Author Archives: Justin Schultz

Random stats and the Milwaukee Brewers

We are over two months into the 2019 Major League Baseball season, and we’ve already been witness to some weird and funky things, not just with the Milwaukee Brewers, but around the league as a whole. Derek Dietrich and Tommy La Stella have both turned into Barry Bonds. Hunter Pence thinks it’s 2011. And Joey Gallo has a .395 BABIP (ban the shift though, right?).

The Brewers also have had their fair share of interesting stories. Some good and some bad. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a few stats you don’t normally come across. Below I’ve highlighted a few Brewers players whom I’ve found fascinating so far this season. Some of these statistics mean something. Some of these don’t.

Christian Yelich posted a a 213 wRC+ in March/April. In May, his wRC+ sits at 136, which is still great, but definitely not MVP-caliber. His strikeout rate has risen over three percent, while his groundball rate has also gone up.

Jesus Aguilar is striking out less, he’s making nearly the same amount of contact and has an identical exit velocity as he did in 2018. The issue, it would seem, is how he’s hitting the ball. Aguilar’s launch angle has gone from 16.2 degrees to 12.9 degrees. That’s a considerable drop, and it’s the main culprit for his increased groundball rate (up eight percent) and decreased fly-ball rate (down five percent).

Yasmani Grandal has two triples. The Miami Marlins have just one triple. Grandal is in the 12th percentile in sprint speed, making this even more hilarious and more embarrassing for the already laughable Marlins.

Alex Claudio has allowed a .250 wOBA versus lefties and a .450 wOBA against righties. Right-handed hitters are slashing .342/.405/.684 against Claudio, so maybe it’s time to use Claudio as a specialist.

Brandon Woodruff has a 1.36 ERA and a 2.70 FIP over his last five starts. He’s struck out 31.9 percent of batters during that span. No wonder teams were trying to pry him away from the Brewers during last year’s trade deadline.

Lorenzo Cain currently has a career-low batting average on balls in play of .292. He owns a career BABIP mark of .342, so one could expect Cain’s production to skyrocket once the positive regression bug bites him. His exit velocity is down a bit, but not enough to explain a below-league average BABIP.

Corbin Burnes has the 13th-highest strikeout rate (30.3 percent) in baseball among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched. His other stats all look atrocious, but it’s clear the talent is there. Be patient with the man.

Josh Hader has the highest strikeout rate of 51.5 percent among qualified relievers. That’s good. But he’s also getting mashed when hitters make contact with his pitchers. That’s not good. Hader has allowed an exit velocity of 91.9 mph, which is in the third percentile. Only 13 pitchers have allowed harder contact. Ouch.

Eric Thames hasn’t homered since April 24, despite getting the bulk of the playing time. Thames has still managed to be a productive hitter even without his Hulk power. He’s getting on base at a .365 clip and has an above-league average wRC+ of 109.

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The Brewers have a fastball problem

The Milwaukee Brewers are currently 23-16 and are coming off consecutive sweeps of the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. As of writing these words, they sit in second place in the National League Central behind the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers have one more win than their rivals, but also three more losses, leaving them trailing by a game. All of this relatively good news for the Brewers and their fans.

But if you pull away the weeds and look closer into the grass, you’ll notice a substantial difference between the teams. The Brewers have a +2 run differential. The Cubs have a +57 run differential. Run differential is very telling and relatively predictive when it comes to record, so the simplest way to put it is that the Brewers probably haven’t been as good as their record says they are, while the Cubs most likely have been better. It’s not the offense that should be blamed for Milwaukee’s mediocre run differential, though. As of May 9, the Brewers have scored the sixth-most runs in baseball, just 10 home-plate touches behind the Cubs, The offense — also known as Christian Yelich — is carrying its fair share of the load. That’s clearly not the issue.

It’s the starting pitching — the group in which almost every analyst with a microphone criticized before the season — that’s been more of a problem than the way Game of Thrones handled Ghost.

Before I go any further, you should know that Milwaukee’s starting pitching staff has turned a corner in the past week or so. It’s still not gold-star worthy, but Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff have been dealing like aces, and Gio Gonzalez‘s return has been excellent. That deserves to be recognized. But we need to talk about more than just a week’s worth of performances. Small sample sizes rarely mean anything, unless you’re Skip Bayless and you need a hot take.

So here is how the Brewers starting rotation ranks in key categories for the season (as of 5/7).

ERA 4.92 23rd
FIP 4.98 26th
WAR 1.4 25th

Milwaukee’s rotation has been ugly thus far, and frankly, it can’t get much worse, unless, you know, you’re the Orioles, who give up more dongs than Bryce Harper‘s dad.

But why have they been so pitiful? With the swing-and-miss talents of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Woodruff, they should be significantly better, right? They should be, but they’re not, and a lot of their misfortune can be blamed on fastballs.

Let’s start by breaking down each starter (minimum 10 IP) by their fastball usage.

Fastball % wOBA allowed on fastballs
Zach Davies 67.7 .341
Freddy Peralta 67.6 .428
Brandon Woodruff 58.7 .369
Corbin Burnes 52.9 .620
Gio Gonzalez 52.1 .362
Jhoulys Chacin 45.3 .431
Average 57.3 .425

According to Baseball Savant, fastballs are classified as four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, and the Brewers — as my chart so neatly illustrates throw them quite a bit. Only 10 teams have starters who throw them at a higher rate, yet no team is being punished more than the Brewers.

The below table includes every player who’s made a start for their respective teams in 2019, not just those who fall under the 10-inning minimum like the above table.

wOBA allowed on fastBalls
1 Brewers .419
2 White Sox .404
3 Orioles .402
4 Rangers .397
5 Mariners .396

Hitters feast on fastballs more than any other pitch. As a league this season, hitters have hit for a .352 wOBA on pitches classified as fastballs, while those same hitters have a .272 wOBA versus breaking pitches. Due to the nature of baseball, it’s expected that teams will allow a high fastball wOBA, but the Brewers happen to be on the lofty end of the spectrum.

Luckily for us, Baseball Savant has statistics dating back to 2008, meaning we’re able to compare seasons over the past 12 years. The Brewers are allowing a .419 wOBA when their starters throw a fastball, and if the season ended today, Milwaukee would hold the record for the highest wOBA allowed on fastballs during that period. No other starting rotation since 2008 has been destroyed on fastballs as much as the Brewers, which is just laughably insane, but also likely unsustainable.

A lot of their problems are due to the long ball, as 27 of the rotation’s 36 home runs they’ve allowed have been via the fastball. Burnes and Peralta have been the biggest culprits of fastball harm. Burnes seems like he gets lit up every time he throws a fastball (10 home runs allowed), and since Peralta basically only throws fastballs, it’s no surprise hitters have conquered it. Location, as you might’ve guessed, has been the biggest enemy, not only for those two, but the rotation as a whole.

When their starters throw a fastball, they’re putting them right down the middle at an alarming rate, and opposing hitters are taking advantage of those mistakes, as they should since they’re major league hitters. Here are the pitch locations for every home run they’ve allowed.

Nearly every single one of those pitches has been a mistake in location. Leaving a fastball anywhere in the middle of the zone is generally not a good thing. Groundbreaking, I know.

But this is why the Brewers rotation has been swimming in the bottom of the league. They’re throwing too many fastballs and are getting murdered for it I don’t know if Milwaukee’s pitching coach Chris Hook should shoulder the blame for this, but pitch sequencing has definitely been a big issue, and it needs to change soon if the Brewers want to compete in their tough-as-nails division. Yelich and the rest of the offense won’t be able to carry the hurlers forever.

 

Pitcher projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2019 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.”

Below you’ll find the RW23 pitcher projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers, along with the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems for comparison. Remember projections are just projections, and RW23 is significantly more bullish on Milwaukee’s starting pitching staff than Steamer and ZiPS. Don’t take any of these projection systems as fact. But feel free to bash them in the comments section.

You can find my previously published hitter projections here.

RHP Jhoulys Chacin

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 185.0 3.80 4.38 4.43 1.30 7.33 3.46 1.04 19.1% 9.0%
Steamer 180.0 4.66 4.61 4.46 1.42 7.60 3.33 1.30 19.2% 8.4%
ZiPS 166.0 4.33 4.56 1.37 7.25 3.63 1.14

RHP Freddy Peralta

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 114.0 4.09 4.50 4.37 1.38 10.65 5.03 1.28 27.3% 12.9%
Steamer 127.0 4.35 4.36 4.27 1.38 10.49 4.62 1.29 26.7% 11.8%
ZiPS 132.0 4.01 4.10 1.35 12.11 5.10 1.22

RHP Brandon Woodruff

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 122.0 3.73 3.68 3.87 1.32 8.71 3.38 0.83 22.7% 8.8%
Steamer 133.0 4.39 4.36 4.17 1.37 8.24 3.41 1.22 21.0% 8.7%
ZiPS 117.0 4.21 4.16 1.36 8.57 3.59 1.07

RHP Corbin Burnes

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 124.0 3.64 3.74 3.84 1.29 8.87 3.26 0.85 23.1% 8.5%
Steamer 134.0 4.48 4.44 4.24 1.39 8.23 3.54 1.24 20.9% 9.0%
ZiPS 135.0 3.92 4.12 1.30 8.71 3.26 1.13

RHP Zach Davies

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 150.0 4.09 4.23 4.12 1.36 7.02 3.02 1.01 18.1% 7.8%
Steamer 119.0 4.62 4.48 4.28 1.41 7.06 2.72 1.29 17.7% 6.8%
ZiPS 145.0 4.26 4.34 1.35 6.73 2.78 1.11

RHP Jimmy Nelson

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 119.0 3.67 3.60 3.45 1.27 9.40 2.86 0.93 24.6% 7.5%
Steamer 75.0 4.14 3.98 3.85 1.30 8.73 2.97 1.11 22.7% 7.7%
ZiPS 121.0 4.30 4.47 1.38 7.94 3.41 1.19

RHP Chase Anderson

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 83.0 4.27 4.83 4.52 1.30 7.91 3.28 1.53 20.7% 8.6%
Steamer 116.0 4.63 4.58 4.40 1.32 8.36 2.72 1.55 21.4% 7.0%
ZiPS 141.0 4.47 5.13 1.35 7.28 3.19 1.66

LHP Josh Hader

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 74.0 2.37 2.87 2.63 0.91 13.91 3.46 1.06 40.2% 10.0%
Steamer 65.0 2.92 2.94 2.97 1.10 13.65 3.84 0.99 36.9% 10.4%
ZiPS 73.0 2.95 3.08 1.10 15.34 4.30 1.23

RHP Jeremy Jeffress

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 59.0 3.39 3.50 3.27 1.26 9.73 3.62 0.83 25.8% 9.6%
Steamer 40.0 3.38 3.40 3.34 1.28 9.59 3.35 0.78 25.2% 8.8%
ZiPS 66.0 3.12 3.36 1.25 9.23 3.53 0.68

LHP Alex Claudio

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 71.0 3.06 2.97 2.98 1.15 6.43 1.21 0.51 17.5% 3.3%
Steamer 60.0 3.57 3.59 3.53 1.31 6.80 2.24 0.75 17.7% 5.8%
ZiPS 75.0 3.33 3.44 1.20 5.83 1.78 0.59

RHP Matt Albers

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 53.0 4.26 4.22 3.98 1.36 8.40 3.07 1.19 21.6% 7.9%
Steamer 65.0 4.18 4.11 3.96 1.33 8.35 2.93 1.17 21.4% 7.5%
ZiPS 41.0 4.35 4.49 1.28 8.49 2.61 1.52

RHP Corey Knebel

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 39.0 2.98 2.89 2.95 1.16 12.61 3.76 0.81 34.2% 10.2%
Steamer 20.0 3.03 2.95 2.97 1.15 12.85 3.73 0.88 34.4% 10.0%
ZiPS 62.0 2.90 3.06 1.16 13.79 4.06 1.02

RHP Taylor Williams

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 49.0 3.98 3.85 3.85 1.36 9.76 8.76 1.03 25.3% 10.0%
Steamer 40.0 4.07 4.06 4.01 1.34 9.74 3.79 1.17 25.0% 9.7%
ZiPS 56.0 4.34 4.21 1.48 9.32 4.34 1.13

RHP Jacob Barnes

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 55.0 3.50 3.61 3.82 1.33 8.61 3.98 0.68 22.5% 10.4%
Steamer 35.0 4.04 4.04 3.97 1.38 8.97 3.84 1.03 22.9% 9.8%
ZiPS 61.0 3.65 3.74 1.38 8.90 4.23 0.73

RHP Junior Guerra

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 41.0 4.03 4.28 4.00 1.28 8.72 3.07 1.34 23.0% 8.1%
Steamer 60.0 3.86 3.84 3.81 1.25 9.71 3.03 1.19 25.4% 7.9%
ZiPS 119.0 4.46 4.72 1.39 8.09 3.86 1.36

RHP Alex Wilson

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 52.0 3.99 3.96 4.31 1.35 6.97 2.81 0.92 18.1% 7.3%
Steamer 20.0 4.18 4.12 4.07 1.32 7.66 2.53 1.18 19.7% 6.5%
ZiPS 58.0 3.88 3.95 1.24 6.21 2.17 0.93

 

Hitter projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2019 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.”

Below you’ll find the RW23 hitter projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers, along with the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems for comparison. In its debut season, RW23’s hitter projections went toe-to-toe with Steamer, while solidly beating ZiPS.

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

C Yasmani Grandal

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 532 .247 .355 .487 .842 .240 .361 28 24.0% 14.1% .280
Steamer 496 .237 .344 .453 .797 .216 .345 23 25.0% 13.5% .277
ZiPS 475 .238 .349 .462 .811 .223 .351 23 25.7% 14.3% .281

1B Jesus Aguilar

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 595 .258 .329 .480 .810 .223 .346 30 27.2% 8.8% .309
Steamer 578 .242 .317 .454 .771 .212 .330 28 26.4% 9.1% .286
ZiPS 526 .258 .333 .492 .825 .234 .350 28 25.3% 9.5% .297

2B Mike Moustakas

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 603 .269 .330 .508 .838 .239 .356 34 16.6% 8.1% .270
Steamer 575 .261 .321 .489 .809 .228 .342 30 16.5% 7.5% .264
ZiPS 580 .267 .324 .506 .818 .239 .350 32 16.2% 7.1% .268

3B Travis Shaw

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 595 .282 .376 .534 .910 .252 .386 34 19.0% 12.9% .298
Steamer 598 .249 .334 .457 .791 .209 .338 27 21.3% 10.8% .276
ZiPS 560 .261 .340 .472 .812 .219 .346 26 21.4% 11.1% .282

SS Orlando Arcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 552 .245 .293 .357 .650 .112 .286 11 22.9% 6.2% .303
Steamer 507 .253 .302 .377 .679 .123 .293 10 19.4% 6.2% .299
ZiPS 553 .247 .294 .360 .654 .113 .283 10 21.3% 6.0% .302

OF Ryan Braun

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 460 .270 .331 .493 .824 .222 .351 20 19.8% 8.0% .300
Steamer 507 .265 .330 .476 .807 .212 .342 23 19.6% 8.4% .290
ZiPS 440 .269 .332 .470 .802 .201 .340 18 19.5% 8.2% .300

OF Lorenzo Cain

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 600 .296 .372 .424 .796 .128 .349 12 15.8% 10.3% .339
Steamer 620 .284 .356 .422 .778 .138 .339 14 16.9% 9.2% .327
ZiPS 568 .287 .359 .409 .768 .123 .336 11 16.2% 9.3% .330

OF Christian Yelich

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 662 .310 .390 .544 .934 .234 .397 29 20.5% 11.0% .360
Steamer 637 .297 .381 .515 .896 .218 .382 26 20.5% 11.2% .344
ZiPS 673 .298 .379 .522 .901 .224 .384 28 21.1% 10.8% .349

1B Eric Thames

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 340 .232 .316 .478 .794 .246 .342 19 32.3% 10.0% .295
Steamer 258 .235 .329 .459 .788 .224 .336 12 30.3% 11.2% .299
ZiPS 427 .229 .333 .478 .818 .256 .346 23 32.3% 12.2% .293

OF Ben Gamel

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 322 .272 .346 .416 .762 .144 .332 6 19.7% 9.5% .330
Steamer 110 .267 .333 .393 .725 .126 .316 2 20.9% 8.5% .330
ZiPS 530 .267 .331 .413 .744 .146 .322 9 20.4% 8.3% .326

INF Hernan Perez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 295 .254 .288 .398 .686 .143 .297 9 21.6% 4.6% .301
Steamer 216 .253 .290 .294 .685 .141 .295 5 20.0% 4.9% .294
ZiPS 415 .255 .286 .401 .686 .145 .294 11 20.5% 4.3% .298

INF Cory Spangenberg

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 252 .264 .328 .426 .753 .162 .328 8 27.1% 8.0% .339
Steamer 75 .245 .306 .383 .688 .138 .300 2 28.4% 7.4% .328
ZiPS 461 .246 .306 .406 .712 .160 .308 13 30.4% 7.2% .337

INF Tyler Saladino

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 129 .228 .285 .365 .650 .137 .285 3 25.9% 5.3% .308
Steamer 81 .230 .293 .352 .645 .121 .283 2 24.2% 7.3% .290
ZiPS 321 .228 .292 .345 .636 .117 .280 6 23.1% 7.5% .283

C Manny Pina

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 261 .239 .303 .365 .668 .126 .293 6 19.0% 6.7% .281
Steamer 96 .250 .306 .388 .694 .138 .301 2 20.4% 6.6% .296
ZiPS 334 .247 .303 .385 .688 .138 .297 8 19.2% 6.3% .285

 

Dark horse Cy Young candidates for 2019

Welcome to the 2019 edition of my dark horse Cy Young candidates.

I’ve been putting together a list of dark horse Cy Young candidates since 2015 when I was writing for a different site. The topic was assigned to me by my editor, and ever since then, it’s been a little pet project of mine. I had major success in my debut season, with two of my dark horses winning the prestigious award. Aside from 2015, I haven’t had a place to publish my candidates save for Twitter and Google Docs, so I decided to issue it on The First Out At Third, an — other than this yearly article — exclusively Milwaukee Brewers website.

I only have three requirements when picking my candidates:

  • They haven’t won the Cy Young award in the past
  • They haven’t received a single Cy Young vote in the past three years

You can find my past picks here, and once the 2019 season begins, I’ll post a link on Twitter that allows you to follow along with my candidates.

Let’s see who I think will take a huge leap forward this season and fight for some Cy Young votes.

1. RHP Collin McHugh – Houston Astros

McHugh is set to return to the starting rotation after spending all of the 2018 campaign in Houston’s bullpen, a place in which he was light-out dominant. In 72.1 innings, the 31-year-old struck out over 33 percent of batters he faced, while hitters batted just .175 against him, good enough for the 10th-lowest mark among qualified relievers. In the end, his season numbers were more than impressive, as McHugh finished with a 1.99 ERA and 2.72 FIP. Only five relievers had a lower ERA.

McHugh wasn’t sent to the bullpen because he was struggling as a starter. Far from it actually. The Astros were just so deep with starting arms that McHugh — along with Brad Peacock — were the odd-men out. McHugh has actually performed very well as a starter in his career. In 645.2 innings, he owns a 4.00 ERA and 3.73 FIP. His time in the bullpen allowed him to work on a few things, one being his slider. McHugh’s slider was a nightmare for right-handed hitters last season, as they hit just .135 against it. McHugh also increased his fastball velocity by nearly two ticks.

The veteran hurler and podcaster is obviously not the best pitcher in Houston’s incredible rotation, and he’s definitely not the most noteworthy, but if he’s as dominant as I think he will be in 2019, fans all across Major League Baseball will begin to know his name.

2. RHP Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates

In his third season in the big leagues, Taillon tallied his best year in 2018. The 27-year-old posted career lows in ERA (3.20), FIP (3.46), strikeout rate (22.8%) and WAR (3.7) across 191 innings. It’s fair to say he broke out, though I believe an even greater breakout is on the horizon.

Taillon — a former top 100 prospect — has been able to increase his strikeout rate every year, while never struggling with control. With a power sinker at 95 mph and solid spin (75th percentile) on his curveball, I see no reason why his strikeout trend shouldn’t continue this upcoming season. In fact, a considerable leap in strikeout rate wouldn’t surprise me. Take a look at his StatCast ranks from 2018, and you’ll see he’s above average in numerous key categories.

In order to pitch like a Cy Young, though, Taillon will have to work on keeping the ball in the yard. While 20 home runs allowed isn’t necessarily a terrible number, his 11.7% home-run-to-fly-ball ratio was the 30th-highest mark in all of baseball. Again, not terrible, but in an extreme pitcher-friendly stadium like PNC Park, that’s just too high, and it needs to come down.

The Pirates won’t be good in 2019, and they won’t be very much fun to watch, but Taillon could change that when he’s on the mound. A Blake Snell-like breakout could very well be on its way.

3. RHP German Marquez – Colorado Rockies

If you were to guess who the top five qualified starters in strikeout rate during the second half of last season were, you’d probably come up with four of the five. It’s likely, however, that you’d miss Marquez. That’s right. Only Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and and Jacob deGrom struck out batters at a higher rate than Marquez in the second half, a half in which he was making everyone swing and miss. The 24-year-old (oh my god, he’s only 24) struck out hitters at a 33.9 percent clip on his way to a 2.61 ERA and 2.25 FIP after the All-Star break. On the season as a whole, Marquez finished with a 3.77 ERA and 3.40 FIP.

Marquez’s ability to generate whiffs is why I love him in 2019. He finished in the top-15 in swinging-strike rate, and 186 of his 230 punch outs (80 percent) came on a swing and a miss — eighth-most in MLB.

Because of his absurd finish to the year and the fact that he likely hasn’t even reached his best yet, you might see Marquez on many lists like mine. However, pitching in homer-happy Coors Field doesn’t help him. It really doesn’t help him. The Colorado Rockies are one of four teams that have never had a pitcher win the Cy Young award. By that fact alone, Marquez is a dark horse.

4. RHP Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins

Berrios started 25 games in 2017 and 32 games in 2018, and he somehow managed to put up nearly identical stats in both.

ERA FIP BB% WAR
2017 3.89 3.84 7.8% 2.9
2018 3.84 3.90 7.7% 3.3

As the table clearly shows, Berrios essentially duplicated his 2017 season last year. However, there is one stat I knowingly left off the table. A stat that shows he actually improved in 2018 more than we may think. And that’s strikeout rate.

Berrios increased his strikeout rate by nearly three percent from 22.6 percent to 25.4 percent. Only 17 other starters can say they had a higher strikeout rate than him. Not too shabby for a 24-year-old kid, eh? What’s even more impressive about that is Berrios is doing it without over-the-top impressive StatCast numbers. His fastball velocity is barely above average (58th percentile), and his curveball that he throws 30 percent of the time is well below average, sitting in the 37th percentile range. Despite that, though, Berrios started getting more whiffs via his curveball in 2018, and that greatly aided his overall strikeout numbers. Berrios also does a good job of limiting hard contact. The average ball hit off him was hit at a speed of 86.1 mph, while his hard-hit rate was above league-average, as well.

Berrios is set to lead the Twins’ rotation, and could very well be on his way to a memorable season. Like Taillon, though, he’ll need to do a better job of limiting home runs if he expects to pitch with the big guns.

5. RHP Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies

Who needs Dallas Keuchel when you have Nick Pivetta is a sentence that has never been written or said until now. But I believe it to be true.

Pivetta recorded a 4.77 ERA in 2018, which isn’t good, so you might be wondering how and why he’s one of my candidates. Well, as you know, ERA rarely tells the entire story, and Pivetta’s peripherals are far more encouraging. Pivetta was the owner of the second-largest gap between his ERA (4.77) and FIP (3.80) last year. His ERA minus FIP was 0.97, trailing only Jon Gray‘s total of 1.03, meaning Pivetta was the victim of some rotten luck. A lot of Pivetta’s struggles can and should be blamed on Philadelphia’s record-breaking terrible defense, which should be much-improved this season. Add another reason to be encouraged by Pivetta.

Even Pivetta’s expected stats — which are based on launch angle and how hard a ball is hit — say he had bad luck. He allowed a .339 wOBA, while his xwOBA (expected wOBA) was .311. His expected batting average was .237, yet he allowed a .255 average. Long story short, Pivetta pitched much better than a 4.77 ERA.

And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. Pivetta — who just turned 26 — was a top-15 pitcher in strikeout rate. He struck out 27.1 percent of batters he faced, while walking only 7.4 percent. His K-BB% — which is a good indicator of future success — was the 12th-highest mark among his peers. Guys, Pivetta is a damn good pitcher. With more luck and a better defense behind him, his standard numbers should begin to reflect that. Watch out for him in 2019.

Brent Suter had a pitcher problem in 2018

Brent Suter is a fascinating pitcher for numerous reasons. Whether it’s his quirkiness in the Brewers dugout, his ability to homer off Corey Kluber or the fact he allowed the third-lowest average exit velocity in all of baseball, it’s not hard to find something interesting about the lanky lefty. Unfortunately for him, and frankly, for fans of baseball, Suter won’t be pitching anytime soon. Suter underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery in late August of last year, effectively ending his 2018 season and calling into question his availability for 2019. There’s a chance Suter could return to a major league mound late in the season, though that remains to be seen, and quite frankly, it seems a bit optimistic.

So while we wait for Suter to heal and for this dreary winter to end, I thought it’d be fun and enlightening to write a post about yet another weird statistic authored by the man, the myth, the legend.

Last season there were 110 pitchers who faced an opposing pitcher a minimum of 10 times. Six of those pitchers failed to allow a hit to their counterpart — Freddy Peralta, Carlos Martinez, Wade Miley, Jacob Nix, Jarlin Garcia and Stephen Strasburg. The other 104 pitchers weren’t as lucky, as they all allowed at least one hit to pitchers. Notice how Suter was one of the unfortunate ones. Well, that’s because Suter had an incredibly difficult time against his opposite number. He faced 26 pitchers in total and somehow, almost impressively, gave up seven base hits, equating to a .269 batting average. Only two pitchers — Matt Koch (.316) and Ty Blach (.308) — allowed a higher average than Suter. He also allowed a .251 wOBA (six singles and one double) against pitchers, which was seventh-highest mark.

Here is every pitch Suter threw to a pitcher that ended the plate appearance.

That’s 19 four-seam fastballs, three changeups, two curveballs and two sliders. The first thing that jumps out at you is the number of fastballs and the location of those fastballs. However, diving deeper into Suter’s pitch arsenal, it’s really not surprising he utilized his four-seamer so often. He threw it 63.5 percent of the time during the regular season, ranking as the sixth-highest rate in all of baseball. The location, though, is more troubling, as nearly all of his pitches ended up high in the zone.

Here is the pitch location of every base hit Suter allowed.

Five of the seven hits were on pitches in the middle-to-upper part of the zone, and all but one came via the four-seam fastball. The only hit Suter gave up to a pitcher against his slider was to Rockies’ hurler Kyle Freeland. That happened on May 12 when Freeland roped a grounder through the right side of the infield.

And as far as that one extra-base hit Suter allowed…

Granted, that ultimately should’ve been a single, but since Domingo Santana (I miss you) took a poor route, Yu Darvish landed on second base easily. Though it’s not like Darvish didn’t deserve a base knock there. He crushed Suter’s offering for an exit velocity of 99.5 mph. It came in at 86 mph and left the bat nearly 14 mph faster. For a pitcher, that’s eye-opening. The fact Darvish crushed one at nearly 100 mph should be the most embarrassing moment of Suter’s life.

As I mentioned earlier, Suter allowed the third-lowest exit velocity in MLB to all types of hitters at 83.7 mph. Meanwhile, against pitchers, Suter allowed an average exit velocity of 69.5 mph or the 18th-lowest velocity among qualified pitchers. It makes little to no sense that Suter struggled so much against pitchers. Essentially, Suter’s troubles against hurlers were more bad luck than anything else, and honestly, this means absolutely nothing going forward. The fact he gave up seven hits to pitchers doesn’t mean he’s going to get blasted by them again next season, health permitting.

This is just one of those articles that breaks down an irrelevant, yet entertaining, statistic.

Yasmani Grandal is everything the Milwaukee Brewers need

Ever since the Milwaukee Brewers jettisoned Jonathan Lucroy to the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline in 2016, the club has been in search of a reliable catcher. One that could not only handle a pitching staff, but one that could carry his weight at the plate as well. Over the last two seasons, the Brewers have dished out at least 100 plate appearances to four different catchers, as they attempted to find a full-time Lucroy replacement. Manny Pina was a respectable option in 2017 and 2018, with his defense shining significantly brighter than his offense, but the Brewers coveted and needed more offensively.

When the offseason began, the Milwaukee Brewers had two glaring holes in their lineup that most thought they needed to address in order to repeat the successful season they put together in 2018. Although the Brewers aren’t an organization that necessarily listens to outside noise, general manager David Stearns likely knew he needed to upgrade both the second base and catcher position. As of now the Brewers will head into the season with the trio of Hernan Perez, Tyler Saladino and Cory Spangenberg at the second base, though that’s likely to change before spring training. As far as upgrading at catcher, the Brewers did just that by signing Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18,25 million deal.

In a single move, the Brewers grabbed one of the best catchers not only available in free agency, but in Major League Baseball as a whole. And no, that’s not a hyperbole. Grandal is, factually, a top-tier backstop, especially when it comes to the skill of hitting.

wRC+ MLB rank among catchers WAR MLB Rank among catchers
2016 121 3rd 2.9 4th
2017 102 7th 2.5 7th
2018 125 3rd 3.6 2nd

Grandal has been worth 9 WAR over the last three seasons, while Brewers catchers have somehow compiled a measly 4.1 WAR since the Lucroy trade, with Pina accounting for 80 percent of that total. It’s clear that the Brewers needed an upgrade.

Now, you might remember Grandal’s lackluster performance against — and here’s the irony — the Brewers during the National League Championship Series this past fall when it seemed like he couldn’t catch a ball to save his life. Some even gave him the moniker “Yasmani Passed Ball”. And while not necessarily clever, Grandal’s struggles with passed balls have been well-documented. He’s led baseball in past balls three times, and that was on full display in the NLCS. But don’t think his affinity for passed balls necessarily makes him a bad catcher.

According to Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Grandal has actually been the best defensive catcher in the league over the last three years. We all know that defensive statistics — particularly those pertaining to catchers — are nowhere near perfect, but this is telling, nonetheless. Even with his passed-ball problem, he more than holds his own behind the plate.. And that’s even more true when talking about pitch framing. Per StatCorner, Grandal was behind only Jeff Mathis in terms of pitch-framing value in 2018. The 30-year-old catcher was worth 13.8 runs saved above average, while meanwhile, Pina — who’s known for his defensive prowess — was way down the list at -4.2 runs saved above average. One could argue that Grandal is upgrade over Pina as a hitter and as a defensive catcher.

The Milwaukee Brewers are a significantly better team with Grandal behind the plate, though FanGraphs still has the team pegged for a crazy-low 79 wins. But we must take that with a grain of salt. Last year the site also predicted Milwaukee would finish with 79 wins, and look what happened. Don’t take projections too seriously. It’ll just make you mad. The fact is the Brewers are better than they were a week ago. Not even FanGraphs can argue that.

Speaking of projections, here’s how RW23 thinks Grandal will perform in 2019:

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP SB HR
RW23 515 437 .247 .354 .488 .842 .240 .362 24.0% 14.1% .280 2 27

Even if Grandal can’t meet these high-performance numbers, the shift to left-handed hitter friendly Miller Park should greatly aid the switch-hitting catcher. A career year for Grandal definitely isn’t out of the question.

What’s important is that the Brewers finally have their catcher, and even though their solution only covers a year, it’s clear the organization is looking to build on its 2018 success. Grandal’s addition gives the Brewers another dangerous hitter in a lineup that is already filled with them.