Tag Archives: Chris Narveson

How to replace Chris Narveson?

Posted by Steve

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Brewers just announced that Chris Narveson is headed to the DL with a torn rotator cuff. I suppose it’s not shocking, since his velocity had been down this season, but this was the first anyone outside of the Brewers had heard of any injury. It’s a tough break for Narveson, who was set to enter his first year of arbitration next season. It’s unknown yet whether he’ll need surgery, although I can’t imagine a torn rotator cuff not needing it.

So, just like that, there goes the Brewers’ health I have been talking about, along with their durable rotation. The question now obviously becomes: How should the Brewers replace Narveson in the rotation?

Mike McClendon is already in Milwaukee, as he was set to replace Kameron Loe for bereavement leave, anyway. McClendon is just a reliever though, although I’m guessing him to stick up here now after Narveson’s injury. Wily Peralta, the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, has also been called up. Before you get too excited, though, Gord Ash has already said Peralta will only be up until Loe returns. I’m guessing since Estrada isn’t fully stretched out, Peralta will be piggybacked with Estrada in tomorrow’s game, with them each throwing 3-4 innings or so.

To me, that sounds like Estrada will fill Narveson’s spot for now. He did a nice job of it last year when Greinke was gone, and to be honest, I like him better in that role than as a reliever anyway. Still, can Estrada stick in the rotation all season if the team wants to make the playoffs?

Chris Narveson is not a great pitcher. If you’re going to look on the bright side, it’s that he’s much easier to replace than any of the top three starters. He’s been an average starting pitcher at best over his career, including last season. Still, he was solidly above replacement level. Can Estrada match that?

I’m not totally convinced. I’m fine giving Estrada the next four or five starts and seeing how they go. It would help Peralta to get some more time in AAA, anyway. Still, I’m betting on Peralta being in the Major League rotation at some point this year. Another candidate could be Mike Fiers, who’s starting in Nashville, and a darkhorse could be Tyler Thornburg, who’s off to a great start in AA.

I suppose I’m obligated to mention that Roy Oswalt is still available, but I don’t see that happening. He seems like he’s very choosy about where he wants to go (if he even wants to play anymore), and I doubt he’ll commit to a team before it’s clear they’re in the mix for the playoffs.

If the time isn’t now for Wily Peralta, it’s soon. He’s not Yovani Gallardo, but he’s the best pitching prospect they’ve had since Yo. He was likely scheduled to arrive next season, but it looks like we may get an early look.

Ron and his bullpen

Posted by Steve

One thing Ron Roenicke has continued to do throughout the playoffs is manage his bullpen like it’s still the regular season. In the games that the Brewers’ starter has been knocked out early, he’s brought in people like Marco Estrada or Kameron Loe. Twice he’s done this with a day off the next day. In fact, the Brewers lost Game 5 without pitching any of their three best relievers.

This cannot happen. The only way I’d be okay with seeing Estrada pitch today is if the Brewers are winning by six runs or more.

If Marcum gets knocked out early tonight, and the Brewers find themselves down by three or four runs, it needs to be Hawkins/Saito/KROD coming in to keep the deficit where it is, not Estrada to let the Cardinals tack on to their lead.

There is some debate over whether the Brewers should be pitching Marcum tonight. Other options could be to pitch Yovani Gallardo on three days’ rest, or to start Chris Narveson.

I like the decision to stick with Marcum. He hasn’t been sharp lately, but I didn’t think he was horrendous his last time out. Plus, we know Marcum is a good pitcher–better than Narveson. He’s proven that over the course of the season and his career. I also don’t like bringing Yo back on three days’ rest. He’s never done it in his career, so doing it in the most important Brewer game in almost 30 years seems pretty crazy. Plus, then they’d be in a mess for Game 7.

I know I generally say you need to worry about winning the next game before managing for Game 7, but when the decision isn’t clear-cut (bringing back Yo on three days’ rest isn’t an obvious move), you might as well play to give yourself a better chance in Game 7.

I can’t say why, but I’m definitely expecting a win tonight. The crowd will be crazy, the team will be happy to be back home, and I expect them to score a lot of runs.

Most importantly, I’m just not ready for baseball season to be over yet. This team has been so fun to watch, and it wouldn’t be right for this to end before Game 7.

Fine-tuning

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are (obviously) in outstanding position as August winds down. They have a massive 8.5-game lead and an 98.2% chance at the playoffs according to BP. It is now time to start thinking about how to best fine-tune the team for the playoffs.

Lefty Reliever?

The absence of a left-handed reliever out of the bullpen seemed glaring a month ago. Now, with this huge lead, it is much less so. I wouldn’t turn one down, but it would have to be a good one–not some guy who just happens to throw left-handed. I say this because come playoff time, Chris Narveson will be out of the rotation and in the bullpen.

Don’t be surprised if we hear Daniel Ray Herrera’s name. Yes, the same guy who had a brief and disastrous stint in Milwaukee earlier this season. He’d been terrific since going back to Nashville. I’ve been told he’s added a knuckleball, and apparently it’s working for him.

Betancourt

Remember when Yuni was hot? Yeah, that’s long over with. He’s 2 for his last 28, which probably started around the time the pronunciation of his name changed. And literally as I type this, Yuni doesn’t even come close to a weak grounder up the middle.

As soon as Weeks comes back, Hairston needs to move to shortstop. It’s that simple. Will the Brewers do this? I’d be surprised.

Taylor Green… For the love of God, Taylor Green

He’s hitting .337 in Nashville. .337! With a .997 OPS and better defense than Casey McGehee. Even if they don’t start him, right now the Brewers bench infielders are Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson. Both are contributing next to nothing. At least Counsell brings defense, but Wilson brings nothing.

You have to assume Green will at least be a September call up, but that’s not enough. To be eligible for a playoff roster, you have to be on the 25-man roster before September.

I’d like to see Green and Mat Gamel called up for Tim Dillard and Josh Wilson sometime before September. Like the Betancourt thing, though, I’m not expecting this to happen. It’s a shame, because Green may be the final piece to this season’s puzzle.

Still…

Even if these moves that should happen don’t happen, the Brewers are still looking great for an October run. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez will both be back, which will improve their defense, offense, and depth.

That’s a lot of classy losing

Posted by Steve

There is nothing better than beating up on the Cardinals. There is no team I’d rather beat, including the Cubs.

The pitching was dominant. The Cardinals came in as the best offense in the National League, and the Brewers shut them down.

  • 27 innings
  • 6 runs
  • 27 strikeouts
  • 3 walks
  • 1 home run
Just phenomenal, especially when it includes your fourth or fifth best starter. They neutralized Albert Pujols and contained Lance Berkman. Narveson, Greinke, and Marcum were on top of their games. John Axford and Kameron Loe were great out of the bullpen. And Prince Fielder is the hottest hitter going right now.

Let the good times roll. This is really starting to get fun.

I love this rotation

Posted by Steve

The Brewers are on a serious roll here, and that seven-game losing streak is a distant memory. They’re the hottest team in the league, and they’re right back in the division race (if they were ever even out of it in early May… Which they weren’t).

They’re playing well in spite of a struggling offense that really only has three or four good hitters in it right now. That’s because the pitching–particularly the starting pitching–has been outstanding.

The Brewers are third in starting pitchers’ xFIP in all of baseball, and second in the NL. xFIP corrects FIP based on a normalized home run rate (further explanation here). Basically, it says what their ERA should be at this point with normal luck, defense, and home run rates… and the Brewers’ is 3.39.

When I’m evaluating a pitcher, the first thing I look at is k/bb ratio. Anything 3 or above is excellent. The Brewers’ rotation is 2.83–again, good for third in baseball and second in the NL. That’s a good number for a starter–about what you’d hope for from an average number two starter. For an entire rotation to combine for that number is very impressive.

The Phillies’ rotation, by the way, is as crazy good as advertised. Their k/bb ratio is 4.59! The second closest is Seattle at 2.99. It’s insanity, and they’re on a historic pace.

Regardless, the Brewers are in great shape with this starting rotation. It’s the best they’ve had in years, even better than 2008 to this point. 2008’s rotation had a 2.31 k/bb ratio and a 4.14 xFIP. That rotation was really CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, a little bit of Yovani Gallardo, and then a bunch of average guys. To this point, each starter in this rotation has been above average according to xFIP except Randy Wolf, who’s still been average.

Interestingly, Gallardo has been one of their worst starters to this point. He’s having the same issues with walks that he’s always had, but his strikeout numbers are also down. It’s to the point now where I’m almost disappointed when I realize Yo’s pitching. He should still be above average by the end of the year, but it drives me crazy watching him nibble and constantly fall behind hitters.

Gallardo should be forced to sit and watch footage of Shaun Marcum. Man alive, do I love watching Marcum pitch. I was at the game Saturday, and he had the Rockies, one of the best offenses in the league, completely off balance. After throwing 64 pitches the first four innings, he threw 40 over the last four. He works in the strike zone and has incredible command, and is putting up outstanding numbers with a fastball that’s averaging 86.4 mph. Yo has much better stuff than Marcum, but at this point, Marcum is the better pitcher overall.

A few other points about the rotation:

  • Chris Narveson has been a revelation. He’s a number four starter who’s pitched like a 2/3 so far. Dan had a good post a while back on how he thinks Narveson is for real, and I tend to agree. I feel good about games he’s pitching.
  • Anyone who’s worried about Zack Greinke’s 6.43 ERA at this point need not be. All his ERA shows is that small samples can yield some screwy results. He has an amazing 29 ks to just 2 walks so far. He’s giving up an inordinate amount of hits, largely due to bad luck and poor defense. His BABIP is .370, compared to a career .308 number. His home run/fly ball rate is 21.1%, compared to a 8.7% career number. His strand rate is just 49%, compared to 72.2% for his career. His ERA is 6.43, but his xFIP is 1.47! I could keep going… But you get the idea. Additionally, it’s pretty clear Greinke has still been building up his endurance into his first four starts. He’s frequently dominated the first 3 or 4 innings before unraveling a bit. He’ll be in mid-season form soon enough, and I’m expecting great things.
  • Not only have the starting five done a great job, but the Brewers may have the best sixth starter in baseball. Marco Estrada did a great job filling in for Greinke, and he’s continued to pitch well out of the bullpen. Surely injury will strike in some form, but the Brewers appear to have a solid fill-in in Estrada.

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.

Jeff Suppan to DL with injured pride

Posted by Steve

Thankfully, the Brewers are making decisions based on talent rather than salary. Jeff Suppan has been put on the disabled list with what the Brewers are calling neck stiffness–perhaps whiplash from turning to watch his gopher balls fly out of the park?

This is the best move for the Brewers, as it allows them to keep their 12 best pitchers on the opening day roster. Manny Parra, Dave Bush, and Chris Narveson have no minor league options remaining, so if any one of them did not make the team, the Brewers likely would have lost him to another team.

Suppan hasn’t pitched in the bullpen in years, and everyone knows he didn’t deserve to be in the rotation, so there’s really no place for him. Plus, the only way to keep him on the roster would have been to demote Carlos Villanueva, who is really the only candidate with a remaining minor league option. This move is probably even better than simply cutting Suppan. This way, they can hang onto him for depth purposes. And who knows–maybe he actually is injured. It sounds like he actually has been injured slightly, but it couldn’t have been anything terrible if he’s been pitching all spring.

The only remaining question in regards to pitching is whether Manny Parra or Chris Narveson will be the fifth starter. Chris Narveson has pitched better this spring, but I don’t like basing these types of decisions on spring training performances–particularly when he’s only pitched 12 innings. Narveson did have a nice 2oo9 season between AAA and Milwaukee, so I won’t really mind if he’s named the fifth starter. This decision gives us something to discuss now, but in reality, within a month at most it won’t even matter. Injuries and performance will dictate changes, and I’d just about guarantee that both Parra and Narveson will make multiple starts this season.

Anyway, this is what we’re looking at for an opening day staff. Nothing special, but it looks to be a fairly substantial improvement over last season’s disaster.

1. Gallardo

2. Wolf

3. Davis

4. Bush

5. Parra/Narveson

Parra/Narveson

Vargas

Stetter

Villanueva

Hawkins

Coffey

Hoffman