Monthly Archives: April 2017

Has Chase Anderson figured it out?

As of April 25, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Chase Anderson owns the lowest ERA among qualified pitchers in the National League. I don’t know what part of that is more strange; the fact that a Brewers’ pitcher has been that dominant or that it’s Chase Anderson — a 3.8 WAR player over 442.2 innings. And we can’t forget that Anderson was on the outside looking in in terms of the starting rotation during spring training, and he himself believes he wouldn’t be among the five if Matt Garza hadn’t gotten hurt.

But Garza, unsurprisingly, opened the season on the disabled list, and Anderson has made the most of it, and will almost definitely keep his spot when Junior Guerra comes back. So now that we’ve established that Chase Anderson will win this year’s Cy Young Award, it’s time to figure out how and why. Has he finally figured it out?

In this new era of sabermetrics, we talk a lot about exit velocity, and how limiting hard-hit balls is usually a good thing for pitchers. With that being said, let’s take a gander over to the exit velocity leaderboards according to Statcast. Below is a chart. On that chart is a list of starting pitchers who have allowed the lowest exit velocities in MLB this year. Maybe you’ll see someone familiar down there.

Rank Player Avg. Exit Veloity
1 Michael Wacha 81.9 MPH
2 Jon Gray 82.0 MPH
3 Jake Arrieta 83.0 MPH
4 Ervin Santana 83.2 MPH
5 Chase Anderson 83.5 MPH

Well, darn it all, if it isn’t Chase Anderson! No wonder he’s been so good!

It’s well known that strikeout pitchers usually generate more weak contact than a non-strikeout pitcher, and Anderson has indeed raised his K rate from 18.6% in 2016 to 22.9% in 2017. Yes, the sample size is small — just 24.0 innings — but there’s reason to believe these strike outs are for real. For starters, Anderson has increased the vertical movement on almost all of his pitches, particularly his cutter — which he’s throwing at the highest rate of his career (15%). And, as you probably know, more movement = harder to hit.

Below is a chart of Anderson’s vertical movement in terms of inches (courtesy of Brooks Baseball).

His pitches have more vertical movement than ever before, but instead of moving down in the zone, Anderson’s pitches seem to be rising. His cutter has risen by over 2.6 inches, while his sinker — which you would think a pitcher would typically want to drop away into the lower half of the zone — has risen by almost by half an inch as well. His fourseamer has seen some mediocre rise, as well has his changeup. Now, his curveball has lost some drop, and that’s probably not a good thing, especially moving forward. But if nothing else, this is an interesting development, so let’s see how well batters are faring against these pitches to get a better understanding if his increase in vertical movement is helping.

Clearly, the vertical movement is helping Anderson, especially when throwing his hard stuff. His two offspeed pitches — curveball and changeup– are the only two that have seen a negative effect over a decrease in drop, but can we really complain about a .214 average? No. No, we can’t.

But despite all of this, it’s Anderson’s new-found belief in his cutter that has him leading the Cy Young race (not really, but you know what I mean). He’s increased his cutter usage from 5% to over 15% and the vertical movement probably has a lot to do with that. Now, I’m not saying Anderson will continue this dominance, because he surely won’t, but the signs so far are encouraging. His FIP and xFIP back up his ERA, and his walks — which have never really been an issue — have decreased by over a walk per inning.

I’m hesitant to say it, but maybe, just maybe, Chase Anderson is good?

Projecting David Goforth

It seems like the Brewers are destined to make a bullpen move every day this season, as the team sent Brent Suter down to the minors just days after promoting him and recalled reliever David Goforth.

Goforth has seen major league action each of the last two seasons, compiling a 6.11 ERA and 4.86 FIP across 35.1 innings. He was hit hard in 2016 (10.97 ERA) and has really struggled to keep the ball in the yard – his 19.4% home-run-to-fly-ball rate is one of the worst marks among relievers over the last two campaigns. And as I’m sure you’re aware, Miller Park is friendly to fly balls, meaning if Goforth wants any sort of success, he needs to keep the ball on the ground.

Here’s what RW23 — The First Out At Third’s projection system — thinks of Goforth.

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 15 2 1.46 .317 6.12 2.96 15.5% 7.5% 4.46 4.17 4.39

RW23 is projecting just 15 innings for the right-handed reliever, and even that might be on the high side, considering the Brewers alternate their bullpen guys as often as President Donald Trump tweets “Sad!” Goforth throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s but doesn’t miss many bats, which is unfortunate, considering RW23 thinks he’ll allow a high BABIP.

Goforth doesn’t figure to be a mainstay in the bullpen and shouldn’t be in Milwaukee’s future plans. He’s had little-to-moderate success in the minor leagues and has never proven he has the stuff to be a reliable major league pitcher.

Projecting Nick Franklin

Another day, another roster move for the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers.

On Wednesday, the Brewers claimed INF/OF Nick Franklin off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays and designated reliever Michael Blazek for assignment. Blazek was a dominant piece of Milwaukee’s 2015 bullpen but really struggled to find any success in 2016 (5.66 ERA/5.71 FIP). Franklin, on the other hand, was once a top prospect, although he has failed miserably to live up to that billing in the major leagues. He did, however, enjoy a career year last season with the bat, creating 10 percent more runs than league average — by far his highest wRC+. But even with that, he posted a 0.0 WAR — the definition of a replacement player.

Franklin enticed the Brewers due to his versatility, as he’s similar to Hernan Perez by being able play multiple infield and outfield positions. He doesn’t have much power and his on-base skills are limited, but general manager David Stearns believed he was worth a flyer, though it may be an expensive flyer if another team ends up claiming Blazek.

Franklin is expected to join the Brewers on Friday, so let’s see what RW23 thinks of the 26 year old.

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 181 167 .229 .285 .390 .674 .161 .294 27.6% 6.1% .291 5

It’s not all that pretty. Other projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS aren’t as pessimistic as RW23, but the difference is extremely small. They all believe Franklin won’t make much of an impact.

But because the Brewers are rebuilding, they need to take chances on guys like Franklin. They have very little to lose, and if one of these dart throws sticks, it will only increase the speed of the rebuild.

Projecting Brent Suter

Just like a season ago, the Milwaukee Brewers made a pitching move following Opening Day. In 2016, they designated Ariel Pena for assignment after getting blasted, and this year, they placed starting pitcher Junior Guerra on the 10-day disabled list with a strained calf and recalled LHP Brent Suter to replace him. Tommy Milone — who pitched two innings of relief Monday — will most likely serve as a starter to fill Guerra’s void, while Suter will take Milone’s place as the only lefty in the bullpen.

So let’s project what to expect from Suter using RW23.

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 25 3 1.34 .303 6.18 2.26 16.1% 5.9% 4.21 4.22 4.51

According to RW23, Suter projects to be relatively the same pitcher as Milone, so the good thing is that the Brewers won’t be losing anything. However, like Milone, Suter won’t miss many bats, but that’s nothing new. He’s never shown strikeout ability in the minor leagues and has never been considered a top prospect. But his performance in spring training was impressive, and that’s likely what led to his call up. Meanwhile, highly coveted prospect Josh Hader and outspoken reliever Tyler Cravy will remain at Colorado Springs for the foreseeable future.

Suter made his major league debut in 2016, and in 21.2 innings — including two starts — he posted a 3.32 ERA and 4.39 FIP. His relies heavily on his fastball and mixes in a sllider and changeup, as well. He’s definitely not a power pitcher, though, as his fastball averaged just 84.8 mph last season. It’s all about location for the southpaw.

Don’t expect Suter to see many high-leverage innings out of Milwaukee’s pen, but he’s likely to stay there until Guerra — who’s expected to miss more than the minimum 10 days — is healthy enough to rejoin the rotation.

Pitcher projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

Below is the same opening I used for my hitter projections, so if you have already visited those, just skip right on down to the stats. If not, here’s where you can find RW23’s hitter projections.

I’m really excited about this.

For the first time in its two-and-a-half year existence, The First Out At Third is featuring real projections rather than educated guesses like it has in previous years. I’m very excited to announce to finally debut RW23 projections.

RW23 is named after my favorite (and greatest) baseball player of all time, Rickie Weeks. I’ve loved him from the moment he made his Brewers’ debut and I shed many tears during his final game in Miller Park, although he wasn’t even given an at bat. I own a banner of Weeks that used to hang up in the stadium, and his is the only autograph I truly cherish. Naming my projections after him was a no-brainer.

Now, RW23 isn’t a scientific or mathematical, computer-based model. It relies on relatively simple formulas that I entered into Excel. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Mike Podhorzer and his book “Projecting X 2.0” credit, though, as I purchased his book to aid me. I made a few small changes and added a bit of my own sauce to it, but there’s no way I would’ve been able to do this without Mike’s book.

Below you will find RW23’s projections along with a side-by-side comparison to Steamer and ZiPS — two well-respected projection systems.(Note: ZiPS doesn’t project xFIP.) At the end of the year I’ll compare the three systems to see how RW23 performed in its debut season.

As new players are added to the 25-man roster, I will dedicate an entire post to their projections, but for now, here are the pitcher projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers.

SP Junior Guerra

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 162 17 1.27 .281 7.48 3.25 19.8% 8.6% 3.61 3.99 4.35
Steamer 192 25 1.39 .303 8.24 3.47 21.0% 8.9% 4.43 4.29 4.25
ZiPS 123 18 1.35 .294 8.20 3.66 20.9% 9.3% 4.24 4.54 N/A

SP Zach Davies

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 168 22 1.32 .305 7.75 2.61 20.2% 6.8% 4.13 4.14 3.95
Steamer 174 23 1.36 .306 7.67 2.82 19.7% 7.3% 4.35 4.19 4.11
ZiPS 169 20 1.27 .307 7.76 2.55 20.2% 6.6% 3.99 3.91 N/A

SP Jimmy Nelson

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 181 21 1.35 .296 7.83 3.47 20.1% 8.9% 4.02 4.27 4.16
Steamer 120 15 1.46 .308 7.39 3.64 18.5% 9.1% 4.80 4.57 4.48
ZiPS 170 21 1.38 .307 7.57 3.39 19.2% 8.6% 4.34 4.45 N/A

SP Matt Garza

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 96 11 1.44 .303 6.05 3.18 15.4% 8.1% 4.45 4.46 4.53
Steamer 128 19 1.46 .308 6.54 3.06 16.5% 7.7% 4.89 4.71 4.57
ZiPS 122 18 1.43 .309 6.30 3.04 15.8% 7.6% 5.04 4.76 N/A

SP Wily Peralta

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 125 16 1.42 .310 6.66 2.94 17.0% 7.5% 4.49 4.37 4.09
Steamer 140 18 1.45 .312 6.93 3.12 17.5% 7.9% 4.64 4.43 4.26
ZiPS 149 22 1.43 .312 6.67 3.07 16.7% 7.7% 4.81 4.70 N/A

SP Chase Anderson

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 138 25 1.40 .295 7.37 3.12 18.9% 8.0% 4.82 5.03 4.51
Steamer 133 18 1.37 .301 7.81 2.83 20.0% 7.2% 4.72 4.56 4.43
ZiPS 139 22 1.38 .308 7.28 2.96 18.5% 7.5% 4.64 4.67 N/A

RP Tommy Milone

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 61 7 1.33 .292 6.13 2.68 16.0% 7.0% 4.11 4.32 4.48
Steamer 57 8 1.27 .301 7.96 2.22 20.9% 5.8% 4.10 4.03 3.94
ZiPS 128 21 1.34 .306 7.03 2.46 18.0% 6.3% 4.71 4.61 N/A

RP Jacob Barnes

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 52 4 1.20 .293 9.09 3.12 24.5% 8.4% 3.10 3.18 3.54
Steamer 35 4 1.32 .304 8.98 3.28 23.3% 8.5% 3.94 3.84 3.88
ZiPS 53 5 1.27 .313 9.56 3.35 24.9% 8.7% 3.52 3.46 N/A

RP Corey Knebel

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 63 6 1.22 .297 10.32 3.48 27.6% 9.3% 3.24 3.29 3.43
Steamer 65 7 1.28 .302 10.66 3.77 27.9% 9.9% 3.56 3.49 3.56
ZiPS 54 7 1.27 .316 11.28 3.81 29.3% 9.9% 3.65 3.68 N/A

RP Jhan Marinez

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 53 4 1.33 .300 7.39 3.34 19.0% 8.6% 3.64 3.82 3.99
Steamer 55 6 1.41 .307 8.43 3.89 21.4% 9.9% 4.16 4.12 4.14
ZiPS 68 8 1.34 .307 8.07 3.31 20.7% 8.5% 3.84 4.21 N/A

RP Neftali Feliz

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 61 9 1.19 0.261 9.18 3.37 24.8% 9.1% 3.67 4.28 4.01
Steamer 65 8 1.28 0.295 10.15 3.56 26.5% 9.3% 3.83 3.81 3.88
ZiPS 55 9 1.30 0.299 9.43 3.58 N/A N/A 4.39 4.41 N/A

RP Carlos Torres

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 73 9 1.28 .285 8.16 3.26 21.5% 8.6% 3.76 4.10 4.08
Steamer 55 7 1.36 .304 8.58 3.33 22.0% 8.6% 4.17 4.09 4.09
ZiPS 80 11 1.33 .301 8.74 3.59 22.4% 9.2% 3.92 4.29 N/A

RP Taylor Jungmann

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 53 6 1.52 .312 7.53 4.23 18.7% 10.5% 4.62 4.52 4.70
Steamer 85 11 1.53 .306 8.02 4.54 19.8% 11.2% 4.91 4.78 4.75
ZiPS 142 19 1.52 .308 8.09 4.78 19.9% 11.7% 4.97 4.88 N/A

RP Jared Hughes

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 62 5 1.38 .292 5.11 2.95 13.0% 7.5% 3.99 4.39 4.43
Steamer 10 1 1.46 .308 6.06 3.41 15.3% 8.6% 4.34 4.40 4.46
ZiPS 63 6 1.41 .303 5.12 2.98 N/A N/A 3.69 4.52 N/A