season are pretty low.

Other notables

Alcides Escobar

.271/.313/.370, 7 HRs, 24 SBs, 1.4 WARP

“Escobar was handed the Brewers’ shortstop job in spring training and ran with it, straight through a patch of poison ivy, off a cliff, and into a vat of liquid nitrogen.”

It’s worth noting that this projection sees a pretty substantial improvement in Escobar’s second full season, and that it’s much better than what they project for Yuni Betancourt. Escobar seems to be the biggest immediate loss of all the players they gave up.

Chris Dickerson

.256/.344/.388, 6 HRs, 1 SB, 0.5 WARP

The highest projected OBP by far out of the three of Dickerson, Gomez, and Morgan, and that’s the one the Brewers traded away for a league average at best reliever. Ugh.

Lorenzo Cain

.253/.318/.367, 6 HRs, 11 SBs, 0.4 WARP

While I think Lorenzo Cain will be a solid player, it’s nice to see the Brewers didn’t give up a projected star next season or anything. Cain had a very good debut with Milwaukee, but a lot of it was due to his unsustainable .370 BABIP.

————

Well, we’ve gone through pitching and hitting projections… So what’s the bottom line? The starting rotation should be pretty great, but you have to wonder about the defense and depth for the rest of the team. I wouldn’t call them the odds on favorite for the NL Central, but they’re one of them. As of February, BP had the Brewers projected for 85 wins. I’ll go out on a limb and say 87 wins, which will be within a game or so of Cincinnati either way. The Wildcard won’t come from the Central (should be either the Dodgers or Braves), so the Brewers will need to win the division to make the playoffs.

Should be an exciting season. Keep turnin’ up the heat.


PECOTA Pitching

Posted by Steve

Opening day is just a few days off, and I am just plain giddy. Between high expectations for the Brewers and two awesome fantasy leagues, I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited for a season. Of course, that means I’m running out of time to analyze PECOTA projections. Here’s what BP came up with for Brewers pitchers.

Before I get into the pitchers, though, I want to tough on a pretty fascinating chart they’ve had on the Brewers. They took a closer look at the wide gap between the Brewers’ offensive and pitching output the last two seasons, and found it was historic.

During the 2009-2010 seasons, Brewer hitters accumulated a 497.1 VORP, third in baseball behind the Yankees and Red Sox. During the same span, Brewer pitchers accumulated a 73.2 VORP, second worst in baseball behind the Pirates. This means their hitters have contributed 423.9 VORP more than their pitchers, which is the third most offensive-dominated team over a two-year span since 1954.

So, we knew they were wasting a good offense. But if you truly wanted to see how ugly it was, there’s as good (or bad) of an illustration as any.

One last point about PECOTA’s pitching projections: they don’t seem to project anyone for 200 innings. For example, even though Zack Greinke has thrown for 220, 229.1, and 2o2.1 innings the last three seasons, PECOTA projects him for 179 innings this season (and that was before his cracked rib). I’m guessing this is because pitchers who throw 200 innings are becoming increasingly rare, and they’re taking some account for injury to each pitcher, because just about every pitcher who threw a full season last year is projected for lower innings totals.

Edit: Looked into this more, and apparently the innings projections are low because they’re giving the average expected innings, not the most likely. Russ on brewerfan broke it down nicely for me:

“A typical workhorse might look something like this (actual numbers for illustration only):

200-220 IP: 40% chance
180-200 IP 25%
140-180 IP: 25%
100 – 140 IP: 20%
Below 100: 5%

While it’s most likely that that player will end up with between 200-220 IP, the average is brought down by the small chance of missing significant time.”

Gosh, I love brewerfan.net. On to the projections.

Zack Greinke

179 innings, 3.52 ERA, 181 ks, 55 BBs, 17 HRs

To be honest, this is a pretty conservative projection in my mind. You certainly couldn’t be upset with this line, but he had an FIP of 3.34 last season. Moving to the NL, you’d expect that to drop a bit. I personally expect something like 3.0 to 3.2.

There’s one excerpt that makes me shake my head: “Moving to Milwaukee–one of the few teams with even poorer defensive numbers than the Royals–won’t help Greinke…” Ugh.

One last thing about Greinke. One guess as to who his #1 comparable on baseball reference is through age 26.

Yep. Of course it’s Ben Sheets.

Yovani Gallardo

150.1 innings, 3.79 ERA, 159 ks, 65 BBs, 12 HRs

They called Gallardo “baseball’s most overlooked ace.” Again, his walks are higher than I’d like, but he makes up for it some by strikeout out more than a batter per inning. Yo’s still only 25, and he’s an extremely valuable piece signed to a great contract.

They also commented on Gallardo’s bat. I found this very entertaining: “Gallardo out-slugged Ryan Braun, had a higher TAv than Casey McGehee, and owns a career .677 OPS that surpasses that of Carlos Gomez.”

Shawn Marcum

134.2 innings, 3.88 ERA, 113 ks, 39 BBs, 19 HRs

I love me some good k/bb ratio guys, and Marcum was sixth in all of baseball last season–in the AL East. For whatever reason, they don’t think Marcum can keep up the phenomenal walk rate of last season. That does seem tough to do, but Marcum seems to benefit a ton by escaping the AL East. This is still a nice walk rate, and if this line is extrapolated out to a full season, he’ll have given the Brewers great production.

Randy Wolf

161 innings, 4.46 ERA, 116 ks, 61 BBs, 22 HRs

“His walk and strikeout rates reached their worst levels in years, he struggled against lefties… He’s not about to pull a complete Suppan, but there’s trouble ahead.”

Yikes. To be honest, though, it seems like BP thinks his real collapse came last year, not this season. They have his improve chance at 42%, while his collapse percentage is “only” 26.

Chris Narveson

115 innings, 4.74 ERA, 94 ks, 47 BBs, 17 HRs

Those would be perfectly acceptable numbers for a fifth starter. In fact, that would be one of the best fifth starters the Brewers have had in years. a 2:1 kk/bb ratio is pretty dece as well. Better yet, they have his Improve at 41% and his Collapse at just 14%.

John Axford

73.1 innings, 1.6 WHIP, 77 ks, 51 BBs, 7 HRs

This is probably the most pessimistic projection for a Brewer pitcher, and it has to do with Axford’s career walk rate. It’s always been pretty high, and they seem to think it will catch up with him big time this season. “Although it’s possible that Axford has developed a newfound ability to find the strike zone and will spend the next half-decade closing games at Miller Park, Brewers fans will just as likely wake up one morning to discover that yesterday’s Rollie Fingers has morphed into today’s Derrick Turnbow. You’ve been warned.” Dun dun dunnnn.

Zach Braddock

47 innings, 1.43 WHIP, 57 ks, 28 BBs, 5 HRs

Second verse, same as the first? Like Axford, Braddock showed great stuff last season. Like Axford, Braddock walked too many batters. Both pitchers made up for it somewhat last season with a very good strikeout rate, but unless control improves, the walks will catch up with Braddock. He’s still a young pitcher, so I’m more excited about Braddock’s long-term future in Milwaukee than Axford’s.

Takashi Saito

58 innings, 1.19 WHIP, 65 ks, 21 BBs, 5 HRs

That’s more like it. Saito historically has a great k/bb ratio, and PECOTA has that resulting in very solid production once again this season. Saito might end up as the most underrated acquisition of the off-season. He’s a very good relief pitcher despite his advanced age, and if he doesn’t fall off a cliff, he’ll be an important piece of the bullpen.

LaTroy Hawkins

52 innings, 1.37 WHIP, 37 ks, 17 BBs, 6 HRs

The Brewers got virtually nothing from Hawkins in a season lost to injury, and Hawkins would need to have a pretty great season for his signing not to go down as another pitching free agent blunder. This projection actually seems pretty optimistic to me, which is pretty sad when you know you’d be pleased with a 1.37 WHIP for a relief pitcher.

Kameron Loe

116.1 innings, 1.48 WHIP, 70 ks, 42 BBs, 15 HRs

Another projection, another mediocre line. BP points out that Loe’s swinging strike rate jumped to almost 10%, by far a career high. For that reason, they aren’t sure his 2010 wasn’t a fluke. Interestingly, his innings projection is so high because they project him for 7 starts, which I can’t say I understand. Put it this way: If Kameron Loe has to make 7 starts, the Brewers will probably be in trouble. He’s much more suited as a right-handed specialist, as lefties historically crush him.

Manny Parra

134 innings, 1.59 WHIP, 118 ks, 67 BBs, 17 HRs

Ugly line here too, but a little curious, since they project him as a starting pitcher. No doubt this is a reasonable expectation if the Brewers once again kept Parra in their rotation, but I wish they’d have projected him as a reliever. Last season, Parra had terrible numbers as a starter (1.74 WHIP, 1.83 k/bb) but was much better as a reliever (1.35 WHIP, 2.73 k/bb). I have at least some hope that Parra can be an effective relief pitcher.

Sean Green

65 innings, 1.50 WHIP, 51 ks, 33 BBs, 6 HRs

Green is a groundball specialist, which is often a nice way of saying he doesn’t strike out many hitters. He throws a ton of sinkers that either get ground balls or move out of the strike zone. He’ll probably be a fringe bullpen guy, one of the last on the team. Shouldn’t be terrible, though.

Sergio Mitre

93 innings, 1.39 WHIP, 56 ks, 27 BBs, 13 HRs

Like Loe, they project Mitre for a handful of starts that he hopefully won’t get. Mitre had a .226 BABIP last season, which suggests he’s in for a rude wakeup call. Even though the Brewers turned around and replaced Chris Dickerson, I don’t see the reason for adding Mitre. I’d much rather have their fourth and fifth outfielders be Morgan and Dickerson than have Mitre at all.

Other notables

Mark Rogers

85 innings, 4.66 ERA, 76 ks, 57 BBs, 9 HRs

Walks have been Rogers’ problem, and if PECOTA is correct, they’ll be a huge problem this year if he’s in the majors. He’s got great stuff, but he has to improve his control if he ever wants to be an effective major league starter. It’s good that he’s getting more time in AAA.

Amaury Rivas

88 innings, 5.43 ERA, 56 ks, 44 BBs, 13 HRs

Rivas will be another candidate to eat up some spot starts during inevitable injuries. Problem is, he’s already 25, and his strikeout rates are too low to expect him to be a successful starting pitcher. PECOTA calls him middle-reliever material at best.

Mark DiFelice

No projection

Prepare for the return. It’s coming.

Final Thoughts

I think I just put more stock into hitting projections, which are probably easier to project because of the innings projection difficulty and the increased likelihood of injury for pitchers as opposed to hitters. That’s why I’m not too troubled by their overall underwhelming projections for Brewer pitching. They do like The Big Three, but probably not as much as what we’re hoping we get. The bullpen is more of a concern, as really the only guy they think will be above average is Saito. I am worried somewhat that Axford could turn into Turnbow, but I also think we’ll see Mark DiFelice back in the bullpen before too long, which would be a boost if he’s anywhere close to his pre-injury form. Regardless, with three frontline starters, it seems likely that their bullpen will be much more rested than the last few years.

I am worried about the defense, but the staff itself is the best in a long time outside of 2008–and even stacking it up against that staff would make for an interesting debate.

Let’s Talk Lineups

Posted by Steve

After seeing Carlos Gomez hit in the second spot for the first three games, it’s pretty safe to say he’s Ken Macha’s two-hitter for the foreseeable future. To put it bluntly, that’s a bad idea.

To explain why, I defer to The Book by Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin. They have a great chapter on batting orders, which they back up with years of evidence. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Your two best hitters should hit second and fourth, with the bigger slugger hitting cleanup.
  • Strikeout numbers or the “ability to move runners over” (ugh) should not be considered.
  • The number three hitter should actually be a lesser hitter than the 1, 2, or 4 hitters. This is because the number three hitter comes up in lower leverage situations more often than the 1, 2, or 4 spots–for example, with two outs and nobody on base.
  • The second leadoff theory–hitting the pitcher eighth–gains you a handful of runs over the course of a season.

The one that should jump out to you is that the number two hitter should be your best or second best hitter in the lineup. Instead, the Brewers hit Carlos Gomez there! You’ll even notice on that page for The Book, they say, “If nothing else, we will consider this book a true success if all thirty teams were to never put a below-average hitter in the second spot. While the proper strategy will only gain you a few runs, why do something that is otherwise clearly wrong?”

Applying this theory to the Brewers lineup using CHONE projections, a near optimal lineup looks something like this (projected OBP and SLG in parentheses)

  1. Rickie Weeks (.368, .449)
  2. Ryan Braun (.372, .568)
  3. Casey McGehee (.326, .412) Mat Gamel’s projections were better
  4. Prince Fielder (.387, .577)
  5. Corey Hart (.333, .456)
  6. Alcides Escobar (.334, .389)
  7. Gregg Zaun (.332, .368) Jonathan Lucroy’s projections were better.
  8. Pitcher
  9. Carlos Gomez (.329, .390) Jody Gerut’s projections were better

A few things jump out from that. First: CHONE thinks the Brewers have only three above average hitters on their team. That’s obviously concerning.

Second: CHONE thinks the Brewers have three players within the organization who are better offensively than current starters (yes Gamel’s hurt, but he wasn’t going to win the job anyway). That’s also concerning.

Third: that is a pretty wacky-looking lineup. I don’t recall anyone suggesting Braun and Fielder be broken up in the lineup, but that’s exactly what The Book suggests. People seem to groan whenever the Brewers hit the pitcher eighth, but I’ve always been in support of it.

I know I’ve discussed lineup optimization in the past, and I admitted that for the fairly negligible difference they make (maybe a win or so over the course of a season), the strong response/backlash they would receive may not even be worth it. But that statement was made when lineups were fairly close to optimal. The current lineup Macha is using is so far from optimal that it would likely cost the Brewers more than two wins if he used it all season.

A perfect “real-life” application of this was seen in yesterday’s game. With nobody out, Rickie Weeks stood on second base and Carlos Gomez was up to bat. With the leadoff hitter on second, that is normally a great RBI opportunity for what should be one of your best hitters. Instead, Macha had Gomez sac bunt the runner to third! Terrible move regardless of who was hitting–that move lowers the run expectancy for the inning–but the sac bunt was only a viable option in Macha’s mind because he was hitting Gomez second. If Ryan Braun was up in that spot, do you think he’d have been bunting?

Since The Book’s lineup will never fly, I’m willing to make a compromise. Here’s my suggestion of a happy medium between Macha’s lineup and The Book’s lineup:

Against Righties

  1. Weeks
  2. Edmonds
  3. Braun
  4. Fielder
  5. McGehee
  6. Escobar
  7. Zaun
  8. Pitcher
  9. Gomez

Against Lefties

  1. Weeks
  2. Hart
  3. Braun
  4. Fielder
  5. McGehee
  6. Escobar
  7. Zaun
  8. Pitcher
  9. Gomez

Of course, if I had my druthers, Gerut would be getting a good chunk of Gomez’s playing time, but I chose to go with who the Brewers have decided are their starters. I’m not a huge Edmonds fan, but he still shows nice on-base skills and is likely to have a higher OBP than Gomez. Hart’s on-base skills have been pretty bad the last couple years, but against lefties his career OBP is a solid .357.

I admit that I can at least see what the Brewers liked in Carlos Gomez. He’s carried the “potential” tag with him for years, and he showed why on Monday. There’s still hope that he could become a good offensive player, but the point is, at this point in his career all he’s been is a below average hitter. There’s no reason to hit him in one of the most important spots in the lineup until he has proven he can hit.