Author Archives: Justin Schultz

A stat Yovani Gallardo dominated in 2017

This offseason has been so mind-numbingly slow and boring, I’ve had little else to write about than Yovani Gallardo. When the Milwaukee Brewers inked him to a one-year deal in mid-December, I published a piece on the alterations he’s made and the transformations he’s gone through since being traded away from Milwaukee. And now, about a month later, I’m back at my computer writing words about Gallardo once more. On a totally unrelated note, it’d be nice if the Brewers could make a big acquisition soon. I really don’t want to be forced to write about Boone Logan and J.J. Hoover.

But that’s enough complaining. Let’s get back to Gallardo.

Per usual, I was fooling around on FanGraphs looking for article ideas when I stumbled upon a statistic that not only jumped out at me, but also surprised me. It has do with the exciting world of pop ups.

There were 105 pitchers who finished with at least 130 innings last season, with Gallardo being one of them. And of those 105 pitchers, no one induced a higher percentage of pop ups than the right hander. The former Brewers’ ace induced 25 total pop ups — or infield fly balls as FanGraphs describes them — for a percentage of 16.6 percent. That means that 16.6 percent of the 151 fly balls Gallardo allowed were classified as pop ups. Here’s the infield fly ball rate leaderboard chart from 2017 (minimum 130 innings).

1 Yovani Gallardo 130.2 25 16.6%
2 Marco Estrada 186.0 46 16.6%
3 Dan Straily 181.2 38 15.9%
4 Matt Boyd 135.0 27 15.9%
5 Ariel Miranda 160.0 34 14.0%
6 James Paxton 136.0 15 13.0%
7 Kenta Maeda 134.1 19 12.9%
8 Danny Duffy 146.1 21 12.2%
9 R.A. Dickey 190.0 24 12.2%
10 Ervin Santana 211.1 32 12.2%

Pop ups, as you probably know, are essentially guaranteed outs, making them a dear friend to pitchers and a nasty enemy to hitters. To Gallardo, they were the Shawn to his Cory. And this was a detour from the Gallardo’s usual path. Even though the 31 year old hurled just 130.2 innings, the 25 pop ups he allowed were the most in his career that began in 2007 and that has spanned over 1700 innings. In fact, he’s allowed just 32 pop ups combined in the past three years combined before 2017 began.

It’s been well-documented that Gallardo regained some of his lost velocity at some point during the 2017 season, and that just may have contributed to his increase in pop ups. Fast pitches up in the zone are tougher for hitters to get on top of, and if weak contact is made, it’s likely to result in a pop up. Let’s take a look at where in the zone Gallardo pitched that induced the most pop ups.

Note: Baseball Savant classifies infield fly balls differently than FanGraphs, which is why the chart above shows more pop ups than what I had previously stated.

The majority came from the upper corner of the zone, and like I said earlier, his improved velocity surely made it harder for hitters to make solid contact on those types of pitches. General manager David Stearns has already mentioned that Gallardo intrigued him because of his renewed velocity, so hopefully the latter’s new relationship with pop ups will continue.

In the grand scheme of things, however, I’m not sure this means much, if anything at all. Gallardo was still a rather poor pitcher last year. But at the very least, this should be viewed as some sort of silver lining for those who don’t understand why the Brewers wanted Gallardo back on their team. And if that doesn’t do it for you, well, you learned an interesting stat about one of the best pitchers in Brewers franchise history.

Projecting Jhoulys Chacin

The Milwaukee Brewers have been relatively quiet this winter. With money to spend and the urge to spend it for the first time in a handful of years, the expectation was that the Brewers would make a big splash in free agency. David Stearns has been rumored to be interested in Jake Arrieta, and it’s no secret the team would be in favor of re-signing Neil Walker. And while there’s still plenty of time for those moves or other noteworthy acquisitions to happen, the Brewers have decided to make plays for under-the-radar and low-cost players.

Their first “significant” offseason move was bringing back an old friend in Yovani Gallardo on a $2 million contract that includes incentives. After two forgettable seasons with Seattle and Baltimore, there’s no guarantee the former Brewers’ ace makes the roster, and even if he does, he’ll probably be used as a long reliever rather than a starter. The acquisition of Gallardo didn’t — for good reason — make much noise around baseball, but a few days later the Brewers made another move that, while not flashy at its base, has the potential to be great.

On Thursday the team announced that it had signed Jhoulys Chacin to a frontloaded two-year contract worth $15.5 million that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. At face value, Chacin seems like a league-average pitcher. In 2017 he posted a 3.89 ERA and a 4.26 FIP on his way to a 2.3 WAR over 32 starts. His career numbers aren’t nearly as positive, but he provided optimism with the Padres last year. His slider is considered one of the best in the game, and that’s backed up by this fact:

Chacin also forced more swings-and-misses via his slider than Chris Sale. That’s right, Chris Sale. The right-hander threw his slider almost 35 percent of the time last season and limited hitters to a lowly .155 batting average against it. As a result, Chacin finished with the 14th-highest groundball rate (49.1 percent) among qualified pitchers. He’ll need to continue to do that in Miller Park, a stadium known as a hitter’s paradise due to the amount of home runs it allows.

The biggest knock on Chacin is his home/road splits and his difficulty in getting out left-handed hitters. Chase Anderson also suffered from the latter problem until the Brewers altered where he stood on the mound last season, and he just turned in his best year to date. I’m not saying Chacin will automatically dominate lefties if he makes the same adjustment, but it’s definitely a possibility, and there’s absolutely no harm in trying. The home/road splits are more of an issue. Chacin threw in pitcher friendly Petco Park in 2017 and was unbelievably great (1.79 ERA, 3.80 FIP) at home. However, he was very different away from his home stadium (6.53 ERA, 4.85 FIP), and that’s somewhat worrisome going forward. Miller Park is considered a hitter’s park, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to his new atmosphere. Limiting home runs will be key to his success.

Here’s how RW23 projects Chacin to perform in 2018:

RW23 161.1 3.78 4.20 4.07 8.08 3.43 21.2% 9.0% 19 1.29 .282


Yovani Gallardo is back and different than ever

The last time Yovani Gallardo donned a Milwaukee Brewers jersey, he was considered the team’s ace. That’s not the highest of compliments when looking at the stable of pitchers the Brewers employed during his tenure, but nonetheless, Gallardo started 211 games across eight seasons for the Brewers and accumulated 20.8 WAR and an ERA of 3.49. He was more than serviceable during his time there, and should be considered one of the greats in franchise history. Milwaukee has been absent of Gallardo for three years now, until…

On the same day Matt Kemp was reunited via trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gallardo — a free agent — found himself back home as well. Now, while the Dodgers are keen on flipping Kemp, the Brewers hope Gallardo can contribute to the team’s playoff aspirations in 2018. The team has yet to announce the deal, so his role and contract numbers are still unknown, but the deal is likely a one-year contract. Though they have money to spend, the Brewers aren’t going to spend a good chunk of it on a guy who posted a 5.72 ERA last season. A one-year deal laced with incentives is a good bet here.

While most of you may remember Gallardo as a swing-and-miss strikeout pitcher, he actually hasn’t fit that mold for a while now. He started to change who he was when he was still in Milwaukee, but the alterations were truly put on display when he jettisoned to Texas and subsequently Baltimore and Seattle. The former second-round draft pick began to pitch to contact and ultimately forfeited strike outs in the process, as illustrated by the chart and table below.

Since 2012, Gallardo’s strikeout rate has lowered in almost every subsequent year. He saw it rise a bit this past season, but not enough for any significant optimism.

Year SwStr% Contact%
2012 (MIL) 7.9% 79.7%
2013 (MIL) 7.0% 82.9%
2014 (MIL) 7.0% 83.2%
2015 (TEX) 6.5% 84.4%
2016 (BAL) 6.4% 84.3%
2017 (SEA) 8.3% 81.2%

Because Gallardo has lost some velocity over the last few campaigns, he’s been forced to try to get hitters to put the bat on the ball rather than racking up outs via three strikes. The results, however, haven’t been all that kind to the veteran. In his last 51 appearances (45 starts) spanning the past two seasons, Gallardo’s 5.57 ERA is the 11th worst mark among all pitchers with at least 140 innings. His FIP ranks just as poorly, and his 0.6 WAR is bested by 164 of 190 pitchers.

So why on earth would David Stearns and the Brewers waste their time on someone clearly past his peak? Shouldn’t the front office be focused on acquiring bigger fish — like an Alex Cobb — who can actually contribute to the team in 2018? The answer to the latter question is yes. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated.

Since his arrival, Stearns has set his sights on acquiring low-risk, high-reward talent. Dealing with a mediocre payroll, he doesn’t have the luxury to spend big every offseason as he would if he were the general manager of the New York Yankees. Instead, he has to perform his job with the certain constraints. And so far, he should get all the credit in the world. He found Jonathan Villar, who was an unknown entity before coming to the Brewers. He traded for Travis Shaw and signed Jesus Aguilar, both of whom performed above expectations in 2017. Stearns has been able to find diamonds in the rough on a consistent basis since joining the front office, and while this is the first offseason in which he intends to spend money on free agents, signing a pitcher like Gallardo isn’t the dumbest thing in the world.

By signing Gallardo to an expected short, and small salary deal, he’s taking another low risk approach. Granted, Gallardo’s ceiling is no longer what it was, but the Brewers need someone in a long relief role, and if needed, someone who can fill in as a starter. Jimmy Nelson will miss a considerable amount of time next year, and the team will need multiple arms to fill his void. Gallardo figures to be one of those. If he fails, so what? The consequences will be minimal if any at all. If he succeeds, then Stearns just once again proves he’s a wizard. No risk is the name of the game, and that’s exactly why the Brewers signed their former ace.

Here’s what RW23 projects from him as a reliever in 2018:

45 4.63 4.75 4.62 6.50 3.56 16.6% 9.1% 6 1.45 .295

The projection doesn’t love him, though compared to Gallardo’s last two seasons, it’s a considerable improvement.

Let’s revisit my 2017 bold predictions

The annual Winter Meetings are in full swing, and while we wait for the Milwaukee Brewers to make some moves, I thought it’d be an appropriate time to check out how my bold predictions from last March fared. But don’t you worry. Once David Stearns — also known as The Wizard — starts wheeling and dealing, The First Out At Third will have all of it covered.

I made five bold predictions last season, and here’s how they turned out.

1. Eric Thames will lead the Brewers in home runs

Thames made his return to the major leagues and America after spending three years playing ball in Korea. He showed massive power out there, which is why I thought he was more than capable of hitting bombs at a high rate for the Brewers. Thames tied Travis Shaw for the team lead with 31 home runs, so we’re off to a great start.

Bold Prediction Batting Average: 1.000 (1-for-1)

2. Domingo Santana will be Milwaukee’s best hitter

I’ve always been high on Santana, which is why I predicted he’d finish with the highest wRC+ on the club. And guess what?

Rank Player wRC+
1 Domingo Santana 126
2 Eric Thames 124
3 Travis Shaw 119
4 Jesus Aguilar 112
5 Ryan Braun 110

Of the 10 Brewers’ hitters who saw at least 300 plate appearances, Santana led the way by producing 26 percent more runs than league average, and just barely beat out Thames for the team high. The 25-year-old outfielder has been subject of recent trade talks, but it’s going to take more than an arm and a leg to pry him from Milwaukee.

Bold Prediction Batting Average: 1.000 (2-for-2)

3. Kirk Nieuwenhuis will not make the Opening Day roster

The 2017 season began on April 3. Nieuwenhuis was designated for assignment on April 21. So while he technically made the Opening Day roster, he was let go just 18 days later. He was able to overachieve in 2016 (1.0 WAR), and while the Brewers gave him another shot the following season, they just had too many up-and-coming young outfielders to keep him on the roster. Nieuwenhuis posted a .245 wOBA and 43 wRC+ over 31 plate appearances before Milwaukee kicked him to the curb. I guess I’ll give myself a loss on this one, but man was it close.

Bold Prediction Batting Average: .666 (2-for-3)

4. Jacob Barnes will take over the closer’s role at some point

If you remember, Neftali Feliz began the season as Milwaukee’s closer. Boy, did that work out great. He owned a 6.00 ERA and 7.12 FIP before he was released on June 19. Corey Knebel was the clear-cut option to slide into Feliz’s role and take over, but I thought Barnes would be better suited for the ninth inning. I was wrong. Knebel dominated throughout the year (40.8 K%), while Barnes went through ups and downs, though he did lock down two saves. Still, another swing and a miss.

Bold Prediction Batting Average: .500 (2-for-4)

5. Ryan Braun doesn’t get traded

Though this doesn’t seem bold now, I assure you it was bold at the time. Braun was reportedly very close to being shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yasiel Puig in August of 2016, and while that didn’t happen, the Brewers seemed keen on moving on from him and his contract. After the Brewers and Dodgers failed to come to an agreement, I thought it’d be almost impossible for the team to trade Braun. That’s even more true now. The 34-year-old slugger finished with his lowest WAR (1.5) since 2015 and his lowest wRC+ (110) of his career in 2017. I think he’s destined to be a Brewer for life.

Bold Prediction Batting Average: .600 (3-for-5)

Free agent targets for the Milwaukee Brewers

The Winter Meetings are set to begin next week, and there should be a flurry of movement almost immediately. Well, that should be the case once Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani figure out where they want to play ball in 2018. Most baseball scribes seem to think once those two sign, the free agent floodgates will open, and for the teams out on the Stanton and Otani sweepstakes, it should be extremely exciting.

The Milwaukee Brewers are one of those teams. Otani has already ruled out Milwaukee as a possible destination, and there’s just no way they can afford to take on Stanton’s salary. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t ready to spend. They’ve already been linked to Jake Arrieta, who is one of the top free agent hurlers on the market. And while I think signing Arrieta will eventually be a tremendous mistake, there are still many options — both in the hitting and pitching department — that should pique the Brewers’ interest. The Brewers didn’t lose many players to free agency this offseason, though the few players who left will leave big holes on the roster. Neil Walker and Anthony Swarzak both elected free agency, although both have expressed interest on returning, a scenario the Brewers would likely welcome with open arms.

Here are a few free agents that I think the Brewers should target.

SP Alex Cobb

The free agent starting pitching market isn’t all that deep, but there are a few promising names, and Cobb is my favorite option. Cobb is entering his age-30 season and should be right in the middle of his prime years. The right-hander had a bit of a down campaign in 2017, finishing with a respectable 3.66 ERA, but a less impressive 4.16 FIP and 4.24 xFIP. Yet, he’s only two years removed from his second-consecutive season of sub-3.00 ERA. He has the potential to be a true No. 1 ace, and he would immediately fill that void in Milwaukee, especially considering Jimmy Nelson is expected to miss a good chunk of 2018.

In order to revert back to his dominant days, the former Rays’ hurler will need to improve his whiff numbers. His 6.7% swinging strike numbers in 2017 was a career low, and the majority of his other plate discipline numbers suffered from previous years as well. One down year in the peripheral stats department shouldn’t discourage the Brewers from any interest, though. He’s still considered one of the top arms on the market.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Cobb to receive a four-year, $48 million contract, which is something the Brewers should have no problem offering. He does, however, come with some injury risk. He missed the entirety of the 2015 season and made just five starts the following year due to Tommy John surgery. Still, his track record and arm potential is worth the risk.

2B Neil Walker

This is somewhat obvious, as Walker played 38 games with the Brewers in 2017 after being acquired from the Mets. But second base is one of the biggest holes Milwaukee needs to focus on this winter. The team tendered Jonathan Villar and re-signed Eric Sogard, but expecting those two to adequately hold down second base for 162 games is a bit of a stretch. Villar — who broke out in 2016 — was pitiful a year later, and, as much as I love the guy, Sogard is most useful off the bench or in a utility role.

Walker should be Milwaukee’s top target if they want to compete again. And the 32 year old clearly likes hitting in Miller Park. After putting up a 108 wRC+ over 299 plate appearances for New York, Walker blasted his way to a 125 wRC+ in 149 plate appearances. The dimensions of Miller Park agree with him.

MLB Trade Rumors projects just a two-year deal worth $11 million for the veteran, though the Brewers might be wise to overpay for his production. The alternative is just not good enough for a hopeful contender.

SP Chris Tillman

As a cheaper and less-talented option than Cobb, the Brewers should give Chris Tillman a call. Even though it seems like Tillman has been around since the dawn of time, he’s actually only 29 years old, and should still have plenty left in the tank. It’s true that had the worst season of his career in 2017, and yes, it’s true his 14.2% strikeout rate was his lowest mark since 2010 — his second year in the bigs. Regardless of all that, Tillman represents a terrific bounce-back option. In 2016, he posted a 3.77 ERA and 4.23 FIP, which is eerily similar to Zach Davies‘ most recent stat line.

If the Brewers were to sign the righty, it would most likely be on a short-term deal with a team option. MLB Trade Rumors has him pegged at receiving just a one-year deal worth $11 million. With Nelson out of the starting rotation for the foreseeable future, Tillman would slide in toward the back of the rotation, with his upside being a No. 2 or 3 pitcher.

He’s not the sexiest name on the open market, but he’s a reclamation project that David Stearns loves. He’d be more than useful in Milwaukee’s shallow rotation.

Honorable Mentions

Anthony Swarzak: He resurrected his career and has turned himself into a dominant reliever. He enjoyed his time in Milwaukee, and the Brewers need bullpen help.

Mike Fiers: The Brewers should bring Fiers home, like they did with Jeremy Jeffress. His stats with Houston over the past two years aren’t pretty, but I fully believe he can help Milwaukee in 2018.

Tommy Hunter: Another pitcher on my list, but that’s the main asset the Brewers should covet. Hunter has been a stud reliever since making the switch from the rotation in 2013, and while it could take a decent chunk of change to get Hunter to Milwaukee, he would greatly improve the Brewers’ bullpen.

Reviewing the pitcher projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

The World Series is over (congratulations to World Series champion Mike Fiers) but for fans of the Milwaukee Brewers, the offseason began long ago. The Brewers missed the playoffs by an inch, and although playing in October would’ve been incredible, the season as a whole was a great success. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the future is bright in Milwaukee. I fully believe this team is just a year or two away from being a perennial playoff team, something the Brewers have never really been.

But now that the season has ended, it’s time to revisit the projections by comparing my own system (RW23) that was created with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book Projecting X 2, with popular projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. This was the first year I had ever created projections, and I’m curious to see how they held up.

Below you’ll find every Brewers pitcher I projected just before the season tipped off, along with Steamer and ZiPS projections, compared to said player’s actual 2017 statistical line. If you missed my hitter projection review, you can find it here.

***Note: My preseason projections included Tommy Milone, Jhan Marinez, Neftali Feliz and Taylor Jungmann, but because they were on the major league roster for such a short time, I chose not to include them below.

Junior Guerra

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
Actual 70.1 18 1.48 .236 8.57 5.50 21.3% 13.7% 5.12 6.58 5.43

Winner: Steamer

All three projection systems — especially RW23 — missed on Guerra’s meltdown in 2017, and while Steamer and ZiPS were equally accurate, neither really deserve a win here. Yet, I’m giving it to Steamer. Guerra will be 33 by the beginning of next season, and it seems like his time with Milwaukee is most likely finished. But at least we have his 2016 brilliance as a nice memory.

Zach Davies

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
Actual 191.1 20 1.35 .302 5.83 2.59 15.2% 6.7% 3.90 4.22 4.42

Winner: Steamer

RW23 should definitely get its props for being accurate, but Steamer still managed to edge out the win by just a hair. Once again, Davies outperformed his peripherals, while also finishing with the exact same BABIP and home runs allowed as he did in 2016. The 24 year old has proved he deserves to be in a major league rotation, even if most of his outs come in other ways than the strike out.

Jimmy Nelson

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
Actual 175.1 16 1.25 .340 10.21 2.46 27.3% 6.6% 3.49 3.05 3.15

Winner: RW23

Neither of the three systems were particularly close when it came to projecting Nelson, but RW23 was closer to predicting his success relative to Steamer and ZiPS. Nelson broke out in 2017, and despite a crazy .340 BABIP, posted the lowest ERA, FIP and xFIP of his career. It’s really a shame he’ll miss a significant amount of time next season.

Matt Garza

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
Actual 114.2 17 1.45 .287 6.20 3.53 15.7% 8.9% 4.94 4.91 5.12

Winner: ZiPS

ZiPS and Steamer were neck-and-neck, but I’m giving the slight edge to the former. Garza was dreadful once again, and his contract will go down as the worst free agent contract in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history. He’s now a free agent, but seeing how his last few seasons went, his career might be over. If so, he finishes a 12-year career with 23 WAR.

Wily Peralta

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
Actual 57.1 10 1.83 .362 8.16 5.02 19.3% 11.9% 7.85 5.34 4.96

Winner: N/A

Peralta was terrible in 2017. So much so that he was optioned to the minors and subsequently designated for assignment. There are no winners here.

Chase Anderson

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
Actual 141.1 14 1.09 .265 8.47 2.61 23.4% 7.2% 2.74 3.58 4.33

Winner: Steamer

So far the projections haven’t been able to figure out Brewers pitchers in 2017, but once again, Steamer was the closest on Anderson, particularly regarding his peripherals. Anderson posted a sub-3.00 ERA that no one saw coming, and he heads into next season as the Brewers top pitcher.

Jacob Barnes

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
Actual 72 8 1.25 .272 10.00 4.13 26.3% 10.9% 4.00 3.88 3.67

Winner: Steamer

ZiPS had more of Barnes’ peripheral stats correct, but Steamer takes the cake with its ERA/FIP/xFIP projections. Barnes was wild and didn’t command the strike zone as well as RW23 thought he would. However, his strikeout numbers are great, and he should once again be in the back end of the bullpen and used in high-leverage situations next season.

Corey Knebel

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
Actual 76 6 1.16 .311 14.92 4.74 40.8% 12.9% 1.78 2.53 2.97

Winner: ZiPS

I could’ve given the win to RW23, but once again, ZiPS was more consistent throughout. Knebel put together his best season of his professional career and finished with the fourth-highest strikeout rate among qualified relievers.

Carlos Torres

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
Actual 72.2 10 1.53 .309 6.94 4.09 17.4% 10.3% 4.21 4.89 4.96

Winner: Steamer

All three systems missed the target on Torres, as his ERA rose by almost 1.5 runs from 2016. He was ourighted by Milwaukee a few weeks ago.

Jared Hughes

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
Actual 59.2 4 1.22 .278 7.24 3.62 19.7% 9.8% 3.02 3.93 3.98

Winner: RW23

At the time I published my original projections post, Steamer hadn’t updated Hughes’ projection. Same with ZiPS for K% and BB%. So I guess by default, RW23 is the winner. Hughes — who was another quality under-the-radar pickup by David Stearns — was an extremely valuable asset in Milwaukee’s bullpen, and the 32 year old should have a similar role in 2018.

Final Results

Steamer: 5 wins

ZiPS: 2 wins

RW23: 2 wins

Reviewing the hitter projections for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers

The World Series is over (congratulations to World Series champion Mike Fiers) but for fans of the Milwaukee Brewers, the offseason began long ago. The Brewers missed the playoffs by an inch, and although playing in October would’ve been incredible, the season as a whole was a great success. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the future is bright in Milwaukee. I fully believe this team is just a year or two away from being a perennial playoff team, something the Brewers have never really been.

But now that the season is over, it’s time to revisit the projections by comparing my own system (RW23) that was created with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book Projecting X 2, with popular projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. This was the first year I had ever created projections, and I’m curious to see how they held up.

Below you’ll find every Brewers hitter I projected in the preseason, along with Steamer and ZiPS projections, compared to said player’s actual 2017 statistical line. Pitcher projection results will soon follow the publication of this article.

Manny Pina

RW23 360 330 .246 .302 .356 .658 .110 .290 16.1% 7.0% .275 8
Steamer 109 99 .250 .305 .384 .689 .135 .298 17.2% 6.6% .282 3
ZiPS 304 278 .241 .291 .371 .662 .129 .286 16.4% 5.9% .271 6
Actual 359 330 .279 .327 .424 .751 .145 .323 22.0% 5.6% .339 9

Winner: Steamer

Even though Steamer vastly miscalculated Pina’s playing time while RW23 was dead accurate, Steamer’s projections were consistently more spot on, giving it the win. Neither of the three thought Pina would have the offensive season he mustered. Kudos to him.

Eric Thames

RW23 535 478 .265 .334 .517 .851 .252 .360 26.4% 9.3% .308 31
Steamer 534 470 .272 .350 .515 .864 .243 .364 24.2% 9.6% .313 29
ZiPS 507 450 .247 .321 .493 .815 .247 .343 28.2% 8.7% .297 26
Actual 551 469 .247 .359 .518 .877 .271 .369 29.6% 13.6% .309 31

Winner: RW23

Another close one with Steamer, but RW23 earns its first win. It correctly predicted Thames’ home run total and was just a point off in slugging and BABIP. Thames produced an excellent season for the Brewers and was definitely a major upgrade over Chris Carter. ZiPS, meanwhile, is still looking to get on the scoreboard.

Jonathan Villar

RW23 625 545 .260 .348 .398 .746 .137 .326 24.9% 11.8% .336 15
Steamer 641 563 .255 .333 .397 .731 .142 .318 25.3% 10.0% .329 15
ZiPS 584 515 .256 .332 .410 .742 .153 .322 26.9% 9.8% .338 15
Actual 436 403 .241 .293 .372 .665 .132 .287 30.3% 6.9% .330 11

Winner: N/A

Jonathan Villar was awful in 2017. While each system projected regression from his phenomenal and unsustainable 2016 campaign, none had him falling off the face of the earth. He eventually lost his starting job to Eric Sogard and Neil Walker, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself displaced from the roster next year.

Travis Shaw

RW23 541 485 .254 .322 .439 .761 .185 .330 24.4% 8.7% .301 22
Steamer 388 347 .245 .314 .431 .745 .186 .319 23.3% 8.6% .286 15
ZiPS 542 492 .246 .308 .433 .741 .187 .316 22.9% 7.9% .287 20
Actual 606 538 .273 .349 .513 .862 .240 .361 23.1% 9.9% .312 31

Winner: RW23

RW23 was a little more bullish than Steamer and ZiPS, though Shaw still managed to exceed all projections and expectations. He set a career high with 31 home runs and had his best season of his career. Not the most accurate projection by RW23, but it somewhat projected his breakout.

Orlando Arcia

RW23 580 537 .255 .304 .383 .688 .129 .300 17.5% 6.5% .293 12
Steamer 538 497 .246 .292 .375 .667 .129 .288 18.3% 5.8% .286 10
ZiPS 635 593 .245 .289 .379 .669 .135 .288 20.2% 5.5% .291 13
Actual 548 506 .277 .324 .407 .731 .130 .309 18.2% 6.6% .317 15

Winner: RW23

Once again, RW23 was overall just more consistent. Arcia managed to outperform the projections and turned out to be somewhat of a better hitter than people expected. He still only finished with an 85 wRC+, so there’s room for improvement from the 23 year old.

Ryan Braun

RW23 555 496 .291 .355 .495 .850 .204 .362 18.6% 8.6% .320 24
Steamer 544 487 .280 .346 .492 .838 .212 .353 19.3% 8.7% .310 24
ZiPS 548 497 .282 .343 .477 .820 .195 .347 18.4% 8.0% .313 22
Actual 425 380 .268 .336 .487 .823 .218 .347 17.9% 8.9% .292 17

Winner: ZiPS

ZiPS earns its first win, as it accurately predicted Braun’s wOBA and was just a couple points off of his OPS. Braun’s home run power disappeared in 2017, and he just didn’t look like the player he used to be. With the crop of young outfielders the Brewers are ready to employ, Braun’s future is a little up in the air.

Keon Broxton

RW23 522 456 .242 .331 .413 .743 .170 .325 31.0% 11.4% .337 15
Steamer 530 466 .222 .304 .378 .683 .156 .298 32.9% 10.2% .315 15
ZiPS 469 417 .216 .297 .408 .705 .192 .304 37.3% 10.0% .325 16
Actual 463 414 .220 .299 .420 .819 .200 .308 37.8% 8.6% .323 20

Winner: ZiPS

Keon Broxton led MLB in strikeout rate (minimum 400 PA), and ZiPS nailed it on the head with that one. ZiPS was scary accurate throughout Broxton’s projection, while RW23 turned out to be way too optimistic. The centerfielder was, however, able to knock out 20 home runs, but his 84 wRC+ left a lot to be desired.

Domingo Santana

RW23 515 441 .256 .354 .490 .843 .234 .362 31.0% 12.3% .341 23
Steamer 517 448 .253 .343 .449 .792 .197 .342 28.8% 11.4% .327 21
ZiPS 466 408 .243 .333 .441 .774 .199 .334 32.6% 11.2% .335 19
Actual 607 525 .278 .371 .505 .875 .227 .372 29.3% 12.0% .363 30

Winner: RW23

This one wasn’t all that close. RW23 correctly predicted Santana’s breakout, particularly when it came to his power numbers. Personally, I’ve been a die-hard believer in Santana as a prospect and a player, and it’s nice to see him perform at such at high level in his 25-age season. He led the Brewers in wRC+ and while 30 home runs might be his peak, expect his OBP numbers to increase as he continues to get a better feel for the strike zone.

Hernan Perez

RW23 315 296 .261 .296 .383 .679 .122 .295 21.6% 4.7% .314 7
Steamer 402 379 .261 .294 .385 .679 .124 .292 19.6% 4.2% .308 8
ZiPS 486 458 .266 .293 .400 .693 .133 .296 18.1% 3.7% .308 10
Actual 458 432 .259 .289 .414 .704 .155 .298 17.2% 4.4% .286 14

Winner: ZiPS

ZiPS believed Perez would get more playing than a typical utility player, and it was right. For the second straight year, Perez set a career high in home runs and is destined to play a similar role for the Brewers in 2018.

Jett Bandy

RW23 300 280 .267 .304 .457 .761 .190 .326 17.8% 3.9% .282 14
Steamer 218 199 .237 .288 .393 .681 .156 .294 19.7% 4.9% .267 7
ZiPS 337 307 .225 .278 .378 .655 .153 .284 22.8% 4.2% .260 11
Actual 188 169 .207 .287 .349 .636 .142 .280 27.1% 8.0% .259 6

Winner: ZiPS

Bandy started out hot to begin the year, but the catcher eventually cooled and was optioned to the minors. He has raw power and RW23 expected to see that in 2017. It’s hard to envision Bandy making the Opening Day roster in 2018 with Manny Pina and Stephen Vogt still on the roster, but a eye-opening spring could keep him in Milwaukee’s plans.

Jesus Aguilar

RW23 145 134 .231 .283 .334 .617 .103 .273 22.3% 6.5% .280 3
Steamer 99 90 .238 .303 .411 .714 .174 .306 23.0% 7.9% .276 4
ZiPS 568 516 .250 .310 .448 .758 .198 .322 23.1% 7.6% .283 26
Actual 311 279 .265 .331 .505 .837 .240 .351 30.2% 8.0% .337 16

Winner: ZiPS

Aguilar is arguably the biggest surprise of the 2017 campaign. He’s a relatively unknown player who just happened to post a 112 wRC+ off the bench in his first full season in MLB. RW23 and Steamer didn’t believe in him at all. Sure, he had a fantastic spring training, but spring training stats are relatively meaningless. It will be interesting to see what the projections look like for Aguilar next year.

Final Results

ZiPS: 5 wins

RW23: 4 wins

Steamer: 1 win