Tag Archives: Zach Braddock

The forgotten pitchers

Posted by Steve

Despite the return of Francisco Rodriguez, I have my doubts that the Brewers’ bullpen will be as good as it was last year. Takashi Saito will certainly be missed, and so will LaTroy Hawkins. In fact, the Brewers are entering Spring Training with only four short relievers who had big league success last season (Axford, K-Rod, Loe, Veras).

This of course means they will need a lot of contribution from guys who didn’t play a role last year. Notice I didn’t necessarily say new pitchers, though. That’s because it’s quite likely that most of that production will be filled by old faces–the likes of Manny Parra, Zach Braddock, Mark Rogers, and Brandon Kintzler. Parra, Rogers, and Kintzler are all coming off surgeries that cost them much or all of 2011, and Braddock is attempting to bounce back from some sleep/personal issues. The (very) early report on all of them is pretty good.

The fact that Rogers, a guy plagued with one injury after another over his career, is even throwing and feeling okay is good news. The former high first round pick is out of options, which means he’ll need to make the team this season. It seems the surgery he had last season for carpal tunnel syndrome was somewhat responsible for his sometimes high walk total, if you believe what Rogers says. If that’s the case, I feel pretty good about Rogers’ chances of becoming a good reliever. He still has great stuff, even after all this time, and I hope the Brewers give him a real shot in the pen. He will miss the first eight games of the season, however, as he finishes a 25-game suspension for a banned supplement. Seems the Brewers can’t get away from that stuff.

Another former starter who will need to be turned reliever is Manny Parra. Parra missed all of last year with shoulder surgery, but it sounds like he’s 100% this Spring. Parra and Rogers are very similar: missed last year due to surgery, former starter, and out of options. For this reason, I consider Parra all but a lock to make the team. If you remember, his last couple years he was being yanked around between starting and relieving, which yielded mixed results. Perhaps finally entering the year with a clear role will be beneficial for him.

Then there’s Zach Braddock, who not very long ago was my favorite Brewers prospect. Braddock had electric stuff, especially for a lefty, coming up through the system and into his rookie year. Then came 2011, which was a mess. Braddock battled off-field issues (which are fruitless to speculate on, in my opinion) that pretty much threw out his entire season. Reading his quotes yesterday, he sounds to me like he’s feeling great and throwing the ball well too. The Brewers basically went all of last season without a lefty reliever. Now it seems like they could have two power lefties out of the bullpen if things go well with Braddock and Parra.

Lastly, there’s Brandon Kintzler. He threw 14 strong innings before falling to injury himself last season. In 2010, he had a phenomenal year between AA and AAA. I expect him to play a role in the bullpen this season, even if he doesn’t make the big league team immediately.

Obviously, the Brewers can’t bank on all four of these pitchers have successful seasons, but if they got strong performances from even two of them, it would go a long way toward matching the production of last year’s bullpen, a huge strength of the team. You figure the locks for the pen are Axford, K-Rod, Veras, Loe, and Marco Estrada (although I’m not personally convinced Estrada should be a lock). That leaves two spots for the four I’ve mentioned, with Rogers being eliminated because of his suspension to start the season. Due to the fact that Parra has no options, I expect him to make the team. That means Kintzler, Braddock, or others such as Frankie de la Cruz, Mike McClendon or Tim Dillard will likely battle it out for one spot. Due to the nature of the long season/inevitable injuries, though, I expect to see most, if not all of these players in Milwaukee at some point in the season.

 

How to Misread Numbers 101

Posted by Steve

The Brewers almost got burned by Joey Votto/Jay Bruce again, and it was because Ron Roenicke is still clueless when it comes to bullpen management.

Sure, I’d be shredding Roenicke if the Brewers had lost. It doesn’t mean that just because it (barely) worked out, it wasn’t the wrong decision. So, I shred anyway. I’m nothing if not consistent.

In the eighth inning, the Reds were sending Votto, Brandon Phillips and Bruce to the plate. To any manager, that would call for a left-handed pitcher. To a manager who had been burned by Votto launching a mammoth home run off a righty reliever late in a game already this season, it would scream at the top of his lungs for a left-handed pitcher.

Old Runnin’ Ron isn’t any old manager, though. Here was the reasoning from last night’s JS article on using Hawkins that inning instead of Zach Braddock.

“It was a matchup for ‘Hawk,’ ” manager Ron Roenicke said. “If we would have done it a little different, it probably would have been (lefty Zach) Braddock.”

Hawkins entered the game as something of an anomaly, limiting lefties to a .162 average.

Oh my Yost, this is incredible. Hawkins this season, for whatever reason, is holding lefties to a .382 OPS. Alarmingly impressive, right? Sure, until you realize lefties have had exactly 38 plate appearances against him. That sample size is virtually meaningless. Let’s look at the career numbers, which span 17 seasons and 2,591 PAs: .809 OPS against. That clearly indicates that this season is an anomaly.

Meanwhile, lefties have a .489 OPS against Braddock (!) over his career. Yes, his career spans just parts of two seasons and 95 plate appearances against lefties, but his minor league numbers show the same thing. Plus, he’s actually lefty, and lefties are generally, you know, better against left-handed hitters.

I’m actually unsure whether to be encouraged or discouraged by this. On one hand, we know Roenicke actually is using splits. For a while, it was difficult to even tell whether he was. On the other hand, he’s using the numbers so incorrectly that it isn’t even helping. That’s now twice late in close games against the team expected to battle the Brewers for the division that Roenicke has misread splits and sent the wrong pitcher to face the best left-handed hitter in the game.

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.

Looking back at the 2005 Draft

Posted by Steve

The draft is just a few days away, so I’ve been reading up on draft stuff.  Along the way I looked back at the 2005 draft, which could go down as one of the greatest drafts in MLB history, at least as far as first rounds are concerned.  The 2005 Draft was probably the most I’ve ever followed a draft.  I remember watching it online, praying there was some way Alex Gordon might fall to the Brewers at number five.  Pretty funny to think about now, considering Braun should go down as the best or second best player from this draft.  Here’s a glance at some of the players taken in the first round.

1.  Justin Upton

2. Alex Gordon

3. Jeff Clement

4. Ryan Zimmerman

5. Ryan Braun

Might as well pause right here for a minute.  Wow, look at that top five!  It seems likely that at least three of those players will be/are superstars.  Braun is already there.  If Zimmerman isn’t, he should be soon–I’d choose him as the starting NL third baseman.  Justin Upton is having his breakout season and is still only 21–he could be a transcendent hitter.  Alex Gordon is the only one you could call mildly disappointing, and he still seems like he’ll be a good hitter.  Jeff Clement is still Seattle’s number one prospect and was Baseball America’s number 48 prospect in baseball.  He’s owning AAA.  I imagine he’ll be up in Seattle this season.  

That’s an outstanding top five, but take a look at the other good/useful players to come out of the first round.

6. Ricky Romero

7. Troy Tulowitzki

9. Michael Pelfrey

10. Cameron Maybin

11. Andrew McCutchen

12. Jay Bruce

13. Brandon Snyder (Blowing up in AA this year)

15. Lance Broadway

16. Chris Volstad

21. Cliff Pennington

23. Jacoby Ellsbury

25. Matt Garza

27. Joey Devine

That’s 18 players right there, and there are a few more who could still regain prospect status or become solid big leaguers.    That’s pretty incredible.

Aside from being a great first round for MLB, it was undoubtedly an A+ for Jack Z and the Brewers.  Take a look at the players the Brewers drafted in 2005.  Keep in mind GMs and scouting directors often say a successful draft is one that yields one good MLB player, and anything more than two is considered a great draft.

Round 1: Ryan Braun

What more to say here?  Braun will be an MVP candidate the next several years.  The Brewers lucked out a bit here.  If the 2005 draft was re-picked, Braun would probably be the first pick overall, so having him fall to fifth was fortunate.  It’s also unlikely that the Brewers would have taken him with the top pick at the time, so like I said, luck had a hand it it.

Round 3 (No round 2 choice): Will Inman

Interesting that Will Inman has plateaued since being traded to the Padres for Scott Linebrink.  While Linebrink wasn’t anything great, he brought two comp picks.  You could argue the Brewers traded Inman at the perfect time, as his value was peaked as the Brewers number two pitching prospect behind Yo Gallardo at the time of the trade.

Round 4: Mat Gamel

Brewerfan Power 50 Ranking: 1

Pretty incredible that the Brewers could get Mat Gamel and Ryan Braun in the same draft.  Regardless of his position, Gamel will be an impact hitter.

Round 7: Michael Brantley

Brantley was another great pick.  He profiled as a future leadoff hitter for the Brewers before being included as the second big piece in the CC Sabathia deal.  He was a top 10 prospect in the Brewers’ system at the time of the trade.

Round 8: Jemile Weeks

It’s too bad they couldn’t get Rickie’s little brother signed, but as far as talent, they got great value in this pick.  Weeks played college ball at Miami for three years and turned himself into a first round pick for Oakland last year.

Round 18: Zach Braddock

Brewerfan Power 50 Ranking: 10

Braddock is the number two pitching prospect in the Brewers’ system, and the way things are going for Jeffress this season, Braddock might move up to number one pretty soon.  He’s been limited to only 12 and a third innings this season, but he has 22 strikeouts and two walks.

Round 25: Taylor Green

Brewerfan Power 50 Ranking: 8

Cleveland had the choice of either Brantley or Green as the PTBNL in the Sabathia trade, and they chose Brantley.  Green would have been equally tough to lose.  He doesn’t have a ton of power, but he is a good contact hitter with a patient eye.  He will very likely be a major leaguer.

That’s seven players who either seem likely to be solid major leaguers (and obviously more in some cases) or helped the Brewers add value in a trade.  Pretty amazing.