Monthly Archives: February 2020

Pitcher projections for the 2020 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the RW23 pitcher projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. RW23 — creatively named after Rickie Weeks — was created in 2017 with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book, “Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance.” Since its existence, RW23 has gone toe-to-toe with major projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. After the season ends, I’ll compare RW23 to both of those systems in order to see which one had the better year.

You can find the 2020 RW23 hitter projections here.

Remember projections are just projections. Don’t take them as fact. But feel free to bash them in the comments section.

RHP Brandon Woodruff

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 193 3.13 3.20 3.25 1.11 .226 0.94 211 49 27.0% 6.2%

RHP Josh Lindblom

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 158 3.72 3.72 3.96 1.33 2.43 0.82 149 61 22.1% 9.1%

RHP Adrian Houser

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 163 3.99 3.97 3.72 1.33 .245 1.09 165 61 23.7% 8.7%

LHP Eric Lauer

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 153 4.22 4.16 3.96 1.32 .255 1.30 149 48 22.8% 7.4%

LHP Brett Anderson

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 118 4.76 4.60 4.21 1.43 .290 1.26 68 28 13.3% 5.5%

RHP Freddy Peralta

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 128 3.88 3.74 3.41 1.25 .227 1.39 172 49 32.1% 9.2%

RHP Corbin Burnes

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 80 3.84 3.81 3.26 1.26 .232 1.25 96 30.00 28.6% 9.0%

LHP Brent Suter

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 65 3.82 4.04 3.72 1.17 .254 1.34 55 11 20.5% 4.2%

LHP Josh Hader

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 71 2.74 3.13 2.17 0.82 .157 1.63 118 19 44.1% 7.2%

RHP Corey Knebel

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 45 3.41 3.39 3.35 1.24 .217 0.92 57 19 30.3% 10.0%

LHP Alex Claudio

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 59 3.73 4.27 3.83 1.23 .253 1.05 38 13 15.2% 5.4%

RHP David Phelps

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 51 3.93 3.93 3.81 1.37 .235 1.00 55 24 25.2% 11.0%

RHP Ray Black

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 46 4.26 4.56 3.97 1.28 .233 1.67 52 18 26.7% 9.3%

RHP Bobby Wahl

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 52 4.19 3.98 3.80 1.40 .233 1.22 66 27 29.4% 12.0%

RHP Devin Williams

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 25 5.00 4.94 4.32 1.44 .267 1.69 24 9 21.6% 8.5%

RHP Eric Yardley

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 21 3.32 3.53 3.62 1.22 .246 0.65 16 5 18.2% 6.1%

RHP J.P. Feyereisen

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 19 3.75 3.77 4.01 1.32 .226 1.03 22 9 27.6% 11.1%

Hitter projections for the 2020 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the RW23 hitter projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. RW23 — creatively named after Rickie Weeks — was created in 2017 with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book, “Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance.” Since its existence, RW23 has gone toe-to-toe with major projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. After the season ends, I’ll compare RW23 to both of those projection systems in order to see what system had the better year.

Remember projections are just projections. Don’t take them as fact. But feel free to bash them in the comments section.

C Omar Narvaez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 450 .276 .355 .467 .822 .190 .356 110 73 17 1 19 19.5% 10.2%

1B Justin Smoak

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 522 .246 .359 .485 .844 .239 .362 108 55 26 1 25 23.3% 13.8%

2B Keston Hiura

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 603 .269 .331 .510 .841 .241 .357 148 77 39 3 29 28.5% 6.4%

SS Luis Urias

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 522 .237 .333 .368 .701 .131 .311 108 72 23 3 10 21.2% 10.3%

3B Eric Sogard

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 410 .269 .339 .386 .725 .117 .320 99 71 19 1 7 14.8% 9.3%

OF Ryan Braun

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 485 .273 .323 .469 .792 .197 .338 122 76 25 1 20 21.2% 6.5%

OF Lorenzo Cain

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 590 .275 .350 .388 .737 .112 .325 145 108 25 1 11 17.4% 9.2%

OF Christian Yelich

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 675 .317 .407 .604 1.011 .287 .422 184 105 34 4 42 20.6% 12.2%

OF Avisail Garcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 445 .263 .314 .452 .766 .189 .329 108 69 20 1 19 24.1% 6.3%

OF Ben Gamel 

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 192 .256 .343 .390 .733 .134 .324 43 29 10 1 4 26.5% 10.8%

SS Orlando Arcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 308 .240 .293 .366 .659 .125 .289 68 49 10 1 8 22.3% 6.8%

INF Jedd Gyorko

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 339 .231 .299 .372 .671 .141 .295 70 47 13 1 9 22.1% 8.6%

C Manny Pina

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 300 .240 .307 .394 .701 .154 .308 65 43 12 0 10 22.5% 7.5%

INF Ryon Healy

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 220 .253 .302 .476 .778 .223 .333 51 29 10 1 11 21.7% 6.3%

INF Ronny Rodriguez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 119 .224 .260 .381 .641 .158 .277 25 16 4 1 4 26.4% 4.5%

The Milwaukee Brewers should sign Collin McHugh

The Milwaukee Brewers and Collin McHugh are a perfect fit. There’s really no feasible explanation why this pairing hasn’t happened yet. It makes complete sense. It makes less sense that McHugh is still sitting on the free agent market. Yes, there are a few warning signs that might be keeping teams away from him, from his elbow problems to his forgettable 2019 season, and while McHugh definitely carries a bit of risk, the potential greatly outweighs it. And the Brewers are all about acquiring high-potential players.

McHugh is coming off a frustrating season, a season which ended in September when he was shut down by the Houston Astros with continued pain in his elbow. He began the season as a starter, but was quickly relegated to the bullpen. In all, he pitched 74.2 innings (eight starts) and posted a 4.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP and 4.34 xFIP. It was a tremendously disappointing campaign for McHugh, but really it was his first poor season since 2013.

IP GS ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2014 154.2 25 2.73 3.11 3.11 3.0
2015 203.2 32 3.89 3.58 3.91 3.5
2016 184.2 33 4.34 3.95 4.09 2.7
2017 63.1 12 3.55 3.82 4.66 1.1
2018 72.1 0 1.99 2.72 3.26 1.4
2019 74.2 8 4.70 4.43 4.34 0.5

The Astros moved McHugh to the bullpen beginning in 2017 due to a plethora of quality starting pitchers. He just happened to be the odd man out. McHugh proved just as reliable as a reliever as he was as a starter and was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018. And as noted earlier, McHugh earned a rotation spot for the 2019 season but gave up 29 earned runs in just 41 innings (6.37 ERA) in eight starts. Once he was back in the bullpen, though, he flourished — when he was healthy that is. In 33.2 innings as a reliever, McHugh posted a 2.67 ERA and struck out 40 batters (28.2% K%).

Not only does McHugh have a a strong track record of success in both the bullpen and as a starter, his fastball spin, curveball spin and his ability to limit hard contact are among the elite. Take a look at his 2019 Statcast marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now look at 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been 63 pitchers who have accumulated 750 or more innings since 2014. McHugh ranks 19th in strikeout rate 23rd in FIP over that time period. I would make the argument that McHugh is close to an elite pitcher who has not received the respect he deserves.

McHugh made $5.8 million during his final arbitration year as an Astro, and FanGraphs’ Crowd Source predicted he’d sign a two-year, $10 million deal this offseason. McHugh is likely asking for a higher AAV — and he deserves it — but pitchers and catchers are about to report for spring training, and he might not have the leverage he once did. He’ll likely sign a one-year, prove it deal, also known as the Milwaukee Brewers special. The Brewers are in love with one-year contracts, which is another reason why McHugh and Milwaukee are a perfect match.

It seems like the Brewers are always in need of pitchers, and 2020 is no different. The Brewers need an arm like McHugh, whether that’s as a reliever, as a starter or as both. General manager David Stearns targets and focuses on versatile players when he makes acquisitions, so McHugh should be on high on his wish list. It’s curious to me why McHugh hasn’t signed with Milwaukee — or any other team for that matter — yet. Maybe his elbow isn’t healthy. Maybe he’s demanding too much. But the fact of the matter remains, McHugh has consistently shown he’s a dominant pitcher and teams should be lining up for his services.

And the Brewers should be first in line.

Attempting to use Eric Lauer’s success against the Dodgers to build a better pitcher

When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Eric Lauer from the San Diego Padres in November, the instant reaction from almost everyone — particularly Brewers fans — was a shoulder shrug. The prize of that trade for Milwaukee was Luis Urias — a former top prospect with enormous upside. And it was Urias who was talked about the most, and it was Urias who made giving up Trent Grisham and Zach Davies easier to swallow. Lauer was considered by many as a throw-in in a deal that centered around other players. And that makes sense. Lauer has a career 4.40 ERA with a low-velocity fastball. There’s nothing flashy or eye-opening about that, especially compared to a player in Urias who MLB.com ranked as the 16th-best prospect in baseball in 2019.

But I see potential in Lauer, and the potential spawns from his continuous dominance against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Is there a reason why he looks like an ace when he faces the Dodgers? Does he do something different? Let’s investigate.

First, we need to look at just how successful Lauer has been against the Dodgers relative to other teams. Here is how Lauer has performed against opponents in his former division, the National League West.

Opponent IP ERA
Dodgers 42.2 2.11
Diamondbacks 39.0 2.77
Giants 35.1 4.08
Rockies 26.0 9.35

Lauer has thrown 42.2 innings against the Dodgers in his career, the most out of any other opponent. Over those 42.2 innings, he has a 2.11 ERA with 43 strikeouts. Need further proof that he owns the Dodgers?

Opponent AVG OBP SLG OPS
Dodgers .199 .254 .354 .608
Diamondbacks .263 .333 .388 .721
Giants .259 .306 .400 .706
Rockies .370 .347 .563 1.000
Career as a starter .275 .342 .435 .777

The Dodgers must be over-the-moon happy that Lauer makes his living in a different division now. Maybe they’ll finally win a World Series. I joke with all seriousness. But the question remains; does Lauer do something different when he faces the Dodgers? Does he switch his pitch sequences? Does he attack a different zone? Or is it as simple as Lauer’s a left-hander and the Dodgers’ lineup is made up of mostly left-handed hitters?

The lefty against lefty argument actually doesn’t hold any weight in this case. Lauer has surprisingly been worse against left-handed hitters than righties in his career, and it hasn’t been particularly close. Lauer has allowed a .377 wOBA against left-handers versus a .318 wOBA against right-handers. So we can reasonably move on from that line of thought.

Let’s get into his pitch mixes.

According to Baseball Savant, Lauer throws five pitches but really relies on four. His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a curveball, a slider and a changeup.

His breakdown of pitch usage is as follows:

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 53.1%
Cutter 21.4%
Curve 13.8%
Slider 8.0%
Changeup 3.6%

Lauer’s four-seamer and cutter make up most of his repertoire, as he launches those pitches around 75 percent of the time. Lauer has allowed a .332 wOBA against his four-seam fastball and a .360 wOBA against his cutter, which are not friendly marks and broadly illustrates why Lauer’s career ERA sits at 4.40.

So now that we know his pitch repertoire and usage, we can look at his splits against the Dodgers and see if there’s a difference. There just has to be a reason Lauer looks like Nolan Ryan when facing Los Angeles. I broke down every one of Lauer’s starts against the Dodgers by pitch type, and then lumped them all together in the end to compare them against his career.

May 6, 2018

In Lauer’s third career start, he began his dominance over the Dodgers. He went six innings and allowed no runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. Unfortunately, it appears Baseball Savant doesn’t have his pitch types for this game, so we’re going to have to exclude this outing from the data. And that’s too bad because Lauer was brilliant.

July 10, 2018

Lauer pitched maybe the greatest game of his young career during this outing, as he finished one out away from a complete-game shutout. Max Muncy hit a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning to spoil Lauer’s outing and end his night. In total, Lauer pitched 8.2 innings of four-hit ball, with one run allowed and eight strikeouts. That’s close to a masterpiece. Here are his pitch breakdowns:

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 53.0%
Cutter 22.6%
Curve 12.2%
Slider 12.2%
Changeup 0.0%

There’s nothing that jumps out to you when you compare his pitch usage to his career norms, though he did rely on his slider more often than usual and didn’t throw a single changeup.

September 21, 2018

Lauer went five innings in this September start against the Dodgers, limiting Los Angeles to one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked one. Yet another solid performance from the rookie pitcher.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 55.8%
Cutter 13.7%
Curve 15.8%
Slider 10.5%
Changeup 4.2%

In this outing, Lauer reduced his cutter usage dramatically from his previous start against the Dodgers. He also cut down on his cutter and mixed in a changeup here and there while relying on his four-seamer a bit more.

May 3, 2019

In his seventh start of 2019, Lauer once again limited Los Angeles’ potent offense. The lefty finished five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 48.8%
Cutter 35.0%
Curve 13.0%
Slider 0.0%
Changeup 0.0%

This is drastically different than Lauer’s previous outings against the Dodgers, and it’s a bit shocking. He still threw his four-seam fastball the most, but it dropped under 50 percent, while he threw his cutter over a third of the time. Lauer also completely set aside his slider and changeup. He went with a different pitch mix and still saw positive results.

July 5, 2019

Lauer gave up one earned run in six innings. He allowed four hits and set down six via the strikeout.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 49.5%
Cutter 14.7%
Curve 3.2%
Slider 29.5%
Changeup 3.2%

After completely throwing away his slider in his May start against Los Angeles, Lauer brought it back with a vengeance. For the first time, he threw it more than his cutter. This makes one thing certain; Lauer has done a good job of changing things up in order to keep the Dodgers guessing.

August 2, 2019

Less than a month later, Lauer faced the Dodgers again and Los Angeles still couldn’t figure him out. Lauer pitched six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 65.5%
Cutter 10.3%
Curve 3.4%
Slider 16.1%
Changeup 4.6%

For the second-straight start against the Dodgers, Lauer used his slider more than his cutter. His four-seam fastball, however, was his go-to pitch even more of than usual, as 57 of his 87 pitches fell into that category.

August 26, 2019

In his final start against the Dodgers, Lauer struck out eight batters over six innings while allowing three earned runs. Not a bad way to end a season against his favorite opponent.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 55.0%
Cutter 18.3%
Curve 7.3%
Slider 22.9%
Changeup 0.9%

Although his cutter usage surged a little, Lauer continued his slider-over-cutter trend for the third consecutive outing. His eight strikeouts matched a career high against Los Angeles.

Now that we’ve broken down each of Lauer’s starts against the Dodgers, it’s time to compare that to his career as a whole. Hopefully, we’ll be able to figure out why he’s had so much success against the Dodgers while being basically a league-average pitcher against the rest of the league. And if we can’t, well, this was a fun exercise anyway.

Pitch Pitch % against the Dodgers Career Pitch %
Four-seam 53.7% 53.1%
Cutter 18.9% 21.4%
Curve 9.6% 13.8%
Slider 15.7% 8.0%
Changeup 2.1% 3.6%

The biggest difference seems to be Lauer’s slider usage. Lauer has thrown his slider nearly eight percent more often against the Dodgers than he does against the rest of the league. Could that be the thing keeping him from being a front-of-the-rotation type arm? Maybe. But maybe not. Lauer has allowed an unbelievable  .177 wOBA when throwing his slider to the Dodgers, but a .313 wOBA against it for his career. The latter ranks 182 of 218 qualified pitchers. So while his slider is dominant against the Dodgers, it’s largely ineffective against most other teams. And if we break it down even more, it makes sense. The Dodgers have the fourth-worst wOBA against the slider since 2018 (when Lauer began his career). Their .286 wOBA is only better than the Pirates, Red Sox and Astros during that time.

The last thing I want to look at is Lauer’s pitch locations. The heat map on the left is Lauer’s pitch locations against every team he’s faced. The heat map on the right is his pitch locations against the Dodgers.

Lauer has been able to locate his pitches better against the Dodgers than he has against the rest of the league. When facing the Dodgers, Lauer has been able to stay out of the middle of the zone more often and has hit the bottom corner on a relatively consistent basis. Placing a cutter and/or a slider on the bottom corner edge as he does against the Dodgers is borderline unhittable. There’s no doubt that location has played a significant part in Lauer’s success and failure, but I don’t necessarily think it explains his complete and utter ownership of the Dodgers’ franchise.

I don’t know if we solved anything here, but it was still a fun attempt. In 2020 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers,  I would like to see Lauer continuously change his usage between his cutter and slider in drastic and noticeable ways, while maybe being less reliant on his four-seam fastball. Lauer has said in the past that his slider is a constant work in progress, so maybe with more time to hone it, his slider can be just as devastating to the rest of Major League Baseball as it is to the Dodgers.