Monthly Archives: November 2014

A pitch Khris Davis can’t hit

Khris Davis is a masher. He crushed pitching as a minor leaguer, and has boomed 33 home runs in 200 career games.

Now, I was leading the ‘I believe in Khris Davis‘ movement even before he surprised everyone during Spring Training in 2013, and I even had the opportunity to interview him last year. But despite my clear bias towards the man, Davis has a fault that pitchers took advantage of in 2014; he can’t hit the changeup.

The Milwaukee Brewers, as a team, weren’t thrown many changeups in 2014 but, according to Baseball Savant, Davis saw 225 of them alone, leading the club. The fastest changeup was 90 mph and the slowest was 74.2 mph. As the season wore on, pitchers began to figure out that the changeup was his Achilles’ heel, and they also discovered that they needed to pitch him down on the corners and out of the zone (see picture below).

Khris  Davis_img

They absolutely dominated Davis with low changeups and stayed away from leaving them up in the zone. With the aggressive nature of Davis, pitchers knew their changeup didn’t need to be a strike for him to take a whack at it, and he ended up whiffing at 25.3% of them.

Here’s a breakdown of what Davis did when we was thrown a change. Spoiler: It’s not pretty.

chart

He swung and missed more often than he put the ball in play, and managed only eight hits for a .131 average. Just five players had worse batting averages versus the change (minimum 50 ABs): Jason Kipnis (.098), Adam Dunn (.100), Brandon Moss (.101), Alex Avila (.115), and Brian Dozier (.122).

After all of this, I probably don’t need to tell you that Davis was worth -5 runs against the changeup, the 10th-worst mark in baseball among qualified hitters. However, with that being said, he was worth positive runs versus every other pitch, with the exception of the split-fingered fastball. The changeup seems to be the only pitch with which Davis has a real problem. Sure, he batted just .217 against the four-seam fastball, but he knocked 10 of them out of the park and garnered a .276 isolated power.

2015 will be a big year for Davis. He’s entering his age-27 season, and will most likely have to compete with Gerardo Parra for playing time. If he can’t be at least average with the changeup and if he continues going fishing out of the zone, pitchers will have a field day with him.

Carlos Gomez and capitalizing on opportunities

It’s been a long road to baseball prominence for Carlos Gomez. After bumming through two years with the New York Mets and one with the Minnesota Twins, the speedy outfielder finally found a home in Milwaukee. Even as a part-time player, Gomez showed improvement at the plate almost as soon as he put on a Brewers uniform. His wOBA has risen every season since, and he has gone from a 76 wRC+ player to creating 32% more runs than league average. We’re all aware that he’s become somewhat of a power hitter and has been able to draw more walks and get on base at a higher clip in recent years. Anyone who watches the Brewers can tell you that. But, one of the main reasons he’s a dominant threat at the plate is because he’s capitalizing in opportune moments.

When it comes to hitting, RE24, or run expectancy based on the 24 base-out states, attempts to quantify how well hitters capitalize on their opportunities. As you might have guessed, RE24 gives more credit for hits with runners on base than with the bases empty. Baserunners can also improve or diminish their RE24 by advancing on a wild pitch or stealing a base. This is one of my favorite statistics because it’s simple to understand and it’s a good way of measuring the context of  a player’s performance.

Because FanGraphs can explain this much more thoroughly than I am capable of, here’s an excerpt from its library:

Calculating RE24 for a specific play or game is extremely easy as long as you are working with the appropriate run expectancy matrix. A run expectancy matrix presents the expected number of runs scored between a given point and the end of an inning based on the overall run environment, the number of outs, and the placement of the baserunners. For example, in the RE matrix below (run environment set at 4.15 runs per game), the expected number of runs given a runner on first and no outs is 0.831 runs.

Runners 0 Outs 1 Out 2 Outs
Empty 0.461 0.243 0.095
1 _ _ 0.831 0.489 0.214
_ 2 _ 1.068 0.644 0.305
1 2 _ 1.373 0.908 0.343
_ _ 3 1.426 0.865 0.413
1 _ 3 1.798 1.140 0.471
_ 2 3 1.920 1.352 0.570
1 2 3 2.282 1.520 0.736

Unlike most sabermetric statistics, RE24 isn’t hard to calculate. Here’s more from FanGraphs:

To calculate the RE24 of a given plate appearance, simply take the run expectancy of the result of the play, subtract the run expectancy of the the starting state, and add in any runs scored during the play. For example, if the play started with a man on first and no outs there was an original run expectancy of 0.831. If the batter hits a single that results in the runner getting to third and the batter ending on first, the resulting run expectancy would be 1.798. Since no runs were scored on the play, you would simply do the following:

1.798 – 0.831 + 0 = 0.967 RE24

So, if Gomez was the hitter in the above scenario, he would be credited with 0.967 RE24. If he had failed to move the runner over, he would be docked -.342 RE24. A player with a 15.5 RE24 means he was about 15 runs better than the average player with the same amount of opportunities. Pretty simple, right?

Let’s get some perspective on this now. Mike Trout led MLB with a 64.54 RE24 in 2014, while Matt Dominguez‘s -34.96 was the league’s worst. Gomez, meanwhile, had a career high and baseball’s 33rd-best RE24 (25.43). His 34 stolen bases and baserunning skills surely helped, but he also hit considerably better with men on base (.313) than he did with no ducks on the pond (.268). And this may mean he’s not suitable for the leadoff position, but that’s something to look at at a different time.

Gomez’s year-by-year RE24 paints a pretty clear picture on how he’s improved as a hitter and how he’s been able to take advantage of the opportunities he’s faced.

Year Team RE24
2007 Mets -7.59
2008 Twins -17.26
2009 Twins -15.70
2010 Brewers -13.85
2011 Brewers -3.03
2012 Brewers 5.38
2013 Brewers 24.13
2014 Brewers 25.43

He went from being the runt of the litter to one of the strongest and healthiest. All he needed was the freedom to swing away and reliable playing time. Credit Ron Roenicke for giving him the green light and credit Gomez for earning a spot in the lineup.

Look at the table again and remind yourself that Gomez strikes out. A lot. And remember, a strikeout decreases run expectancy. So, despite the fact that Gomez struck out 141 times last season, he still managed to have one of the game’s best RE24 by not striking out with runners on base. When Gomez batted with the bases empty, his strikeout rate was 24.9%. With runners on, he was set down on strikes at a 16.8% rate. Basically, Gomez struck out at the perfect moments.

Gomez is just entering his prime, and even though RE24 is not a predictive stat, it’s still fair to assume his will continue to rise as it has since 2008.

Pick an outfielder: Khris Davis vs. Gerardo Parra

When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Gerardo Parra from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a July trade, Ron Roenicke assured us that Khris Davis wouldn’t lose much time in left field. And although it began that way, it was Parra, not Davis, who was being penciled into the lineup card more often towards the end of the season.

So the question has to be asked; who would you rather see in left field? The last time we played this game (Marco Estrada vs. Brandon Kintzler), Estrada was traded just a few days later, so maybe this is a bad idea. But oh well, let’s do it anyway.

The two outfielders bring different things to the table. If you want defense, Parra’s your man. If you covet over-the-fence power, Davis will get your vote.

We’ll start with Parra.

Parra is a six-year veteran who owns a career .313 wOBA and 90 wRC+. In other words, he’s nothing special as a hitter, but is still serviceable. Most of his value comes from his glove. He’s the owner of two Gold Glove awards (2011 and 2013), and has a 61.5 UZR as an outfielder, third-highest since 2009. In 2013, he was worth over four wins, but his value dramatically decreased in 2014, which made it easy for Arizona’s front office to ship him off.

In 440 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks last season, Parra posted -0.4 WAR. But as a Brewer, he was a completely different player. In only 134 plate appearances, Parra accumulated 0.5 WAR. I expect him to finish 2015 with a WAR around 1.0, but that obviously depends how much playing time he receives. If he even comes close to that, the Brewers will walk away from the trade victorious. Mitch Haniger, the player Milwaukee traded away, is at best a fifth or sixth outfielder, and doesn’t have much value.

Unlike Parra, Davis isn’t a great defender. He was better than expected in 2014 (3.1 UZR), but still nowhere near his counterpart’s ability. Instead, Davis is known for his pop. Last year, Davis told me that he likes being the team’s secret weapon, but after a year in which he hit 22 home runs and posted the highest ISO on the team, he’s no secret. Leading the team in isolated power is pretty impressive when you realize he beat out guys like Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun. Despite this, however, his on-base percentage (.299) and wRC+ (107) left a lot to be desired and are a bit worrisome. He only drew 32 walks and struck out at a 22% clip. Luckily, 2014 was just his first full big league season and he has time to progress. He exceeded people’s expectations. Who says he won’t do that again?

Platooning the two is also an option. As you can imagine, Davis doesn’t like hitting off righties and Parra loathes the thought of seeing a southpaw. If the Brewers choose to follow this route, Parra would see the majority of the playing time as most pitchers in the NL Central are right-handed. Personally, I’m not a fan of platoons, but sometimes it’s necessary (see Scooter Gennett).

Davis is still listed as the starting left fielder according to the Brewers’ official website, and I think that’s the right call. With Davis’ power ability, he needs to be in the lineup every day, and improvement should come from the 26 year old along with a better understanding of how the game is played. Parra is a great bat to have off the bench who will replace Davis in the late innings of close games. But if Davis continues to flounder when it comes to getting on base, Ron Roenicke may have to sacrifice his power and go with Parra.

It’s time for you to make a decision.

Please explain your MVP ballot, Tom Haudricourt

The Most Valuable Player award was given out last night to deserving candidates Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. There is really no argument that they weren’t the correct choices. But, when I began looking at how each writer voted, I was startled when I came across the ballot for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s own Brewers beat writer, Tom Haudricourt.

Haudricourt is no slouch with the pen. He was named Wisconsin Sports Writer of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and is obviously extremely knowledgeable about the Milwaukee Brewers. With that being said, however, I’m calling his 2014 MVP ballot into question.

Here’s how he voted:

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
5. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
6. Anthony Rendon, Washington
7. Buster Posey, San Francisco
8. Matt Holliday, St. Louis
9. Hunter Pence, San Francisco
10. Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh

I really have no problem with anyone on the list or how they were ordered. I mean, Matt Holliday would have been six miles away from my ballot, but I’m not going to argue about it. However, how Haudricourt gave Adrian Gonzalez a fourth-place vote is beyond me. How he voted for him ahead of Jonathan Lucroy is even more utterly ridiculous.

Gonzalez finished seventh overall in the MVP race, but Haudricourt gave him the highest nod. Here’s how many other votes Gonzalez received.

1st: 0 votes
2nd: 0 votes
3rd: 0 votes
4th: 1 vote
5th: 4 votes
6th: 2 votes
7th: 0 votes
8th: 3 votes
9th: 3 votes
10th: 1 vote

You can find the complete National League ballot here.

Haudricourt clearly overvalued Gonzalez, as 14 of the 30 writers didn’t even cast a vote for him. In Haudricourt’s explanation of his picks, he fails to even mention Lucroy or Gonzalez, so we really have no idea what he was thinking or where he was coming from. It left a lot to be desired. So, I’ll attempt to break it down a bit and to try to figure out what inspired Haudricourt to vote the way he did.

Gonzalez led MLB in runs batted in and was among the top 20 in home runs this past season. Those were probably the two leading factors that went into Haudricourt’s decision. And that’s where he went wrong. RBIs are relatively useless and don’t tell us much about the skill set of a player. For example, Ryan Howard racked up 95 RBI last season, and yet, finished with a negative WAR.

The silly thing is, Haudricourt didn’t even need to use a sabermetric stat to come to the realization that Gonzalez wasn’t worthy of an MVP vote. Gonzalez’s on-base percentage of .335 just barely placed him in the top 70. Does that sound MVP-worthy to you?

But it’s not that Haudricourt voted for Gonzalez that grinds my gears, it’s the fact that he thought Gonzalez had a better season than Lucroy. There is honestly no argument that can be made defending that. Lucroy received one second-place vote (from FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron), 13 fourth-place votes and six fifth-place votes, among a few others. Only two ludicrous writers left him off their ballots. What I’m trying to say is, almost every writer valued Lucroy over Gonzalez, except Haudricourt.

Now, I understand Haudricourt isn’t sabermetric-savvy, so he probably doesn’t care about pitch framing. And that’s too bad, because that’s where a lot of Lucroy’s value comes from. According to StatCorner, he saved 22 runs by expanding the strike zone for his pitcher.

But let’s look solely at hitting. Based on this table, try to figure out who had the better season.

wOBA wRC+ OBP BB% K%
Jonathan Lucroy .368 133 .373 10.1% 10.8%
Adrian Gonzalez .351 128 .335 8.5% 17.0%

Lucroy wins hands down. To even further Lucroy’s cause, he and Gonzalez had almost an identical amount of plate appearances. Did I mention that Lucroy is a catcher?

Not much more needs to be said on the matter. It’s a shame Lucroy was robbed by Haudricourt. He deserved better from his beat writer, fair and simple.

Was the Brewers bench as bad as it seemed?

Throughout the entire 2014 season, I was critical of the Milwaukee Brewers bench. Not the actual bench the players sit on, but the players who are classified as bench warmers. Aside from Rickie Weeks and Lyle Overbay, both part-time starters, I felt the team had no real hitters behind the regulars. This was before I ever looked at the statistics. This was merely based on the eye test. But a few days ago I decided to take a closer look and to see if my eye was on point.

The Brewers accumulated 47 pinch hits last season, which was the seventh-most in baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates led with 61. But while they were among the top 10 in pinch hits, their .222 average was around the middle of the pack. Still, they were five points over the league average of .217.

Here’s a breakdown of who those 47 pinch-hits came from.

  • Rickie Weeks: 14 (.250)
  • Lyle Overbay: 11 (.323)

There were seven players with one.

Take away Weeks and Overbay, and the Brewers hit .180 (22-for-122) when pinch hitting. Without them, there was really no one who an opposing pitcher had to worry about. Khris Davis was 0-for-11 as a pinch hitter, and his outfield partner, Gerardo Parra, was 1-for-8. . Those are extremely small sample sizes, but with pinch hitters, that’s what you have to expect. Based on this, my eye test passed.

Now, instead of judging the Brewers pinch-hitting capabilities on their batting average, let’s look at their wOBA and OBP in order to get a more accurate picture of how they fared. Note: I’m only using the players I listed above.

PH PA PH wOBA PH OBP
Rickie Weeks 67 .319 .373
Lyle Overbay 40 .399 .425
Scooter Gennett 22 .253 .318
Logan Schafer 17 .165 .250
Mark Reynolds 16 .376 .375
Elian Herrera 15 .145 .133
Jeff Bianchi 9 .396 .444
Average .293 .331

Weeks, Overbay and Reynolds were clearly the best bats off the bench for the Brewers. Bianchi could have been one, but an injury derailed his season. Meanwhile, Gennett really struggled off the pine, Schafer was useless and Herrera added absolutely no value. They just didn’t get the job done.

Going back to my eye test, the Brewers performed better than I originally thought. Their on-base percentage and wOBA, which says a heck of a lot more than batting average, was admirable. It probably could have been even better if Roenicke utilized his bench in a more reasonable way. Some of the decisions he made were head-scratchers, but you can say that about any manager.

The scary thing is, the best pinch hitters that Milwaukee had in 2014 will be gone next season, and the worst will most likely remain on the roster unless Doug Melvin is able to scrounge up better hitters. Having Parra on the team for an entire season will definitely help, but if Herrera and Schafer return to the bench, the Brewers might as well have the pitchers hit for themselves.

Strikeouts, walks and Jonathan Lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy will get some MVP votes and he should have won a Gold Glove in 2014, but this is apparently Yadier Molina‘s world and we all suffer live in it. That is Major League Baseball’s official slogan, is it not? Nevertheless, I don’t really want to get into a ring and duke it out with a Cardinals fan, so I’m going to stop my sarcastic tone right now…at least during this post.

What I’m trying to say is Lucroy is a heck of a ballplayer. He’s improved in almost every season, and part of that has been because he’s been able to stay healthy. Since his wife dropped a suitcase on his hand in 2012, he’s played in 300 out of 324 possible regular season games over the last two years. That’s crazy for a position player, but for a catcher, that’s certifiably insane.

But let’s get back to his improvement, particularly when it comes to strikeouts and walks.

G BB% K% OBP
2010 75 6.1% 14.8% .300
2011 136 6.2% 21.2% .313
2012 96 6.4% 12.7% .368
2013 147 7.9% 11.9% .340
2014 153 10.1% 10.8% .373

Each season, Lucroy has drawn more walks than the last, and has reduced his strikeouts since 2011. He’s doesn’t swing at pitches outside of the strike zone nearly as often and has even taken more strikes in the zone.

Lucroy saw 2,551 pitches last season. Of the 146 hitters who qualified, only 27 saw more and none of them were catchers. However, that’s a bit of an unfair assessment because no catcher came even close to the number of plate appearances Lucroy racked up. So, because Lucroy’s being more selective at the plate, his on-base percentage has skyrocketed and he ended up with top 20 finish in the OBP race in 2014 (is that even a thing?).

The 28-year-old catcher has also stopped swinging and missing. Just like his BB%, his whiff rate has fallen each year in the bigs. With that being said, though, when Lucroy does strike out, he does so on a pitch he misses on. He struck out 71 times last season and 46 of those were on swinging strikes. But that just means his eye at the plate is fantastic.

There’s so much more I can say about the man, but that’s for another time. And I’m sure if Lucroy continues to decrease his strikeout rate and increase his walks, I’ll be right back here next year writing about the same thing. I’ll try and think of a better title, though.

Is Aramis Ramirez’s power gone?

Aramis Ramirez, who will turn 37 in June, will make $14 million in 2015. Aramis Ramirez, whose isolated power has dropped each of the last three years, will make $14 million in 2015. Aramis Ramirez, who has missed a combined 99 games since 2012, will make $14 million in 2015.

Think about those statements before you continue reading.

Now, this isn’t a post about how the Milwaukee Brewers are overpaying Ramirez. I already sang that song about Yovani Gallardo, and I don’t like repeating myself (just ask my girlfriend). I just wanted you, the reader, to know that Ramirez is making that much money at that age even though his power has disappeared.

Instead of the usual table I present to get my point across, here’s a bar graph.

isolated

Clearly, his ability to hit for extra base hits is dissipating with age. But what about his home runs? Here comes another table.

Year Games HR
2012 149 27
2013 92 12
2014 133 15

Even though Ramirez played 41 more games in 2014 than 2013, he only managed to hit three additional dingers. A reason for Ramirez’s lack of power in 2014 was his uncharacteristic poor patience at the plate. He whiffed at his highest rate since 2003 and swung at 39.5% of pitches outside of the strike zone (his career O-Swing% is 29.7%). By swinging at non-strikes, Ramirez put himself in a hole and therefore, struggled to produce. He only manufactured nine percent more runs (109 wRC+) than league average; not exactly what you expect from a cleanup hitter.

So, what can we expect from him next year? Steamer projection system is anticipating Ramirez will hit 17 home runs and have an ISO of .164 in 122 games. But I must say, if he’s only going to be playing in 122 games, there’s no way he’s going to hit north of 15 homers.

I’ll be running out my own projections when spring training comes around, but I’ll take a swing at Ramirez’s now. If he’s able to play 130+ games (which is doubtful at his age), I think he’ll hit 15 home runs and post a .330 wOBA, 110 wRC+ and .155 ISO. His days of hitting 20+ home runs are over, especially if he keeps chasing pitches.

This may be Ramirez’s last year as a professional baseball player and is surely his last year in Milwaukee. Here’s to hoping he exceeds expectations, but don’t put any money on it.

A plea to Adam McCalvy: Start using sabermetrics

I hope most of you already know who Adam McCalvy is, but if not, here’s a little background. He covers the Milwaukee Brewers for MLB.com and is a fantastic follow on Twitter. And that’s about it. Well, there’s actually probably a lot more to him, but I don’t want to bore you. No offense, Adam.

But on a more serious note, he’s a top-notch writer. However, he does have one glaring flaw; he fails to use advanced statistics in his articles. Now, we can’t place full blame on McCalvy for this. Sabermetrics is still a relatively new theory and people question the audience for it, so maybe McCalvy’s bosses want him to shy away from metrics and use well-known stats like pitcher wins and batting average to get his point across. On the other hand, maybe McCalvy is weary of the sabermetric movement, and chooses to ignore it. To be honest, I really don’t know, but he did tweet this earlier in the year:

Before I go any further, I must reiterate that I’m not trying to criticize McCalvy’s work or call his credibility into question. Brewers fans should feel lucky to read his stuff every day, as he is great at educating and entertaining.

Back to the tweet. McCalvy acknowledges that Quality Starts are flawed, but then uses the statistic anyway to make a point. A start  is considered quality when a pitcher throws at least six innings and gives up no more than three runs. That translates to a 4.50 ERA, which never should be considered quality. Therefore, Quality Starts, or at least how they’re defined, are completely useless. He also uses wins when it comes to talking about a pitcher’s performance, but then again, almost every other beat writer does so as well.

McCalvy, along with the rest of baseball media, should consider using sabermetrics in his blogs. I can just see it now; Adam McCalvy: A Sabermatician. Sabermetrics is growing more and more popular by the day and site’s dedicated to advanced metrics, like FanGraphs and Beyond the Box Score, are thriving. We don’t want to see McCalvy get lost in the shuffle from his inability to adapt. We are already too accustomed to that as Brewers fans.

The three statistics I would like McCalvy to start incorporating are wOBA, wRC+ and FIP. None of those are difficult to explain and even the old school guys would be able to wrap their head around it. By doing this, McCalvy would not only give his readers a better understanding of how a player is performing, but he’d sound smarter. And everyone wants to sound smarter.

I’m pleading to McCalvy because I don’t think there’s a chance in a unicorn’s horn that Tom Haudricourt would take up arms in the sabermetrics movement. I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed. At least I have a small chance of convincing McCalvy (I think).

So please, Adam, give more insight to your readers and jump into the world of awesome statistics. The people will love you for it. I know I will.

 

 

Jeremy Jeffress is MLB’s next lights-out closer

Doug Melvin should be given an award or at least a major pay raise for a move he made back in April.

The Milwaukee Brewers general manager went out and signed reliever Jeremy Jeffress just a few weeks after he daringly elected his free agency from the Toronto Blue Jays. Jeffress, of course, was a first round draft pick by Milwaukee in 2006, but after multiple suspensions over marijuana use, was traded to the Kansas City Royals.

But enough with the history lesson. The point is, Jeremy Jeffress is destined to be the next big name in Major League Baseball’s bullpen.

If Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t return to the Brewers, which is likely, it’s fair to assume Jonathan Broxton will be the ninth-inning man in 2015. That gives Jeffress one more year to hone his skills before potentially being named closer. Jeffress should assume setup duties this year, a role in which he was used in from time to time last season. Jim Henderson is coming off shoulder surgery and it’s still unknown when he’ll be ready to pitch. That opens the door for Jeffress. If Jeffress can take the next step forward, 2016 will eventually be coined “The Year of Jeffress”.

Jeffress appeared in 29 games with the Brewers in 2014, and flashed a 1.88 ERA, 2.57 FIP and 2.59 xFIP. He struck out 21.9% of batters and had a phenomenal strand rate (85.9%).However, his strand rate is one of the reasons why we might see a bit of a regression from him next year; league average left on base percentage was 73.9% among relievers. But even if Jeffress does take a little backslide, there’s no reason to think it’ll be damning enough to halt his success.

As is typical with the closer position, teams covet a closer who can hit mid-to-upper 90s on the radar gun. Using a hard-throwing pitcher for just one inning makes it tough on hitters as they have no time to make adjustments. According to Brooks Baseball, Jeffress’ sinker, which he threw 345 times in 2014, averaged 97.3 mph. FanGraphs has it averaging 96.6 mph, but that’s just semantics. Either way, nobody in Milwaukee’s bullpen threw harder than Jeffress.

Batters did, however, hit .325 off Jeffress’ sinker, but only accumulated a .048 ISO against it. In other words, Jeffress allowed 23 singles but only four doubles. He needs to limit baserunners, yes, but singles aren’t going to kill him. Besides, he allowed a relatively high .321 BABIP, which should shrink somewhat next season. Another reason why this isn’t worrisome is because he forced a heck ton of ground balls (61.5 GB%), and a lot of those went through for hits meaning it was simply bad luck and/or he had poor defense behind him. The Brewers seemed to fault the defense as they fired first base coach Garth Iorg, who also served as the infield coach.

An underrated part of Jeffress’ repertoire is his curveball, which he uses to keep hitters off balance. He threw his curve 105 times in 2014 and allowed just two singles. Here’s his curveball in action, striking out Buster Posey.

Jeffress

Jeffress has the ability to be one of the game’s best closers. He gets ground balls, keeps the ball in the yard and can rack up the strikeouts with his blazing sinker or nasty curve.

The best thing about him for the Brewers right now is that he’s cheap, but if he pitches like I think he will, Jeffress will command a lot more in just a short while.

Is Yovani Gallardo really worth $13 million?

The Milwaukee Brewers exercised Yovani Gallardo‘s club option, meaning the starting pitcher will be back in 2015. But is he really worth the $13 million the Brewers will be paying him?

In order to answer this question, let’s first take a look at his last four seasons.

Year ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2011 3.52 3.59 3.19 3.2
2012 3.66 3.94 3.55 2.5
2013 4.18 3.89 3.74 1.8
2014 3.51 3.94 3.64 1.7
Average 3.72 3.84 3.53 2.3

At 28 years old, Gallardo should be entering the prime of his career. However, in terms of Wins Above Replacement, he hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in 2011 and 2012. Since 2011, he’s averaging 2.3 WAR a year, but a 9.2 total WAR. How does he compare with other qualified starting pitchers during that time period?

MLB Rank
ERA 53rd
FIP 65th
xFIP 29th
WAR 45th

At one point in time, Gallardo was in the “ace” discussion, but that conversation has long been put to bed. He ranks in the top 30 in only one of the major pitching categories since 2011, yet the Brewers value him as a $13 million pitcher.

To find out if he’s overpaid, I took five pitchers who are just above Gallardo in WAR since 2011, and looked at how much money they’re going to make in 2015. However, I only looked at players with guaranteed contracts to make things easier, and I also excluded Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza because if the Brewers truly are overpaying Gallardo, they might be overpaying them too.  Here’s what I found:

 

Yovani Gallardo: 9.2 WAR, $13 million

Ricky Nolasco: 9.8 WAR, $12 million

Dan Haren: 10.1 WAR, $10 million

Phil Hughes: 10.5 WAR, $8 million

Jose Quintana: 10.6 WAR, $3.6 million

R.A. Dickey: 10.8 WAR, $12 million

 

Gallardo is getting the most money while being worth the fewest number of wins. He’s even making more money than R.A. Dickey, a former Cy Young Award winner. Granted, he’s old, but still. Phil Hughes, who is earning $5 million less than Gallardo, is just a few months younger and has a higher WAR. Based on just this, the Brewers are overvaluing Gallardo. Steamer projection system says he’ll be a 1.6 WAR pitcher in 2015, and by no means is that worth $13 million.

Picking up his option was the expected move, even with the prospect of Jimmy Nelson taking his place. But the Brewers clearly weren’t satisfied with what Nelson did in limited action last season.

If Milwaukee isn’t going to trade Gallardo, it will be $13 million down the drain. The Brewers are paying him for what he’s done in the past, not what he’s going to do in the future. He’s shown no signs of improving, and odds are, 2015 will be Gallardo’s last season in Milwaukee (he’ll demand too much in free agency). It’d be smart if the Brewers would try and move him and get something in return instead of just letting him walk.