Tag Archives: Junior Guerra

Regression candidates for the Milwaukee Brewers

“Regression” is a commonly used phrase in the baseball community, particularly among those who consider themselves statheads or sabermetric-minded. It’s even popular among fantasy baseballers. Listen to a fantasy baseball podcast and I guarantee you’ll hear the word “regression” at least 49 times. It might become redundant, but it’s important to understand and expect regression, especially if a player has a stat that looks like an outlier and/or is getting up there in age.

Take Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees, for example. Forty percent of his fly balls flew out of the park in 2016. There’s absolutely no chance he repeats that. If he does (he won’t), his home-run-to-fly-ball ratio would be the highest of any qualified hitter in Major League Baseball history. Sanchez has terrific power for a catcher, but even Barry Bonds’ fly balls didn’t carry that much. Sanchez will regress, that much is certain.

Like the Yankees’ backstop, there were a few players on the Milwaukee Brewers last season that produced numbers that are more than likely unsustainable.

Jonathan Villar

Villar is coming off a .373 BABIP, meaning 37 percent of his batted balls went for hits. To put that in perspective, he ranked fourth in MLB in that category, and he was better than Mike freakin’ Trout. Right away, the odds of him sustaining that high of a BABIP are extremely low, just because that’s insane. But there are other warning signs, as well.

Villar hit the ball on the ground 55.6 percent of the time in 2016, which doesn’t leave much room for other types of batted balls, including line drives. In order to try and predict his regression, I looked at every player who was within about three percentage points of Villar’s GB%, so I could see how their BABIP compared to the Brewers’ infielder.

Player GB% BABIP
Eric Hosmer 58.9% .301
Yunel Escobar 58.1% .339
Christian Yelich 56.6% .356
Ryan Braun 55.7% .326
Jonathan Villar 55.6% .373
Cesar Hernandez 54.9% .363
Wilson Ramos 54.3% .327
Adam Eaton 53.7% .329
Ian Desmond 53.4% .350
Jean Segura 53.1% .353
Denard Span 52.7% .291
Adonis Garcia 52.4% .308
Brett Gardner 52.3% .310
Average .333

This list actually shows the 14 players with the highest GB% last season — which illustrates just how frequently Villar put the ball on the ground — and out of all these guys, Villar’s BABIP was far and away the highest, which essentially points to automatic regression. Now, keep in mind that league average batting average on balls in play is usually around .300, and aside from Span, every player above exceeded that, so Villar is still likely to as well. He has the speed which allows him to use ground balls to his advantage — which is why most of these players have admirable marks — but while Villar’s BABIP probably won’t crater down to earth like President Donald Trump’s approval rating, it’s definitely going to drop closer toward the mean (.333) in 2017, and as a result, his overall offensive production will falter a bit.

Ryan Braun

During the last two seasons, Braun has looked like the same fearsome hitter that he was when he produced MVP-caliber campaigns back in 2011 and 2012. He has 55 home runs during that span, 30 of which came last year, and while that has been an impressive run, it’s likely going to come to an end, as Braun is about to experience some serious home run regression.

braun

Above is a chart of Braun’s HR/FB ratio over the course of his career. His fly balls have always carried over the wall at a higher rate than most other players, but 2017 was an entirely different story. Braun not only posted a career high with a 28 percent home-run-to-fly-ball ratio, but he actually led all of baseball in this statistic, and it wasn’t all that close, either. Before last year, Braun never even came close to hitting 25 percent, much less flirting with 30, so predicting a home run regression isn’t exactly a shot in the dark. Not to mention the fact that he recently turned 33, and power usually evaporates with age.

Braun turned in one his best seasons in recent memory, but if his fly balls stop carrying out of the ball park, can we really expect him to put up similar numbers?

Junior Guerra

Guerra came out of nowhere and provided 2.5 WAR in 20 starts for the Brewers last year, second only to Zach Davies. He’ll battle Davies for the right to start on Opening Day, but it’s unwise to believe he can repeat a 2.81 ERA. Just look at his peripherals. His 3.71 FIP and 4.29 xFIP are huge warning signs going into 2018. Those two marks were considerably higher than his ERA because he wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, had some issues with walks and kept the ball in the park at an alarming rate — all of which suggest that regression is about to hit him hard.

The then 31-year-old rookie was also quite lucky last season. His .250 BABIP was the fifth-lowest mark among starting pitchers (min. 120 IP), just ahead of Clayton Kershaw and a fraction behind Kyle Hendricks. And even when he did allow hits, he did an unusually terrific job at stranding them, as is evident by his 79.4 percent strand rate.

Steamer projections are predicting him to fall off a cliff with a 4.32 ERA, and while I could definitely see that happening, that may be a bit too much projected regression.

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If I were manager: Picking the Brewers starting rotation

Let’s play a game. You like games, right? Good, because we’re going to pretend I’m the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and I get to pick the starting rotation. Game on.

The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation posted a combined 4.40 ERA and 8.5 WAR in 2016, ranking 17th and 20th, respectively. A good portion of the rotation’s WAR came from Zach Davies (2.8) and Junior Guerra (2.5), but overall it was just slightly below league average, despite you probably thinking otherwise. With no big-name free agent starters added to the pool, Milwaukee’s pitching staff doesn’t figure to be too much better in 2017, especially if the team rolls out the same lot it did a year ago. But is that really going to happen?

The Brewers have arguably seven pitchers who could start. Only four of them probably should, but manager Craig Counsell needs five. And so do I since I’m taking over as manager for this post. Here are the seven candidates according to Milwaukee’s depth chart:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Wily Peralta
  5. Chase Anderson
  6. Matt Garza
  7. Tommy Milone

Guerra and Davies are my top two pitchers and are definite locks to make the rotation. RW23 believes Guerra and Davies will see some regression this upcoming season, but not nearly enough to cause alarm. They should still be the best pitchers on the Brewers.

Notice how Garza isn’t listed among the top five. Given how much the Brewers are paying him, that’s a rather big surprise, but his stats back it up. Garza continued to prove he was one of the worst free agent signings in history by accumulating a 4.51 ERA and 4.33 FIP last year, bringing his Brewers total to 4.59 ERA/4.27 FIP across the last three seasons. He’s no longer a viable starting pitcher, and odds are he’ll only be worse this season. As manager, he will not be a part of my rotation. I’m going to stick him in the bullpen where he’ll hopefully eat up some innings as a long reliever. I’d cut him, but he’s owed $12.5 million in 2017, and that’s a lot of money to pay someone to not be on the team.

Like Garza, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson also struggled mightily. Peralta so much so that he was sent down to the minors to try and get right. Nelson, instead of taking another step forward, fell back and posted the highest FIP (5.12) of his career. Still, there’s upside remaining with both of them, more so with Nelson’s side, though. Walks really hurt him last year, along with the home run ball, and If he gets those things figured out, we should see some improvement. As for Peralta, well, I think we know what we’re going to get from him. He’s at best a No. 4 pitcher, and that’s being generous. He needs another chance to return to his 2014 form, though, so I’m going to give him one. Peralta and Nelson, welcome to my rotation.

Four spots are filled with one to go. Anderson and Milone are the final contestants, and neither of them are exactly endearing. Anderson has become increasingly more defective as his career rolls on, and even though he’s just 29, there’s literally no upside. Milone, on the other hand, has been serviceable but has never been considered a good pitcher. He’ll be 30 on Feb. 16 and owns a career 4.12 ERA in 673.1 innings as a starter. And although that ERA would be useful on many ball clubs, he’s never really been able to stick to a team. He started for the Athletics for parts of three seasons and was then shipped to the Twins in 2014 for another two and a half years. In 12 starts a year ago, he was blasted by everyone, as his 5.71 and 5.54 FIP clearly stated. And yet…

I’m going with Tommy Milone to round out my rotation. He’s been a better pitcher throughout his career than Anderson, and it’d be useful to have a southpaw in the mix. Milone has been underrated throughout his career, and I’d like to see what he can bring.

So here it is, my 2017 starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Tommy Milone
  5. Wily Peralta

Milone’s in at No. 4 just to break up the string of right-handed pitchers, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he outperformed Peralta. Regardless, that’s a rather uninspiring group, and it honestly might develop into the worst rotation in MLB if it stays that way.

Help is on the way, however, as Josh Hader should be just a few months away from breaking the rotation. I don’t believe he’ll make the roster right out of spring training, but if he does, he should absolutely be in the rotation. I’m not buying him as a reliever. He’s more than that. Taylor Jungmann isn’t on here either, solely because I don’t think the Brewers have any faith in him. They have Milone on their depth chart over him, for crying out loud.

Until the Brewers are ready to compete, they must adapt to an iffy starting rotation, as underwhelming as it may be. It’s forecasted to be another long season in Milwaukee.

Brewers trade talk: Who stays and who goes?

Being a fan of a miserable team isn’t all that much fun. Attending games is less entertaining and watching your team lose time and time again on television eventually becomes a waste of time, not to mention beyond frustrating.  And yet, being a fan of a miserable team can have its perks, especially during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a time when rebuilding teams can do just that — rebuild. They go out and acquire young talent while issuing farewells to long-time players, and although it may be sad, it’s for the good of the team.

That’s how Brewers’ fans are currently feeling. Aside from constant trade rumors, it’s been a rather boring year for Milwaukee fans, and they’re excited for the rumors to finally come to fruition. I know I am.

It should be a busy week and a half for the Brewers’ front office, and I’m sure David Stearns is on the phone right now trying to work a deal.

Let’s get to some predictions.

Players who will be traded

Jonathan Lucroy – If Lucroy’s still a member of the Brewers on Aug. 2, I’ll be absolutely shocked. He’s arguably the best player on the trade market, and with his defensive value and 123 wRC+, there’s multiple teams vying for his services.

Prediction: The Texas Rangers seem like the current favorite to land him, and they make the most sense, so I’m going to go with them. However, I have a feeling Boston will come just in the nick of time with a better offer, especially if they don’t believe Sandy Leon‘s current pace is sustainable. Spoiler: It’s not.

Jeremy Jeffress – Almost every contending team is in need of bullpen help, and the Brewers have a few to spare, including their closer. Jeffress’ strikeouts are down a considerable amount in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a 2.29 ERA and a 3.40 FIP. Teams will be drawn to him because of his mid-90s fastball that creates a plethora of ground balls. Jeffress probably won’t close on whichever team he’s dealt to, but he’ll no doubt make it stronger.

Prediction: The San Francisco Giants have been rumored to have interest, and I think that’s where he’ll land, maybe as a setup man to Santiago Casilla. Those two would make a dangerous 1-2 punch.

Junior Guerra – I’m in the minority on this one, but I really think Guerra will be moved. A team looking for a controllable pitcher who won’t cost much will find no better option than the Brewers’ 31-year-old rookie. He has an ERA that’s flirting with going below 3 and can hit 96 mph on the gun. At least one team will be attracted to him,

Prediction: Guerra seems like a perfect fit for the Rangers, who, by the way, are currently employing Kyle Lohse as a starter in their rotation.

Players who won’t be traded

Ryan Braun – If you would have asked me a month ago if I thought Braun would be on the move, I would have definitively said yes. Now I’m not so sure. His contract is huge, and his injury history is obviously worrisome. I thought his performance this season would negate all that. Then July hit. So far this month Braun has a 45 wRC+ and has yet to hit a home run. Can a team really take a chance that he’ll get his swing back over the last two months AND absorb his enormous contract?

Will Smith – Will Smith is receiving a lot of interest, so I could see him being traded. Then again, I’m a believer in David Stearns, and I think Stearns will wait until next year to sell Smith off after he regains some value. Smith has lost a little value this year because he’s not striking out hitters like he once did. His strikeout rate has fallen from 34.5% in 2015 to 22.7% in 2016. That’s essentially a 12% loss of strikeouts. Stearns might want to hold on to him a little while longer.

Is Junior Guerra trade bait?

The trade market for starting pitchers is relatively weak this season. There’s really no other way to put it. Very few “ace-like” pitchers will be available, if any at all. When teams trade for a starter just before the deadline, the intention is for that hurler to pitch for them in the playoffs, not just to pitch them into the playoffs. Unfortunately for postseason-hopeful teams, there’s not many playoff pitchers out there, even though the demand is substantial.

MLB Trade Rumors recently released a list of 40 pitchers that teams could pursue, but a good majority of them are either at best average pitchers or have too pricey of contracts, safe for a few like the entire Rays’ rotation, Drew Pomeranz and Julio Teheran.

But among the 40 that made the list, Milwaukee Brewers’ rookie Junior Guerra was nowhere to be found. And that’s what prompted me to write this post, because Guerra should absolutely be considered trade bait.

After spending essentially his entire career with the minors, Guerra has burst onto the scene as a Brewer. He’s made 13 starts and accumulated a higher WAR (1.5) than any other Brewers’ starter. Guerra can also brag about having the lowest ERA (3.06), FIP (3.87) and K% (22%). Needless to say, he’s been one of the few and unexpected bright spots on a team that sits near the bottom of its division.

Guerra is under team control for another five seasons after 2016 finishes up, and doesn’t hit arbitration until 2019. Granted, his age of 31 isn’t exactly a plus, but his arm doesn’t have as much wear and tear on it as, say, a major-league pitcher who’s been in the bigs since age 22. Besides, he’s most likely going to be a cheap player who’s under team control for the duration of his career, and that’s the important part.

If a team shows enough interest in Guerra, expect David Stearns to pull the trigger. The Brewers don’t have much of a need for an aging pitcher when their sole focus is acquiring young talent. However, I don’t believe Stearns will trade Guerra just to trade him. That’s not his style. So if Stearns isn’t satisfied with the return, he’s going to hold on to him and hope his stock rises a bit more in 2017 as a starter and then try to move him. It would be a risky move, but it might behoove the Brewers in the end.

Guerra looks like a playoff pitcher from what he showed in the first half of the season. His FIP and xFIP tells us to expect some regression, but it could be that he’s just peripheral-beater. Watch out for teams like the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals to make a play for him.

Quick take: Brewers made the right decision with Wily Peralta

The pitcher who Craig Counsell pegged as the Milwaukee Brewers’ opening day starter is no longer on the major-league roster. Instead, Wily Peralta is down in Colorado Springs with the Triple-A squad trying to work through his difficulties that led him to a 6.68 ERA and 5.57 FIP.

Right from the get-go, Peralta was bad, so bad that it only took fans a month to wonder how long he would remain in the rotation. As things worsened, Brewers Twitter began asking beat writers Adam McCalvy and Tom Haudricourt if Peralta had any remaining minor-league options, a question you hope you never have to ask about a former No. 1 prospect.

When Matt Garza started to get healthy and began to make rehab starts, I was afraid the Brewers would choose the wrong arm to send down in the wake of his return. (I’m still not used to trusting a Brewers’ general manager). I had a feeling that David Stearns and Counsell weren’t ready to give up on Peralta just yet, leaving Zach Davies and Junior Guerra, both of whom failed to make an opening day roster, as top candidates for a demotion. That would have been ridiculous, and you can be sure I would’ve written a post blasting the decision.

Fortunately, the Brewers sent down Peralta.

Name ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Junior Guerra 3.31 3.81 4.28 0.9
Jimmy Nelson 3.43 4.91 4.42 0.5
Zach Davies 3.88 4.18 3.96 0.7
Chase Anderson 4.21 5.00 4.49 0.3
Wily Peralta 6.68 5.57 4.74 -0.2

Davies has been dominant in his last handful of starts, and as you can see from the chart, Guerra has been Milwaukee’s best starter. Peralta was the clear and obvious choice, so kudos to the Brewers for being reasonable.

I don’t expect Peralta to remain in Triple-A for the rest of the season. I think the bullpen is the best course of action for both Peralta and the team. As a reliever, Peralta can work on getting more strikeouts with his high-velocity fastball, because a 5.73 K/9 is completely unacceptable for someone who throws 94 mph.