Tag Archives: Jeff Suppan

About time

Posted by Steve

Despite our lull at BBKTUTH, there’s actually plenty to talk about. I’m planning on more posts this week, but for now, I might as well discuss the news of the day that everyone had been waiting for. Yep, they finally released Jeff Suppan.

Suppan should not have started the year in the rotation, and he should not have remained on the team nearly as long as he did. Both appear to be the product of Doug Melvin and the Brewers refusing to admit a mistake. Ironically, this decision only compounded that mistake. Suppan was already a sunk cost, and keeping him on the roster hurt the team even further. We’re seeing firsthand the talent the Brewers kept off the roster in order to keep Suppan (namely Axford and Braddock), but none of that talent made 12 million bucks this season.

Things got ugly, too. Suppan didn’t deserve a spot on the team, but that doesn’t mean he deserved the boos he got at Miller Park. I’ll never understand why people boo someone who’s trying his best, but that’s for a different conversation. The point is, this was a necessary move for more than one reason.

I was sort of rubbed the wrong way by some of Melvin’s comments on the move. From Adam McCalvy’s article at brewers.com:

“Have any of you done your homework to determine who the free agent players were that year?” Melvin asked reporters. “We could have signed Jason Schmidt. He signed for three years and $47 million. Barry Zito was seven years and $126 [million]. Gil Meche was five years and $55 [million]. Miguel Batista, three years and $25 [million]. Jason Marquis, three and $25 [million]. Vicente Padilla, two and $20 [million]. Ted Lilly, at four years and $40 [million], was probably the pitcher who performed the best out of that group. …

“When you enter into free agent contracts, it’s one of the riskiest things to do. I know in the off-season, media, fans, myself included, we all get excited about the free agent people who are out there. But there are not a lot of free agent contracts with pitchers where you get the full [value].”

Now, he does have a point–signings that season were pretty crazy–but this response reminds me of when I’d get in trouble as a kid and expect to get out of it by pointing out that my brother did it too. What did he do, come out armed with the exact contract figures of those pitchers because he knew he’d be criticized? Additionally, the fact that Ted Lilly has been very good and got less than Suppan doesn’t help Melvin’s case either. Melvin also called the Suppan debacle “a learning experience,” but how much could he have learned? He just gave Randy Wolf a pretty huge contract.

This just reinforces the fact that free agency remains by far the riskiest method of acquiring players, particularly for smaller markets like Milwaukee. The most crucial one happens to be what I’ll be discussing next, which is the draft. The Brewers have failed to develop enough impact pitching in their system, but at least they are finally starting to accumulate some arms with potential.

To honor the disaster that was the Jeff Suppan Era, let’s look at something terribly depressing. The Brewers’ Opening Day payroll was $90.4 million. That’s a pretty great number; they’ve never had a payroll that high. After a closer look, however, things aren’t so pretty. Let’s look at some of the contracts they’re paying.

Bill Hall: $7.15 million
Jeff Suppan: $12.75 million
Braden Looper: $1 million
Trevor Hoffman: $7.5 million
David Riske: $4.5 million
Dave Bush: $4.215 million
LaTroy Hawkins: $3.25 million
Claudio Vargas: $900k
David Weathers: $400k

That’s 41.665 million dollars to players who have A: not even been on the team this year or B: had negative value. 42 million dollars! That’s 46% of their payroll providing negative value! It’s just astonishing, and it tells you all you need to know about why the team is bad.

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

Spring Training Fluff

Posted by Steve

At this time of year, we’re starving for news to overanalyze.  For example, Rickie Weeks has a 1.059 OPS.  Discuss his awesomeness at your respective water coolers, break rooms, study groups and playgrounds.

Because of this, we get a lot of fluff pieces.  In the past, both Jason Kendall and Bill Hall have gotten laser eye surgery in an off-season, leading to Spring Training stories about improved eyesight and to me creating a ‘The Wonders of Laser Eye Surgery’ tag.  In both instances, the surgery had no positive impact on the player’s offense.

This year we get a similar story on Corey Hart.  He’s going to wear prescription goggles.  First of all, awesome.  I had RecSpecs one year in Little League before I got contact lenses, and they were badass.  Secondly, I refuse to get sucked into thinking his offense will improve due to this.  They sort of had me hoping with Hall, and that was a disaster.

There’s a similar story on, of all people, Jeff Suppan.  Apparently, new pitching coach Rick Peterson suggested something new with his hands that he’s all excited about.

It all makes a lot of sense.  It’s simple.  If it adds that little extra on a pitch, that one pitch may get you out of an inning rather than throwing another ten pitches.  I’m excited.

No.  I won’t do it.  I will not allow myself to think that Rick Peterson is going to salvage Jeff Suppan.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my prediction is that I’m going to get really tired of all the Rick Peterson love this year.  Let’s take a look at the starting rotation:

Gallardo:  He never had a walk rate close to last year’s poor mark, so there’s reason to expect it to drop down.  So he’ll be better.

Parra: He fell far short of expectations last year, so there is again reason to expect at least a small rebound.

Bush:  He’s healthy again.  He pitched well until he was hit on the arm by that line drive last year.

Wolf: He’s better than Looper.

Davis: He’s better than Suppan.

Suppan: Even if he made no changes, it would be almost impossible to be as bad as he was last year.  He had a historically bad season.

So, the rotation will be better.  Here’s what people will notice. “Hey, there’s a new pitching coach this year!  Causation always means correlation!  Therefore, Rick Peterson must be the reason the pitching is better!”

Prepare to be annoyed.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

July in review: It sucked.

Posted by Steve

Entering July, the Brewers were 42-35 and had a two game lead in the NL Central.  Hard to believe that was just a month ago.  A 9-17 month has dropped the Crew to fourth place, prevented them from trading for an impact starting pitcher and dropped their playoff odds to 2.4%.  It’s not often that a team’s season goes down the toilet in just one month, but the Brewers managed to pull it off beautifully.

To find the reason for their struggles, there’s no need to look beyond starting pitching.  The Brewers have allowed the third most runs per game in the National League.  Their starters are averaging 5.6 innings per game started, the second worst mark in the NL.  That has unsurprisingly taken a toll on a bullpen that was a team strength, but has worn down due to overuse.  Things aren’t going to go well when you have one above average starting pitcher on your team.  Let’s look at this brutal rotation.

Yovani Gallardo

Good, but not great.  His strikeout totals are great, but he’s fifth-worst in the league in walks per nine innings with 4.3.  The walks have prevented him from being efficient and pitching deep into games consistently.  It has not, however, prevented the Brewers from riding him like a rented mule.  Gallardo leads the NL in pitches thrown per start with 108.  That is mind-boggling.  No, it’s actually infuriating.  More than anything, even more than the awful July that took the Brewers out of the playoff race, the way Gallardo has been abused has me furious.  THE GUY THREW 24 INNINGS LAST YEAR!  He’s 23 years old!  Am I missing something that Ken Macha isn’t?  This is completely unacceptable.

Manny Parra

Not good.  Manny has had some good starts, but most have been the of the nibbling-then-grooving-strikes variety.  He can be maddening to watch.  I’m able to defend him a bit; he has had terrible luck.  His ERA is an ugly 6.5, but his BABIP is .368 and his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.59.  In other words, he hasn’t been terrible, just below average.  His walk rate continues to be terrible, though.

Dave Bush

Incomplete.  Bush’s injury has doomed the Brewers, because it allowed for the Mike Burns era to occur.  Bush was the most known commodity in the Brewers’ rotation.  You knew you’d be getting an unspectacular yet solid starter who, until this year, would be able to pitch all season.

Braden Looper/Jeff Suppan

Awful.  Simply horrendous.  I lumped these two together because each one doesn’t even deserve his own paragraph.  If you want a good laugh (cry?), head over to fangraphs.com.  Sort by league leaders, choose National League and sort by worst FIP.  Alright, I’m sure you aren’t feeling that ambitious, so I’ll do you a favor and tell you what you’d find: Braden Looper and Jeff Suppan are number 1 and 2 on that list.  That’s right ladies and gents!  Out of all qualified starting pitchers in the National League, the Brewers have not one, but the two very worst pitchers in the league!  That’s actually incredibly impressive.  I wonder if that’s even happened before?

This terrible month has also eliminated them from being buyers at the trade deadline.  It made no sense to give up any prospects for rental players with the team hovering at .500.  The problem is, selling wasn’t a great option either.  The rental players they had to sell include Trevor Hoffman, Mike Cameron, Craig Counsell and Felipe Lopez.  There’s a strong possibility that the Brewers will attempt to bring back at least three of those players for next season, because they want to win next year.  It’s tough to be a true seller when your aim is to compete the very next season.  Also, many have mentioned J.J. Hardy in trade rumors, but I didn’t list him among the candidates to trade because I’m just not ready to hand over the everyday shortstop job to Alcides Escobar.  Escobar is hitting .302/.352/.413 in AAA.  Not horrible, but far from beating down the door to the majors.  So basically, the Brewers were forced to stand pat.

(And yes, I count the Claudio Vargas deal as standing pat.  They didn’t give up anything of value, so it’s low-risk, but I can’t stand watching the Human Rain Delay pitch).

It hurts to say it, but we have to be realistic.  The Brewers are done for 2009.  There’s no way they can compete with three terrible starting pitchers (Suppan, Looper and Burns) in the rotation.  It’s a damn shame, too.  They’re wasting career years from Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Prince is actually having an MVP season.  He leads in probably the number one stathead category, WPA (Win Probability Added).  From fangraphs: WPA takes into account the importance of each situation in the game. A walk off home run is going to be weighted more then a home run in a game that has already gotten out of hand. This makes it a great tool for determining how valuable a player was to his team’s win total.

In other words, a strong argument could be made that Fielder has been the MVP.  If nothing else, he’s the runaway number 2 candidate to Pujols.  Either way, they’re wasting an outstanding year with their crap pitching.

It’s sad that we’re already forced to look ahead to the 2010 season.  This team is likely going to look a LOT different next year, as it should.  In the meantime, here’s to another two months of watching the Looper Grimace.

Starting Rotation: Pretty much an emergency

Posted by Steve

Before I get started, I want to say that I used my best judgment and ultimately decided to end the tarnation streak at three.  I could have gone with something like, “What in tarnation is wrong with the starting rotation?” or “What in tarnation can the Brewers get in the trade market?” but it just felt forced.  Nothing kills a joke like overuse, so I decided to tuck away the tarnation tag until it truly fits.

I’m feeling one of those cheezy radio commercials here that are played during a game.  You know, the ones that try to relate something like banking, truck driving or insurance to baseball.

In baseball, you should never make a trade just to make a trade.  The same goes for blogging!  Don’t use a tarnation tag just to use a tarnation tag.  Before using a tarnation tag, be sure it adds to the enjoyment of the post.  For more information, call the Digger’s Hotline.

Anyway.  Things have been pretty ugly as of late.  One of the more active threads on BF right now is discussing whether the Brewers should be sellers at the deadline.  That’s jumping the gun in my opinion, but something will need to be done before long if the Brewers are going to make a serious run for the playoffs.

I’ve said I felt the offense would improve to the point of making up for the drop in pitching from last season.  So far, the offense has been good but not great–fourth in the NL in with 4.77 runs per game compared to seventh (4.63 runs per game) last season.  That won’t be enough to overcome for the poor pitching.

I didn’t expect the starting pitching to be very good as a whole to begin with, but it’s been even worse than expected.  They’ve had one good start in the last eight games.  Yo’s last start was good, but I’ve made light of his recent struggles.  I’m also getting concerned about his heavy workload.  Bush and Looper have been very hittable lately (and Bush’s arm fatigue wrinkles things even further).  As amazing as it sounds, the only pitcher pitching up to his capability over the last month is none other than Jeff Suppan.  What’s worse is the struggles of the rotation is taking a toll on the bullpen, which was stellar over the first two months.

Things wouldn’t be so dire if it wasn’t for Manny Parra.  He’s really screwed the pooch.  Dan went over why Parra is probably set to bounce back at some point, but the fact of the matter is it’s a very poorly timed implosion on his part.

Before the season, I assumed that in order to make the playoffs, the Brewers would need to bring in another solid starting pitcher to improve the rotation–at least a number three-type starter.  I still feel this way.  The problem is, quality starting pitching is not as abundant as it was around last season’s trade deadline.

Injuries have taken a toll on the trade market.  Jake Peavy was probably a lock to be traded somewhere (already was but vetoed the trade to the White Sox), but his foot injury may have him sidelined past the trade deadline.  This was a bit of a relief to me, because there was plenty of chatter that the Brewers were in talks with San Diego to acquire Peavy.  I was all ready to write an anti-Peavy post, but his injury made the point moot.  In a nutshell, my reasons against Peavy were mainly his hefty contract, but also his decline in numbers, drop in his velocity and moving out of a friendly pitcher’s park.

Roy Halladay, a phenomenal pitcher, was recently put on the DL–to be fair, he was only an outside shot to be traded this year anyway.  Erik Bedard is another good pitcher who could be traded but recently went on the DL.

Matt Cain was a popular trade target for some fans, but the Giants are hanging around so far and won’t deal him if they’re still in contention for a wildcard spot around the deadline.

Complicating the matter is the Brewers have told teams that Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar are untouchable.  That means you can cross off guys like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cain anyway.

I’m ready to make a pitch for my number one trade target.  Before I say who, keep in mind there is no CC Sabathia readily available this year.  There isn’t even a Rich Harden.  The best pitcher who could be available is Cliff Lee, but he’s under contract for next year; therefore Cleveland is likely to ask for a ton.  I’m not even sure they’ll trade him, because they might want to keep him to make a run next season.  To find a match, you need to identify the best pitcher likely to be available that won’t require either Gamel or Escobar.  In my mind, that pitcher is Erik Bedard.

Bedard had been a good to great pitcher in each of the last five seasons.  He’s having an outstanding 2009 so far: 65 2/3 innigs, 2.47 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 65 strikeouts and 22 walks.  So far this season, he’s been an ace.

So why, then, would the Brewers be able to acquire him without giving up Gamel or Escobar?  Here’s why.

1) Bedard is injury prone.  He only threw 81 innings last season.  He’s currently on the DL with “shoulder fatigue,” which is never a good sign.  I wouldn’t even be discussing him, but an MRI revealed no structural damage and the plan as of now is to have him back in the rotation before too long.  If that ends up not happening, this entire point is moot and I’ll have to live with the fact that I wasted 20 minutes typing about an Erik Bedard trade.

2) He’s not a workhorse.  He will in absolutely no way come close to what Sabathia did last year.  And I’m not referring to performance, as nobody should be expected to put up the numbers CC did last year, but I’m referring to innings pitched.  Sabathia consistently went deep into the game, and made several starts on three days’ rest.  Bedard won’t do either of those things.  He has one, count em, one complete game in his entire career.  He’s generally a six inning pitcher, which is almost exactly what he’s averaged per start this season.  Not that that’s bad, but coupled with his injury history, it lowers his price to trade suitors.

3) Here’s the big one: he’s a free agent at the end of this year.  Therefore, it would be another rental situation.  The Brewers gave up a top 100 prospect in Matt LaPorta for a rental last year, but that was for a Hall of Fame-talent pitcher.  There’s no way they’d give up Gamel or Escobar to rent Bedard, nor would the Mariners expect them to.

A Mariners-Brewers trade is also logical because Jack Z is Seattle’s GM now, and he’s obviously extremely familiar with the Brewers’ system.  I’m sure there’s plenty of players in Milwaukee’s system that he’d love to add.

If Bedard doesn’t work out, there are some lesser pitchers who could be available.  Another free agent-to-be the Mariners have is Jarrod Washburn, who is quietly having his best season in years.  His stuff isn’t as good as Bedard’s, but he’s more durable and therefore less of a risk.  He actually probably wouldn’t even be that much cheaper than Bedard, and I’d be just about as pleased to get him.

Same goes for Randy Johnson.  The Brewers could get him without giving up Gamel or Escobar, but as I mentioned with Matt Cain, the Giants won’t trade him as long as they’re playing fairly well.

Another decent-yet-unexciting pickup could be our old friend Doug Davis.  He’s another guy in a contract year.

Any of these players I mentioned are better than most of the guys in the Brewers’ starting rotation right now.  The ideal pickup would be someone who’s better than everyone besides Gallardo, but there just aren’t many fits for reasons discussed above.  Regardless, the Brewers should be able to right the ship if they can add a solid pitcher.  If Manny Parra can get his head on straight as well, they’d be back in good shape.

Oh, and I’m still giving this the What in tarnation?!@ category even though it’s not in the title because I discussed why it wasn’t getting the What in tarnation?!@ category.  Wrap your mind around that one.