Tag Archives: carlos gomez

The projections: What I got wrong

As you know, baseball projections, or any projections for that matter, are never a sure thing, especially when they consist of nothing but educated guesses, as mine do. Projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS, which you can find on FanGraphs’ lovely site, are much more accurate, because they use complicated and in-depth formulas and models to make their decisions on players. As for me, I simply did some research and predicted the results on my own.

My projections were purely guesses, but I still hit some right on the nose. I did, however, swing and miss on quite a few. Here are the projections I bombed:

Jonathan Lucroy

Avg HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .303 11 .362 129 .377 .159 10.3% 11.4% 4.6
Season Stats .264 7 .313 93 .326 .127 15.4% 8.7% 1.1

After an MVP-caliber season in 2014, I had no doubt in my mind Jonathan Lucroy would follow it up with another stellar escapade at the plate. Way to make me look like an idiot, Jon. He went from a 6-win player to a 1-win player. Talk about astonishing.

Lucroy just wasn’t the same hitter. He dealt with a toe injury, but he also struggled with pitch selection (29.7 O-Swing%), had most of his power zapped and was unusually unlucky when he made contact with the ball; he posted a .297 BABIP after averaging a ,311 BABIP during his first five seasons in the bigs.

Aside from his bat’s disappearance, Lucroy’s defense also wasn’t Lucroy-worthy. According to FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) stat, which measures a player’s defensive value compared to league average, Lucroy’s value plummeted faster than Meek Mill’s rap career. Last year, he ranked sixth among catchers. In 2015, he was down in the gutter at 37th.

2016 outlook: In hindsight, the Brewers should have traded him immediately after his superstar year. Now, interest in the catcher will surely be down a bit.

Carlos Gomez

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .287 22 .366 131 .350 .193 22.1% 7.7% 5.3
Season Stats .255 12 .315 96 .314 .154 21.2% 6.5% 2.6

Carlos Gomez went through one roller coaster of a season in 2015, whether it was injuries, being fake traded to the New York Mets or being for real traded to the Houston Astros. And to top all of that off, he was a disaster at the plate.

I knew the Brewers were destined for the bottom of the standings, but no way did I think Gomez would contribute in a negative way to their offensive output. Like Lucroy, I thought he had a chance to compete for the MVP award; instead, he wasn’t even a league-average hitter. His helmet and the ground got pretty friendly, though.

2016 outlook: Trading Gomez was necessary and a fantastic move by Milwaukee’s brass, and I’m on-the-edge-of-my-seat excited for the prospects Houston sent over. In order for the trade to look respectable for the Astros, however, Gomez will need a big bounce-back season. And I think it’s in the cards. He’s my pick for 2016’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Michael Blazek

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 4.22 4.03 3.90 3.89 7 21.3% 11.3% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.43 3.17 3.85 3.60 3 21.2% 8.1% 47.4% 0.6

Michael Blazek was a hard player to project. Before 2015, the right-handed reliever had just 17 innings of major-league experience, making projecting his first full year a crap shoot.

As it turns out, Blazek was one of the best relievers the solid Brewers bullpen had, ranking fourth in WAR. He waited all the way until August 2 before allowing his first home run. He didn’t strike out many. but he still managed to hold hitters to an extremely low batting average on balls in play (.243).

2016 outlook: It wouldn’t shock me to see Blazek get a shot at the starting rotation next season. The Brewers are rebuilding, and his arsenal and pitching style are more suitable for a starter, anyway. Why not give him a chance?

Francisco Rodriguez

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 3.72 4.22 3.15 2.62 11 25.9% 8.8% 42.0% -0.1
Season Stats 2.21 2.91 2.63 2.42 6 28.7% 5.1% 46.4% 1.0

Francisco Rodriguez was horrible in 2014, and I didn’t expect the Brewers to bring him back. I was wrong. I also didn’t expect Rodriguez to be remotely decent out of the ‘pen. I was wrong. This was, by far, the worst of my projections. Apologies, K-Rod.

Rodriguez did a wonderful job of cutting back on his walks and increasing his K rate, but what’s gone mostly unnoticed is his groundball percentage. His 46.4 GB% is the second-best mark of his career and the highest since 2011. Rodriguez’s plethora of grounders is a main reason why his home run totals were almost sliced in half.

2016 outlook: Once again, Rodriguez will be used as a trade chip by the Brewers. Kudos to Milwaukee for hanging on to him for another season in order to get his value back up.

 

***Even though I was very, very wrong about their performances, I didn’t include Kyle Lohse or Matt Garza on this list. I think we saw enough of them over the season as it is. Nobody wants to read anything more about them.

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Breaking down the trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston

The best overall player and the best starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers are no longer on the Milwaukee Brewers. Both Carlos Gomez (1.7 WAR) and Mike Fiers (1.7 WAR) were shipped off to the Houston Astros in exchange for four minor league prospects. The rebuilding and retooling has officially begun in Milwaukee, and it’s a glorious thing. Sure, seeing Gomez, a fan favorite, and Fiers, my personal favorite, leave is tough to deal with as fans, but knowing it’s for the greater good makes it easier to handle.

Other than Jonathan Lucroy, Gomez was the most highly valued hitter and fielder on the Brewers. Gomez been worth 17.9 WAR over the past three and a half seasons and has saved 88 runs defensively. He becomes a free agent after the 2016 season, and the Brewers had little chance of re-signing him (he is a Scott Boras client after all). Trading him now was absolutely the right move.

The Astros also received a solid pitcher in Fiers. He’s actually been the 43rd-best starting pitcher in 2015, meaning he’s been more valuable than Mike Leake, who was just traded to the San Francisco Giants, and Yovani Gallardo, who’s name came up in multiple trade discussions. Trading Fiers came as a bit of a surprise to some because he’s a cheap pitcher who is under team control for basically forever. However, if the Brewers didn’t include Fiers in the deal, the Astros never would have sent the star prospect of the trade, Brett Phillips, to Milwaukee.

So, let’s break down each of the four prospects the Brewers received as we get excited for the future of the organization.

OF Brett Phillips

Phillips was Houston’s No. 2 prospect coming into the 2015 season. He’s now Milwaukee’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com. A lot of knowledgeable people around baseball believe he’s a future All-Star. He has a cannon for an arm out in center field, but most of the hype that surrounds him is because of his bat. Phillips absolutely obliterated baseballs in High-A ball this season (15 home runs and a .417 wOBA) before being promoted to Double-A. The power hasn’t shown up there yet (just one home run), but a .372 OBP has contributed to a 133 wRC+. Like the recently departed Gomez, Phillips also has great speed and could be a 15-20 stolen base guy in the majors. Phillips is exactly the kind of player you want to build your team around.

OF Domingo Santana

While everyone is smitten over Phillips, Domingo Santana is the guy who I’m most excited about. If everything goes right, I think he can turn into one of the best players in all of baseball. Yeah, you read that right. Mark it down. He has all the talent to make it happen. In 75 games in Triple-A this season, Santana posted an insane on-base percentage of .426. And that’s with striking out almost 28% of the time. He has power and draws a fair amount of walks. The only problem with Santana is his lack of contact, which is why he’s being considered as a wild card and a player who’s difficult to project. Santana made contact on just 71.6% of pitches inside the zone. That’s not good. At all. His contact problems are very worrisome as he enters the big leagues. But if he can start putting the bat on the ball with more consistency, watch out. He’s 23, so don’t be surprised if you see him up with the Brewers in September, and starting in 2016.

LHP Josh Hader

Josh Hader has put together a very nice season in Double-A this year, posting a 3.17 ERA and 3.46 FIP. He’s also struck out 9.51 batters per nine innings. He has a decent fastball and changeup, but his slider isn’t as effective as it should be. If we’re talking about upside, I see Hader as a back-of-the-rotation guy. His strikeout numbers are, of course, promising, but he has control issues and isn’t an overpowering pitcher. But similar to Fiers, Hader hides the ball well, making his fastball, which usually sits in the low 90s, look much faster.

RHP Adrian Houser

By his minor-league numbers alone, there’s not much that excites about Adrian Houser. He’s really struggled during his short time in Double-A, mainly due to the fact he can’t keep the ball in the park and walks far too many hitters while not striking out enough. At the very best, Houser will be an OK reliever if and when he reaches the big leagues. But don’t expect to see him in Milwaukee any time soon. He has a lot to work on.

***

This was a tremendous trade for both organizations, but for the Brewers, it makes a weak farm system considerably better. Both Phillips and Santana are top-5 prospects, and the potential is there with Hader and Houser. Doug Melvin deserves a pat on the back.

Predicting who gets traded and who stays

We are now at the All-Star break, and for teams sitting at the bottom of the standings, like the Milwaukee Brewers are, it’s a welcome furlough. The four-days off is also usually the beginning of trade season, as teams are either getting ready to stack up for a postseason run or start shedding veterans in order to ignite the rebuilding process. In case you don’t know anything about anything, the Brewers will be doing the latter. At 38-52, they have the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. They are officially sellers.

Milwaukee is currently in possession of a handful of players who contending teams should be calling about. They have veterans with expiring contracts, but they also have players who are on the cusp of their primes, making them extremely coveted.

The Brewers won’t trade their entire roster (even though I’m not against the idea), but it’s safe to say they’ll be sending a few players out of the city known for its beer. So let’s make some predictions.

Players who will get traded

OF Gerardo Parra – Numerous teams are in need of outfield depth (see Kansas City), and with the way Parra has performed offensively, his name is one of the hottest on the block. Of outfielders with at least 300 plate appearances, he has the 13th-highest wRC+, not to mention his on-base percentage of .344 would be his best mark since 2011. Parra is as good as gone.

SP Kyle Lohse – I know his ERA and everything else you can possibly look at is downright terrible, but I still have this feeling that a team is going to take a flyer on him, for the right price, of course. The Brewers won’t get much back and they’ll probably to have pay some of his remaining salary, but with Lohse being a free agent after the season, why wouldn’t a team in need of a back-end starter go after him?

3B Aramis Ramirez – Every team needs hitting and Ramirez can still provide that at 37 years old. He’s a notorious slow starter and this season was definitely no exception. His numbers are finally beginning to improve, however. After producing a .272 wOBA in June, he crushed the ball in July and finished the month with a .366 wOBA. He, like Lohse, is in the last year of his contract (and career). He’s a rental who a team will trade for.

1B Adam Lind – He’s been the best player on the Brewers in 2015 and is probably the best hitter on the market. He’s already put up 2.1 WAR while creating an impressive 43% more runs than league average. Lind could bring back a fairly decent haul, especially compared to the other guys I listed above. If a team is looking for a high OBP player who hits home runs, Lind is the man for the job.

RP Francisco Rodriguez – I’ll admit I was wrong about Rodriguez. I thought he would be equally as bad as he was in 2014, but as it turns out, he’s been lights-out. His strikeout rate (30.8%) is back in line with his career norms and he’s no longer getting bit by home runs. He would be a very valuable add to a bullpen in need of a high-leverage reliever. The only thing stopping a team for making a play for him is his big contract. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2016 with a $6 million club option in ’17 ($2 million buyout). That’s a lot of money for a closer who’s been up and down in the past few seasons. Still, I think the Brewers will trade him yet again, but this time, there will be no reunion between the two.

Players who won’t get traded

OF Carlos Gomez – The Brewers should trade him, but I think they’ll wait another year. They need to be able to sell tickets in 2016, in spite of the talent-less roster they’re sure to put together, and people will pay to see Gomez. I feel like that is a terrible reason not to trade someone, especially since his value now is higher than it will be next year, but it’s what the Brewers will presumably do.

C Jonathan Lucroy – Lucroy’s going to stay in Milwaukee as well. The Brewers will have to be unbelievably blown away in order to trade a great catcher with a team-friendly contract like Lucroy. I think Lucroy will be involved in a mid-season trade next season, but not this one.

RP Jonathan Broxton – Making the playoffs and doing well once you’re there is nearly impossible without a quality bullpen. Basically everyone is looking for bullpen depth. By old-school numbers Broxton has been less than quality in 2015, which is why I don’t see him being moved. The Brewers would get next to nothing in return for him. so maybe their mindset is, why bother?

SS Jean Segura – I struggled with Segura. I can easily see him being traded, seeing as how Orlando Arcia is coming for his job. But which team is going to give up what the Brewers demand for him? That’s the big question here. Segura is a young and defensively talented shortstop who hasn’t hit much to date. What’s he really worth? Because that’s unknown, I think Segura stays put.

The time to trade Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy is now

In order to understand the premise of this article, you first need to comprehend that the Milwaukee Brewers will not be a good team for at least four years. They are about to go into full rebuilding mode, and that’s a very long and difficult process. The Brewers are a small market team and can’t Yankee up after every bad season and throw large sums of cash at highly coveted free agents. Instead, they have to build through the draft, find underrated and undervalued players and start thinking outside of the box in terms of evaluating talent. Milwaukee’s prospect cupboard is bare aside from a few names like Orlando Arcia, Clint Coulter and Tyrone Taylor (don’t give up on him yet), but even they are not ready for the big stage. The Brewers need to start over.

The next few years will be anything but fun if you call yourself a Brewers’ fan, and it will be even worse when Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy get traded. You may not want this to happen as Gomez is one of the most exciting players in baseball and Lucroy has transformed into the face of Milwaukee’s franchise, but the trade of both of them absolutely needs to happen now.

Neither Gomez or Lucroy are duplicating the All-Star seasons they put together in 2014. Gomez has created just 1% more runs than league average (101 wRC+) while Lucroy, even though he missed a significant chunk of time with a broken toe, has somehow managed a -0.2 WAR. His offense has been nonexistent; just two of his 20 base hits have gone for extra bases. Nonetheless, they were both MVP candidates a year ago and a few lousy months isn’t going to change a team’s perception of them. They are still Milwaukee’s hottest trade chips.

They both turned 29 which is generally considered right in the midst of a player’s prime. Now, Lucroy will be valuable for a longer period of time solely because of his pitch framing abilities. Look at Jose Molina. The guy has never hit in the major leagues, but at age 40, he’s still on a major-league roster. The Tampa Bay Rays handed him a two-year contract extension in his 38-age season all because of how he catches balls behind the plate. The same will probably be the case for Lucroy. His value will exceed his prime years, but that’s why the Brewers would be wise to get rid of him now, when he has both his bat and his catching skills still intact. Gomez, however, will falter sooner. He will lose his impressive speed with age and his defense will decline. His prime years are happening now.

There is no reason for a ball club to have two MVP-caliber players who are in the prime of their careers if said ball club has no shot in competing. Absolutely no reason. You can tell me that they will sell tickets and that they will sell merchandise, but in the end, the value the Brewers would get back from them would trump all that by a long shot.

Besides, Gomez is not going to re-sign with Milwaukee after next season. The $8 million the Brewers are paying him now and the $9 million they’re paying him next season is a steal, and Gomez knows that. Plus, he’s a Scott Boras client. Do you really think Scott Boras is going to let Gomez re-sign for less money than his market value?

As for Lucroy, he’s eligible to be a free agent after the 2017 season (unless Milwaukee buys him out, which definitely won’t happen). He’s on a very team-friendly contract so it might make some sense to keep him around for another season. But after the year he just came off of, his value is at its peak. If the Brewers want to get the biggest return, they need to trade him now.

The main argument I’ve seen on Twitter against trading Lucroy is the lack of catching depth in Milwaukee’s organization. This is true. Other than Martin Maldonado, the Brewers have literally no one who has the skill or who is ready to be a big-league catcher. But my response to this is, who cares? They can sign a cheap free agent catcher. They can trade worthless prospects to acquire a somewhat OK catcher. The Brewers aren’t going to be a competitive team for years to come, so having a well-rounded catcher isn’t exactly a necessity.

I would hate to see Gomez or Lucroy get shipped off to another team, but because of what Milwaukee’s roster looks like now, it needs to happen. As does the Brewers rebuilding process.

The Brewers can’t hit the low pitch

Someone ought to be plastering “MISSING” signs all over Milwaukee in order to find the Brewers’ offense. It hasn’t been seen since August 2015, and people are starting to worry. Myself included.

The Brewers are dead last in runs and home runs, and that has a resulted in an improbable 53 wRC+. (That means they’ve created 47% fewer runs than league average.) It hasn’t helped that Ryan Braun has just one extra-base hit to his name and Jonathan Lucroy — who was just placed on the disabled list with a broken toe — has looked like a zombie at the plate.

But the lack of scoring doesn’t just boil down to two players. There’s plenty of other ingredients that go into it.

One of those missing ingredients is the team’s inability to hit pitches in the lower half of the zone. Let’s take a look at the strike zone so I can better illustrate where the problems lie.

Zone

Because I wanted to find out how the Brewers perform on pitches in the bottom of the zone (zones 7,8.9), I went to Baseball Savant and sorted pitch location by batting average. With just how bad Milwaukee’s offense has been, the results didn’t really surprise me.

On pitches in zones 7, 8 and 9, the Brewers have a measly batting average of .198 (21 for 106), which is the lowest mark in Major League Baseball. It seems as if opposing pitchers have picked up on this out as well. Only six teams have seen more pitches in those areas of the zone, meaning pitchers are pounding it because they know Milwaukee is incapable of doing anything with their low pitches. Lucroy has had the most success against low pitches, going for 7-for-16, and Braun is 4-for-12, but other than that, the Brewers have produced nada. Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Khris Davis have combined to go 2-for-28 (.071).

Struggling low in the zone isn’t new for the Brewers. In 2014, they hit .276 in those three zones, and while that batting average is infinitely better than why they’re at now, the Brewers still finished 26th out of 30 teams. Not many home runs come from pitches down in the zone, so for a team explicitly built to hit home runs, one shouldn’t expect much production.

And I think that’s the issue. For at least the last few years, the Brewers have been programmed to hit home runs or lose. They’re not an on-base percentage team, they’re an all or nothing team. And the latter has been winning for quite some time now.

Carlos Gomez and capitalizing on opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.798 – 0.831 + 0 = 0.967 RE24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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