Thursday, July 12, 2012

First-half grades - pitchers

The Brewers pitching staff has had an odd season. The starting rotation got off to a rough start while the bullpen was passable, and as the season went on the rotation improved while the bullpen fell off of a cliff. The team has basically lived and died by the performance of the pitching staff and I'll be honest, a lot of these guys are tough to grade. Irredisregardless, I'll give it a shot.


Zack Greinke - 19 starts, 9-3 (W-L), 111 IP, 9.00 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 3.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.6 WAR
Greinke has really had a great half-season for the Brewers. I don't really know what else to add to that. He had a couple poor starts against the Cubs and Diamondbacks where he was basically singled to death, but has otherwise pitched like an ace and is really fun to watch on top of that. He's got a decent shot at the Cy Young award if he keeps this up. Grade: A-

Yovani Gallardo - 18 starts, 7-6, 108.1 IP, 8.89 K/9, 4.15 BB/9, 3.74 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 1.2 WAR
There were a lot of high hopes for Gallardo coming into the season, and some had him pegged as a dark-horse Cy Young candidate. Fast-forward to halfway through the season, and Yovani is, well....still Yovani.  And frankly, that's fine. He's still inefficient, still gives up too many home runs, and still gets pounded by the Cardinals, but he's a solid #2 starter and realistically that's what we should expect from him. Many thought he had turned a corner last year by drastically lowering his walk rate, but at this point that seems to have been a mirage. Grade: B-

Shaun Marcum - 13 starts, 5-3, 82.1 IP, 8.42 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 3.39 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1.1 WAR
Marcum was the Brewers' most consistent starter last season, and was well on his way to another solid year when elbow soreness landed him on the DL. Initially slated to return after the All-Star break, Marcum's elbow is still giving him trouble, which is a major concern for a guy who's already had Tommy John surgery once in his career. Grade: B-

Chris Narveson - 2 starts, 1-1, 9 IP, 5.00 K/9, 4.00 BB/9, 7.00 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, -0.1 WAR
Made only two starts (one good, one bad) before a torn rotator cuff injury ended his season. When healthy, he's one of the best #5 starters in baseball. Grade: Incomplete

Randy Wolf - 19 games (18 starts), 2-6, 99.1 IP, 5.89 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 5.80 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 0.4 WAR
Wolf has been something of a FIP buster during his time with the Brewers, a guy who puts up a better ERA than his peripheral numbers suggest. But it's all come crashing down this season, and Wolf has been an unmitigated disaster. He's done just about everything poorly, and watching him pitch feels kind of like shoving pencils into my eye sockets. He has an affinity for throwing up and in to righties, but he can't hit that spot for strikes, so he falls behind and then has to throw meatballs just to get into the count. Glancing at his game log, he's had four good starts; three combined against the awful Cubs and Astros, and one against the mediocre Royals. While there's some evidence he's been unlucky (.332 BABIP), he's simply not throwing the quality strikes that he had been the previous two seasons. His starting job is probably safe no matter what, but the Marcum injury assures that he will have no choice but to figure it out in the rotation. Grade: D

Marco Estrada - 14 games (8 starts), 0-3, 51 IP, 9.71 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 4.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 0.3 WAR
Estrada has had tremendous value to the Brewers the last two years, bouncing back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen and pitching reasonably well in both roles. He took over for the injured Narveson early in the season, and has been a pleasant surprise. He's done a great job getting ahead of hitters and mixing his pitches, though he sometimes pays for his zone-pounding ways in the form of home runs. His most memorable performance was his 12 strikeout performance against the Reds, and aside from a brief DL stint has been pretty reliable all season. A nice second half should cement a starting role for him in 2013.
Grade: C+

Michael Fiers - 8 games (7 starts), 3-3, 46.2 IP, 9.64 K/9, 1.74 BB/9, 2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 1.7 WAR
Something of an afterthought coming into the season, Fiers came up and seized a rotation spot by pitching like madman through his first seven starts. His numbers are eerily similar to Estrada's, the difference being Fiers has kept the ball in the park. Like Estrada, he has kind of a "meh" fastball, but his off-speed stuff is pretty great and he's worked the corners of the strike zone better than anyone could have hoped. He's also similar to Estrada in that he's an extreme flyball pitcher who'll spend a lot of time in Miller Park, so some regression is likely coming, but seeing as he doesn't walk anybody I don't foresee him being firebombed often. Fiers is probably a #4 starter long-term, but his performance thus far is impressive and has really saved the Brewers' bacon. Grade: B+

Tyler Thornburg - 1 start, 0-0, 5.1 IP, 3.38 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 8.44 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, -0.3 WAR
Called up for a spot start against Toronto, Thornburg cruised through his big-league debut until the 6th inning, when he served up three consecutive home runs, chasing him from the game. In fairness, the homers were hit by the powerful trio of Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, so it's a bit harsh to judge him from just this start (though he's likely a reliever long-term). We'll probably see Tyler again in September after the All-Star break. Grade: Incomplete


Wily Peralta - 1 game, 0-0, 1 IP, 9.00 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 9.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 0.0 WAR
The consensus top prospect in the Brewers system to start the year, Peralta has struggled with his control in the minors, keeping him from seizing a rotation spot for the big league club. Made one relief appearance during a brief call-up in April, and was immediately sent back down. Peralta seems to have turned his season around in AAA, and will almost certainly be the first guy up if an injury/trade occurs. Grade: Incomplete

Mike McClendon - 4 games, 0-0, 8 IP, 4.50 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 6.75 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, 0.0 WAR
McClendon has bounced back and forth between the Brewers and the AAA club the last few years, and until this year had pitched reasonably well. But there's a reason why he's never stuck around long, and that reason is that he's not very good. A pure deception guy with a goofy delivery that he changes from pitch to pitch, it can get ugly when a team figures him out. His four appearances this year a largely forgettable. 
Grade: F

Livan Hernandez - 6 games, 1-0, 8.1 IP, 9.72 K/9, 1.08 BB/9, 6.48 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, -0.2 WAR
Claimed off of waivers from Atlanta, Livan is fat, old, kinda fun to watch, and just about done as a major leaguer. He's passable as a long reliever (or Jabba the Hut doppelgänger), which is hopefully where he'll stay until someone better is found (Seth McClung?). Grade: D+

Vinnie Chulk - 7 games, 1-0, 9 IP, 10.00 K/9, 4.00 BB/9, 10.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, 0.2 WAR
In and out of the majors since 2003, Chulk was an absolute apocalypse during his brief tenure with the Brewers. Words cannot describe how truly awful he was. Basically a mop-up guy, he was scorched (a remarkable 36.4 line drive % allowed) in all but three appearances, one of them being an important scoreless two-inning outing in an extra-inning win over the Cubs where he was the last man available to pitch. Sadly, that outing was a red herring. Grade: F

Juan Perez - 10 games, 0-1, 7 IP, 12.86 K/9, 10.29 BB/9, 5.14 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, -0.3 WAR
Was up for about a month and did typical crappy LOOGY things. Lots of strikeouts and walks, not really good enough to stick. Grade: D-

Tim Dillard - 34 games, 0-2, 37 IP, 7.05 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 4.38 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 0.1 WAR
Dillard has gained something of a cult following due to his funky sidearm delivery, hat tilt, sideburns, killer Tim Kurkjian impersonation, and that one time he wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one out jam. But the Legend of Tim Dillard is fading; he should only be facing right handed batters due to his ROOGY ways, but as the season's worn on righties have been hitting the ball harder and harder off of him. His numbers aren't awful and he has some uses but with Kameron Loe around, he's kind of redundant. Grade: D

John Axford - 36 games, 2-5 (15 saves), 34.1 IP, 12.84 K/9, 4.98 BB/9, 4.72 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 0.2 WAR
The struggles of John Axford have been well-documented. The walks and home runs allowed have skyrocketed this season, and that's a deadly combination. There are some signs that he may have been a bit unlucky, but it's still pretty embarrassing that guys like Clint Barmes and Gaby Sanchez are hitting bombs off of him. There's still plenty of time to turn it around, but the first half of 2012 was a largely forgettable one for the Ax-man. Grade: C-

Manny Parra - 36 games, 1-3, 39 IP, 9.92 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 4.38 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 0.8 WAR
At the beginning of the season, I was excited at the thought of Parra as a reliever. His control issues coupled with an inability to get through a batting order multiple times prevented him from reaching his potential as a starter, but those problems would be minimized in the bullpen. He could just crank it up for an inning or two and not have to worry about batters figuring him out. Unfortunately, Parra's struggles followed him to his relief role. His walks and home runs allowed have gone down along with his ground ball % going up (all good things), but he still falls behind hitters far too often, leading him to groove hittable pitches that batters are smoking for line drives. He has improved against left-handed hitters (he was a reverse platoon split guy coming into this season) and he strung together some nice outings coming into the break, so there's still hope he can be a valuable member of the bullpen in the second half. Grade: C-

Kameron Loe - 37 games, 4-2, 38.2 IP, 6.52 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, 3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 0.0 WAR
Kam does two things well; get ground balls and slay right-handed batters. He hasn't done those things quite as well this season as he has in the past, but he's still a really nice guy to have around. Used heavily the first couple months of the season, he has trouble locating his bowling ball of a sinker when he's tired, which turns those ground balls into line drives. The usage pattern combined with his skill set and his willingness to do the dirty work can lead to wild ERA fluctuations during a season, but when he's right, he's one of the more reliable arms in the bullpen. Grade: C

Jose Veras - 40 games, 3-3, 37 IP, 9.97 K/9, 6.08 BB/9, 4.62 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 0.0 WAR

Francisco Rodriguez - 42 games, 1-4, 38.2 IP, 7.91 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 3.96 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, -0.1 WAR
Like Axford, K-Rod hasn't been able to follow up his stellar 2011 campaign. Home runs have been a huge problem, and his ability to generate swings-and-misses has faded. He's also giving up more walks and line drives, and he's not even been all that unlucky; a .318 BABIP allowed, which is above league average but not outrageous. All these things put together reveal a pitcher with eroding skills, and it's been costing the Brewers in close games. Grade: C-

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