Tag Archives: Randy Wolf

Less Randy Wolf = More interest in Brewers

Posted by Steve

It’s only a fraction of how necessary it was to release Jeff Suppan a few years ago, but it still needed to happen: Randy Wolf has been released.

I’ll at least take a paragraph to reflect on Wolf’s tenure and his signing in general. He was okay here for two years, with last year being his best. His peripherals weren’t really even that different this year save for a bit of a higher home run rate; he was killed by a .340 BABIP. If you’re mad at Wolf for this performance, I don’t really agree with you. The honus should go on Doug Melvin for giving a declining player a three-year deal. Of course, if Wolf didn’t get a three-year offer from Milwaukee, he’d very likely wouldn’t have signed here, but so what? It’s just Randy Wolf. Point is, I don’t want to go more than two years on any free agent pitcher unless his numbers show he is solidly above average.

Essentially, my interest in the Brewers’ rotation going forward is inversely proportional to the presence of Randy Wolf. And now that Randy Wolf is gone, the rotation just got a lot more interesting.

We’ll get to see, presumably, all of the young-ish pitchers who have a shot at the rotation next season. Not just Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, who have already had auditions, but Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg as well. We will also see a cameo from Shaun Marcum, who is auditioning for next season–I suppose there’s still an outsider’s outside chance Marcum could be dealt on waivers, but he’ll only have one, maybe two starts before the August deadline, so the chances of that are almost nil. More likely, he’s taking a longer audition for a chance to get a nice contract somewhere next season.

Basically, the rotation will consist of Marcum and Gallardo every five days,with some mash-up of Fiers, Rogers, Thornburg, Peralta, and Marco Estrada taking the last three spots. There have been rumblings of the Brewers shutting down Rogers, Fiers and even Estrada to prevent them from taking too much of a jump in innings from last season, which of course is smart in a now meaningless season. One way to accomplish this would be to piggyback them in starts–essentially each guy pitches three innings on the same day every five days. The starting pitcher would be Mirke Fiergers or something.

I did hear some concern over the release of Wolf in that the Brewers might need a veteran to eat some innings if they end up needing to shut down most/all of the younger pitchers. I’m really not worried about that; if that happens, the Brewers just need to call up some AAA soldier. I’m warning you now, Brewer fans: Brace yourself once again for some Claudio Vargas appearances in September.

Anyway, the Brewers are making some smart decisions now that they’re out of contention. By the end of this season, they should have a solid grasp of whether Jean Segura is ready to be the starting shortstop (I’ve actually been more impressed with his glove than his bat to this point, which doesn’t match his scouting report), and which of these pitchers should open up 2013 in the starting rotation.

Plus, it will simply be more fun to watch these guys pitch over Randy Wolf.

So, now what?

Posted by Steve

For the last few weeks, all the focus was on Zack Greinke: first his health, then on what return he’d bring back in an impending trade. Now that the Greinke trade is complete, it feels a little confusing. What are we supposed to focus on now?

One thing’s for sure; this is still the same awful bullpen. Yesterday’s game showed that, and the bullpen isn’t going to change. Not that that matters much though; wins and losses are irrelevant now.

That’s one thing that’s kind of nice. I no longer feel like I need to hope the Brewers lose games in order to ensure they trade Greinke. I still really don’t care whether they win, but at least I don’t have to be annoyed when they do. I really didn’t enjoy that.

So anyway, the question is, what am I looking for the rest of the season?

I don’t expect the Brewers to contend next year without Zack Greinke. The starting rotation is going to look much different next year, and they have many young pitchers who will be getting their feet wet. Thing is, I want that to happen. I don’t want Doug Melvin to feel like he needs to go and sign two more Randy Wolfs because he needs to patch together another okay team. Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Tayjor Jungmann… The Brewers need to turn several of those players into major league pitchers, particularly starters, if they are going to have success within the next 4-5 years. I don’t want to see the development stunted by aging #4 starters.

For that reason, I would love to see Aramis Ramirez and/or Corey Hart traded before the deadline. If Melvin targeted players at the AA level or so, the way he did with Greinke, there shouldn’t be too long of a turnaround. In fact, I bet they’d have a solid team by as early as 2014.

Trading Hart and Ramirez makes a lot of sense. Both players have good value right now. Ramirez in particular should be traded because of the money that he’s owed. He has performed so well that right now, you could get a team to take most (or even all?) of his contract and send you a legitimate prospect or two. That opportunity may not be there by next season.

Same situation with Hart. He is under contract through 2013. If the Brewers trade Hart before the start of next season, the team who acquires him will have the right to a compensation pick. If they wait until next season to do it, it will be the same situation as Greinke–no pick for that team. A lack of comp picks won’t dampen the return on elite players like Greinke, but it could on a merely solid player like Hart.

Of course, I’d be truly shocked if either of these players were dealt this year. Doug Melvin’s MO isn’t to trade players when their value is highest; it’s to hold on to them, use the value for the Brewers, and then take a lesser return/let them walk in free agency. In this case, I strongly feel holding on to them is the wrong move. Doesn’t matter what I think, though.

So then, what do I want to see the rest of the year? Let’s make a list, shall we?

Tyler Thornburg’s return to normalcy

The Brewers sent Thornburg back to the minors today, capping the end to a short yet stupid experiment. His schedule has been completely erratic over the last month or so, and it capped off with a “tired arm” after pitching multiple innings in consecutive outings. What a foolish way to handle your top pitching prospect. I want to see Thornburg back starting games, and I don’t even want to see him in Milwaukee unless he is in the rotation. No more coming out of the bullpen for Thornburg the rest of the year.

Trade/DFA Wolf, K-Rod

I expect the Brewers to DFA Francisco Rodriguez soon. It’s been a train wreck in slow motion over the last couple weeks for Franky. He went from burying his trade value six feet under to clearly not even warranting a spot on the team. He’s a sunk cost; the Brewers have too many young pitchers they should take a look at to keep wasting innings on a broken K-Rod.

Wolf should be let go, too. There’s a chance someone will take him off the Brewers’ hands for nothing, but if not, there is no need to keep giving him starts. Same thing with wanting to see younger pitchers.

In a similar vein, if Shaun Marcum is able to come back this year, he’d be a good candidate for an August waiver trade. Something to think about.

Give the young pitchers a long look–in the starting rotation

All those pitchers I mentioned earlier should get some consideration for rotation spots in Milwaukee. Mark Rogers had an encouraging outing yesterday. He is out of minor league options, which means the Brewers have to have him on the MLB team next year or lose him. He should stay in the rotation the rest of the year.

Wily Peralta has turned his season around. He should take Randy Wolf’s spot in the rotation as soon as possible.

Thornburg, Hellweg, and Pena should all be given consideration based on how they pitch going forward as well.

Within a few weeks, call up Jean Segura and hand him the keys to shortstop

I understand giving Segura some time yet in AA, but I don’t think he should need more than a couple weeks. Unless he falls flat on his face in Huntsville, I want to give him time in MLB in a low pressure situation in which he knows he’ll play every day. From a marketing standpoint, the team should want to show off the prize of the Zack Greinke trade as well. It’s a win-win.

Think about it. Not only do these moves make baseball sense, but it’s a much more watchable team. How much more enjoyable would the team be with a rotation of Gallardo, Fiers, Rogers, Peralta, Estrada/Thornburg/other young pitcher and Segura at shortstop every day the rest of the way? Right now, when Wolf or Estrada pitch, I don’t even feel obligated to watch. I’d want to watch this “new” team every day the rest of the season, though.

One final remark

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the departure of George Kottaras. First, let me say it was a questionable move. Travis Ishikawa serves no purpose on this team and does nothing that Kottaras can’t. They should have gotten rid of Ishikawa and left Kottaras as the backup first baseman/third catcher/top pinch hitter off the bench. But, they didn’t, and it sounds like Kottaras finds himself in a larger role on a playoff contender, so good for him. Plus, no matter what happens to him in his baseball career, he’ll still be devilishly handsome.

 

 

May: The month of repeated groin punches

Posted by Steve

Wow.

It’s hard to imagine this getting much worse. The injuries have reached a comedic point, with whatever broke Jonathan Lucroy’s hand taking the cake. It’s actually fun to imagine the possibilities, assuming the story is true. What was in his suitcase? Was he using an aluminum metal case? Was it full of unmarked bills? Did it contain the nuclear football?

The injuries are just piling up. They’ve used their fourth shortstop of the year, which really doesn’t matter because all of them suck other than the one they started the year with. They’ve also lost their catcher, two first basemen, a center fielder, a starting pitcher, that starting pitcher’s replacement, and a closer’s facial hair. That’s all in one month. Oh, and they’ve also gone 9-15 over that span.

After such a terrible month, it is difficult to see this ending well. Plenty of people seem to have given up on the season. Although the Brewers have made it much tougher than they’d like, it’s too early to give up on the season. Baseball Prospectus still gives the Brewers an 18.1% chance of reaching the playoffs, believe it or not.

Even with all the injuries, I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as they’ve played. Obviously, Baseball Prospectus thinks that way too, as they give the fifth place Brewers the third-best chance in the division of reaching the playoffs.

I still have some hope. For one thing, the starting pitching has been much better lately. Their starting rotation is 13th in the NL in ERA, but 8th in FIP and xFIP. First, that’s much better than what it was three weeks ago. Secondly, this, just like last year, shows us that the Brewers starters are better than their ERA implies. Some of this can be blamed on defense (again, like last year), but they have also been fairly unlucky–their allowed batting average on balls in play is .307, which is the third-highest in the NL. Save for the random Arizona debacle, Greinke has been lights out lately. Marcum has been very good, and Gallardo and Wolf have been better too. It will be interesting to see if Mike Fiers can hold down a spot with Marco Estrada out.

I also think the loss of Jonathan Lucroy could be overstated. I recently made a post at Reviewing the Brew explaining why we should have expected Lucroy’s numbers to come way down the rest of the season. People were too caught up in how he’s done this year and expecting that all season, when in actuality, it’s entirely possible that George Kottaras outperforms what Lucroy would have done over the next 4-6 weeks. Just as big of a loss from Lucroy to Kottaras will be from Kottaras to Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher. Maldonado has a good defensive reputation, but he’ll be close to an automatic out.

I still maintain the only injury that is possibly fatal at this point is at shortstop. Alex Gonzalez is a solid player, and any of the three guys they’ve used to fill in all suck. They’re in a catch 22 right now. They need a shortstop and better fifth starter to reach the playoffs, but to get in position to make trades for those players, they need to first play better.

The next 3-4 weeks are critical. If they’re ten games out of a playoff spot by July, I’m probably ready to call it a season. At that point, it’s likely goodbye to Zack Greinke. Marcum, K-Rod and Wolf would probably all be gone, too. As much as I’d like to see Greinke sign, the Brewers could get a great haul for him if they’re out of the running.

The one thing that could be devastating for the Brewers is if they stay under .500 but still close enough that management (okay, Mark Attanasio) doesn’t want to sell. If they finish near or below .500 without trading off any players, someone deserves to be fired. With the haul they could get for Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and K-Rod, they could contend again fairly soon.

Still, it isn’t yet time to fully have that conversation. The schedule looks favorable as soon as the team returns home, and the Brewers will have one other thing going for them: I’ve been so busy that I’ve hardly posted this month, which is clearly why they’ve struggled. I’ll be posting more going forward, which can only help, right?

Or are you telling me that you’re doubting a team that will feature a batter of Mike Fiers and Martin Maldonado, Cody Ransom at shortstop and three other players with negative WARs on the season. Is that what you’re telling me?

Priority Number 1: Zack Greinke

Posted by Steve

By this time, you are able to tell for the most part which teams are entering the season as contenders and which ones are in rebuilding mode. The place you don’t want to be, generally, is somewhere in between (Hello Milwaukee Bucks ever since Ray Allen was traded. Wrong sport, but still).

The Brewers, clearly, are a contender this year, especially if Ryan Braun manages to get a full season.

(Allow me a brief sidebar to quickly discuss the Braun saga. I didn’t make this its own post, because there really isn’t anything new to say. My main thought is what I’m sure everyone else has right now: What the hell is taking so long? First we hear that there’s some 25-day time frame in which the arbitrator, Shyam Das (Is that a Batman villain?), has to deliver a verdict. Now yesterday TH reported that he isn’t “technically” bound by that time frame. Again, why the hell is this taking so long? This is a failed test that occurred five months ago! What on Earth could be the reason for this delay?)

Next year may not be so clear. 60% of their starting rotation is set to hit free agency. A full rebuild isn’t likely, with Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, and now Aramis Ramirez (ugh) signed for multiple seasons. But if they lose Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum from their rotation, it’s going to be awfully difficult to field a good team.

The Brewers need to make extending Greinke their first priority. Of course, even if they do–and I get the impression they pretty much have–that doesn’t mean a deal gets done. Playing for a winning team seems important to Greinke; it’s why he wanted out of Kansas City, and it could be why he hasn’t signed an extension yet. We’ve already had the obligatory “Zack likes it here” story. It seems like he’d be open to staying in Milwaukee, but who knows.

My guess is he’s going to see how the first half of the season plays out. If the Brewers struggle badly enough that they’re selling off K-Rod, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum, or anyone else, I’m sure you can kiss an extension goodbye. If things are going well, though, and they’re over .500 and contending for the division by All-Star Break/trade deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me to see an extension around this time.

A good comparison could be the extension given to Jared Weaver midway through last season. Weaver was set to hit free agency after this year just like Greinke (and Matt Cain and Cole Hamels, for what it’s worth). Instead, he signed a 5 year/$85 million deal, which was widely considered good value for the Angels. I’d be thrilled if the Brewers signed Greinke to that deal. Since he’s now closer to free agency than Weaver was, I doubt they could get him that cheap, but I’d gladly take a 5 year/$90 million deal. And since winning seems to be so important, maybe Greinke only would want to sign a two or three year extension so he can leave if the team doesn’t stay competitive. That type of contract is doubtful, but who knows.

For selfish reasons, I’d love to see him stay. Obviously, I enjoy watching him pitch, but I also love his quotes. He doesn’t use stupid cliches, and he’s usually brutally honest. Take this quote from an article about how the Brewers would move on after Prince Fielder’s departure:

“Last year there were 5-7 offenses in the National League that were better than ours. Our pitching staff is what kind of carried us. It was the bigger part of our year.”

Translation: It’s not like our offense was outstanding last year with Prince. We won 96 games mostly because our pitching was very good.

Who’s ready for a positive post?

Posted by Steve

I realize my last few posts have been negative, which seems goofy for where the Brewers are right now. I would like to just explain myself a bit. Friday I was at Game 5, which was beyond amazing. Thing is, I didn’t get a chance to post until after the weekend, which is also the last time the Brewers won until tonight. So basically, my availability prevented me from any of the excited, this is amazing-type posts.

What a game tonight! Randy Wolf, as he said, threw the game of his life. I wasn’t even concerned when he gave up those to flukey homers, because he had pinpoint control all night. Great, great job.

Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a godsend. Who knew when they acquired him in July how good he’d be. His offense has been a pleasant surprise, and his defense at third is silky smooth.

I’ve been on Francisco Rodriguez at times this year, but he’s been very solid in two outings this series. Great job tonight against the heart of the order in the eighth.

Prince Fielder: Gold Glover? If someone had only seen him play defense in this series, they might think so. From a diving stop to a series of great scoops at first, his defense has been tremendous. His scoop of Hairston’s throw tonight may have saved the game.

Jonathan Lucroy has been a defensive whiz. He is blocking everything in the dirt, and it’s resulting in some big strikeouts.

Tonight’s game was absolutely massive. Had they lost, their season was essentially over. Now, they have the edge. The pressure is back on St. Louis. The Brewers only need two out of three, and it just so happens that two out of the three remaining games would be at Miller Park.

I’m hoping they only need one of those games, however. I have a great feeling about Zack Greinke tomorrow. I feel like he’s been on the brink of a great outing for a while. He’s been a bit unlucky with some bloop hits before a home run, but tomorrow is the day he puts it all together.

By the way, I love reading his quotes.Like this one:

On his home/road splits: “The big thing is I’ve had some really bad games on the road — the Chicago Cubs game and the Yankees game were really bad. I guess the Pittsburgh game, I was cruising the whole game and all of a sudden, I think it’s the seventh inning and I gave up 4-5 hits in a row. Besides those two games, I felt like I’ve pitched just as good everywhere. Those two games…it wasn’t because of being on the road. It’s just because of bad games.”

I also love this one:

Did you get much feedback regarding what you said about Chris Carpenter: “I guess I didn’t get a whle lot. My wife likes to read stuff, and then she gets mad, and she’s mad that I said it. But it just happened, and I don’t need to talk about it anymore.”

Awesome.

Two more wins. I can’t believe the Brewers make the World Series with just two more wins. I never thought I’d see this day.

I leave you tonight with some entertainment. These are highlights from a Cardinals message board from tonight’s game.

- Playing in Milwaukee doesn’t even remind me of baseball…Like, I dunno. It’s just not baseball.
– It just bothers me even watching a game in Milwaukee. I hate to buy into the sign stealing thing, but no team is just that good at home and the fans just suck ass. It physically makes me angry watching them play at home. I don’t know why, it just does.
– That is really going to hurt tonight and tomorrow.
And next week. And it’s kind of chilly in STL tonight. It’s gotta be throbbin
– And now Hairston. I’m so tired of these scrubs. Holy [bad word]. Hairston, Weeks, Betancourt, Wolf. They’re beating us. Not Fielder, not Braun, not Gallardo.
– Seriously, braun looks terrible away from Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
– This whole team looks punchless outside of Milwaukee. Probably nothing.
– I just [bad word] hate Milwaukee. Not the team or the city, just the people that live there

No, really. Start managing like it’s the playoffs.

Posted by Steve

It’s been a few days since I was able to post, and quite a bit has happened in the world of Brewers baseball over that time. It’s old news by now to talk about beating Arizona, so I’ll just say that attending that game was perhaps the most nerve-wracking and exhilarating thing I’ve ever experienced. Amazing.

But moving on to this series. Of course, my worst nightmare of facing the Cardinals came true. Anybody but the Cardinals. Since there’s nothing they can do about it now, let’s take a look at what we’re working with this series.

Everyone is talking about the struggles of the Brewers’ starting rotation. The starters have struggled, but people seem to be downplaying one important factor: They’ve been facing great offenses. Arizona scored more runs than the Brewers this season, and the Cardinals are the best offense in the National League.

I would argue that neither Zack Greinke on Sunday nor Shaun Marcum yesterday were awful. Both allowed some cheap hits and then made the fatal mistake of giving up a meatball with runners on. Marcum certainly doesn’t seem like himself, but he was hurt by bunting, hit-and-runs and poor defense as well.

At some point, you have to be willing to admit a good part of the runs the Brewers hav given up is due to the Cards’ great offense.

Now, how does that help any going forward? It doesn’t, really; they’ll still be facing a great offense. It’s why I don’t expect the Brewers to win this series, but you never know. The Brewers’ offense has knocked around Cardinal pitching as well, so I expect more slugfests going forward.

Before looking ahead to the rest of the series, I want to reflect on yesterday’s trouncing. Obviously, the pitching and defense needs to be better, but I was again discouraged by what I saw from Ron Roenicke. Again, his moves are ones that managers make in a regular season game. There was no sense of urgency.

After the top of the fourth inning, the Cardinals had a five-run lead. The Brewers finally got on the board with Weeks’ homer and cut it to 5-2. I ask you this: Is a three-run deficit heading to the fifth inning still a winnable game? Apparently not to Roenicke. At least that’s what his decision communicated.

After cutting the lead to three runs, the Brewers needed to hold the Cardinals right where they were. They had their 2-3-4 hitters coming up. Who does Ron turn to when he needed a hold? Saito? Hawkins? Even Loe with right-handed Pujols and Holliday due up?

Nope. The answer is: the last guy in the bullpen! That’s right; after cutting the lead to three and the heart of their order coming up, Roenicke called on Marco Estrada. Unbelievable.

Again, this move makes perfect sense during the regular season. Marcum wasn’t getting it done, they pinch hit for him in a scoring opportunity, and then they need the long reliever Estrada to eat some innings and save the bullpen.

But what are we saving the bullpen for now? Especially with a day off before the next game! The Brewers gained nothing by not having Saito, K-Rod or Axford pitch yesterday. They wouldn’t have lost anything either, as I mentioned, because of the off day today.

This is just like when he kept Randy Wolf in to face Cowgill in the game against Arizona. Both times it was crucial that the Brewers stop the bleeding, as they were very much still in the game. Both times RRR failed to recognize that fact, and the game blew up and got away from them.

As much as I despise Tony La Russa with every fiber of my baseball being, he runs circles around Roenicke when it comes to this. He removed his starting pitcher with a three-run lead in the fourth inning! Talk about something you’d never see during the regular season. Yet, it was the right move. TLR sensed the Brewers were figuring Edwin Jackson out, and he made a proactive move rather than the one Reactive Ron Roenicke (“Reactive” has replaced “Runnin'” until further notice) made.

So anyway. I want to see that change immediately, or the Brewers will waste more opportunities.

Quickly looking ahead. What do the Brewers need to do? They don’t necessarily need to win tomorrow; they just need to win one of the next two. I’d feel great about a 2-2 series. I’m not sure I see it, though.

I’m very nervous about tomorrow. I wish the Brewers would essentially punt Game 3 and put their eggs in the Game 4 basket. Here’s my reasoning: tomorrow is Yo against Chris Carpenter (ugh). Carpenter’s been lights out lately, and the odds of the Brewers beating Carpenter in the Cards’ first home game of the series is pretty low. So why waste Yo in this game? Pitch Randy Wolf instead. That way, if you lose the game, no big deal–you have a huge advantage in Game 4 with Gallardo against Kyle Lohse. And if you somehow win the Wolf-Carpenter match-up, well then you’re sitting pretty with Yo against Lohse in Game 4 and a great chance at a 3-1 series lead.

But if Yo loses to Carpenter tomorrow, suddenly they’re faced with Randy Wolf on the mound in a must-win game. Not an enjoyable thought, but  a very real possibility.

This is all moot, as Yo is going to start tomorrow. Like I said, this makes Game 3 much more crucial than I’d have liked it to be. For this reason, the Brewers need to do everything they can to give themselves an edge. Specifically, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get the start in center over Nyjer Morgan.

I know it sounds funny to ask for Gomez to start against a righty over Morgan, but consider the factors. First, Morgan and Carpenter have their history, and you never know what sort of controversy might arise with Morgan in the lineup. More importantly, though, Morgan hasn’t been hitting lately, and he has very poor numbers against Chris Carpenter in his career. And most importantly, Gomez is the team’s best defender, and they’re going to need all the defense they can get in what could be a low-scoring game. Gomez isn’t likely to hit Carpenter, but neither is Morgan, so get the All-World defender in center if it’s a wash. Morgan’s play in center yesterday should only further help RRR to make this decision.

To be honest, I’d be fine playing Morgan in right over Hart. That makes the outfield defense fantastic. hart only has a .701 OPS against Carpenter in his career, so it’s not like the Brewers would be missing much.

So, to recap:

  • Remember it’s the playoffs, and manage accordingly
  • Flip Yo and Wolf.
  • Since you won’t flip Yo and Wolf, at least play Gomez in center. The Brewers need great defense in what they hope is a low-scoring game.
  • Win plz.

 

Do or die? Just about.

Posted by Steve

There’s a blog post at the JS in which Roenicke says today’s game isn’t a “do or die” game. Of course, it isn’t by definition, because the Brewers are not eliminated if they lose today. By all other accounts, though, it’s a game they need to win.

Aside from the obvious fact that if they don’t win today, they can be eliminated in their next game, here are reasons why the Brewers need to win tonight:

-If they win tonight, they can hold over Yovani Gallardo for Game 1 of the NLCS. That means that Yo would be able to throw three times in that series. If Yo is needed to pitch game 5, he wouldn’t be able to pitch until Game 3 of the NLCS. That is a huge difference, particularly when you combine how great Yo’s been with how much Shaun Marcum has struggled as of late. The goal here is to win the World Series, so with that in mind, having Yo for Game 1 is a must.

-I don’t want to see Ian Kennedy again. I think Yo is the better pitcher, but it’s pretty darn close. Kennedy certainly has the ability to out-duel Gallardo in one game. The Brewers face a vastly inferior pitcher tonight in Joe Saunders; this is their best shot.

-Even though the Brewers would probably be favored in Game 5 at home, anything can happen in one game. The Brewers are a better team than Arizona, and Yo is a great pitcher, but anything can happen in one game. The bullpen could blow it. The shaky defense could cough up the game. An umpire could blow a call. The Brewers need to win tonight to avoid putting themselves in a situation where something like that could cost them.

-For the sake of my personal mental and physical health, they need to win tonight. They cannot put me through a Game 5 after having a 2-0 lead. The rest of my week will be shot, as clearly I will be unable to focus on anything at all.

I do feel pretty good about tonight’s game. I felt okay yesterday, but as it got close to game time I started to worry about Marcum for whatever reason. Obviously, Josh Collmenter had pitched well against the Brewers, too.

Tonight is very different. Joe Saunders is absolutely not a good pitcher. He’s one of the worst qualified starters in the NL. Granted, Randy Wolf is not very good either, so it could be a shootout. Still, if the Brewers don’t get at least five runs tonight it would be a huge disappointment. Among qualified NL starters, Joe Saunders is exactly last in strikeout rate: it’s just 4.58 ks per 9 innings! He also walks more than Wolf and allows more home runs.

The Brewers need to jump on Saunders early and take the crowd out of the game. I have confidence they will get back to the good, disciplined at-bats they had in the first two games. It should be a new-look lineup tonight as well, with Carlos Gomez getting the start in center. It will be nice to have his defense.

Time to close out this series. Line up your rotation and enter the NLCS at full strength.

Randy Wolf: Tired Act

Posted by Steve

Randy Wolf has been okay I guess as a pitcher during his Brewer tenure, but that’s not what I want to discuss. He has really come off as a whiny prima donna this season, and it’s getting old.

He constantly takes issue with home plate umpires, walks off the mound before a call, etc. Today he hit a long foul ball and emphatically called for a replay–and the replay showed it was clearly foul. I’m not one to defend baseball’s lack of technology in umpiring, but showing up an ump as a player is a bad idea.

That’s not all that bad by itself, but when you couple it with his insistence on a “personal catcher,” it’s extremely annoying. I have no idea what Wolf’s problem with Jonathan Lucroy is, but he needs to grow up and stop hurting the team. How is he hurting the team, you ask? Because the last several times Wolf has pitched, he’s been opposed by a left-handed starter. Starting George Kottaras against a lefty is hurting the team. Lucroy should get every start against left-handed pitchers.

I’m also convinced that Wolf’s insistence on not working with Lucroy at least contributed to Wil Nieves being up as long as he was, although obviously there’s no way to prove that.

I’m annoyed that the Brewers are catering to Wolf’s every need, as well. Lucroy is going to be here a lot longer than Randy Wolf. Maybe they should be doing what’s best for him (and the team).

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.