Tag Archives: Matt Garza

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.

Prince Fielder traded back to the Brewers

In a strange and rather wild move, the Milwaukee Brewers have acquired Prince Fielder from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Jimmy Nelson, Matt Garza and Tyrone Taylor. Fielder returns to the organization that drafted him and for which he played from 2005 to 2011.

Nelson was slated to be Milwaukee’s No. 2 starter in 2016 with Garza slated right behind him, but General Manager David Stearns says Zach Davies and Michael Blazek will get the first crack at the rotation spots. Taylor, once considered one of the organization’s top outfield prospects, is also headed to Texas.

Fielder hit 23 home runs and was worth 1.6 WAR for the Rangers last season.

This move comes as quite a shock for a Brewers team in the midst of a major rebuild. Some in the baseball industry have been quoted as saying the trade is “ludicrous” and “simply outrageous.” An anonymous GM claimed that it makes “zero sense for either team.”

Stearns, however, is very excited to bring back “one of the best Brewers of all time.”

“Prince is a decorated veteran of this league, and a hero in Milwaukee,” Stearns said. “We are thrilled to be reunited with him.”

Stearns also isn’t listening to the criticism surrounding the move.

“People can say whatever they want,” Stearns said. “But the fact of the matter is, we didn’t trade for Prince because of his offensive skill. No. We got him because he will be a huge help to the young players we have on our club. He’ll be more of a mentor than anything.”

Incumbent first baseman Chris Carter will be moved to center field, according to manager Craig Counsell, despite having zero experience in the outfield. This most likely means Keon Broxton and Kirk Nieuwenhuis will not make the team.

When told about the trade, Fielder didn’t mince his words.

“This is [expletive] unbelievable,” Fielder said. “Can Milwaukee even afford me? Have they seen my contract? [Expletive] this. I don’t want to go back. Not after the way they treated me and Rickie [Weeks] during our last years there. [Expletive] this.”

Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, declined to comment, but a source inside the Commissioner’s Office says he is actively trying to get Rob Manfred to negate the trade.

Reports out of Milwaukee are claiming that Brewers’ Owner Mark Attanasio didn’t sign off on re-acquiring Fielder. Some are even saying that he is irate with Stearns, and that termination is “definitely on the table.”

It was already going to be a lousy season in Milwaukee, but this trade takes it to even greater depths.

***

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone. Ruin someone’s day by sharing this.

My Twitter exchange with ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick

On Tuesday night I saw a tweet from ESPN’s and Baseball America’s Jerry Crasnick from a few days earlier. I thought the content of the tweet was ridiculous, so I responded. Thus began a healthy dialogue between the two of us.

Twitter 1

Apparently, a Major League Baseball executive is of the opinion that Milwaukee Brewers’ pitchers Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza will not be moved because no team will want to take them on. I vehemently disagreed with that thought.

Twitter 2

He clearly was fascinated by my “giggle” comment which is probably the main reason he responded. If I would have tweeted “This makes me laugh,” odds are this article would not be in existence.

Twitter 3

The only thing Mr. Crasnick and I disagreed about was whether or not Lohse and Garza could be moved. We both agreed that, as of now, they have very limited value and that Milwaukee’s potential return on them would be small. But that’s not what I was arguing about. I wholeheartedly believe that both of them can and will be moved this season. He sided with the executive, by making the strong argument that the market is bare for “aging pitchers with big contracts and bad numbers.” This makes sense, but the MLB executive could easily be attempting to manipulate the trade market. It happens all the time.

Look, I don’t care if Lohse has a 10.00 ERA. I still think the Brewers could move him. At 36 years old, he still has upside. He’s posted an ERA under 3.60 in four consecutive seasons, so what contending team wouldn’t want to take a chance on him? Sure, he has the worst ERA among qualified starters in 2015 and his FIP is almost just as bad, but like I said, there’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around. He’s getting hit for a .311 BABIP, the highest since 2010. He’s also not walking more batters than usual and he’s actually striking out more. Lohse clearly has had a decent amount of bad luck this season. Home runs are an issue, yes, but maybe he needs to go to a more pitcher-friendly park. Safeco? The thought that no team wants to take on some of his $11 million contract is ludicrous. Odds are the Brewers will pay most of it, anyway.

Finding a trade partner for Garza might be a bit more difficult, but it’s still very possible. He still has three years left on his deal after 2015, and is owed a lot of money. But he has even more upside than Lohse as he is just 31. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in a Brewers’ uniform in 2016, but that would probably be the last of him in Milwaukee. If the Brewers want to rebuild, they can’t do it with his contract.

I’m fairly certain Lohse will be traded this season, and I have to think there’s at least a handful of teams already calling general manager Doug Melvin. If he doesn’t get traded, I’ll be surprised, but I’ll make sure to tweet Crasnick and admit he and his source were correct.

There is a market for Lohse and Garza. It’s just up to the Brewers to find it.

What went wrong in Matt Garza’s start?

Matt Garza followed Kyle Lohse‘s poor start on Opening Day with one of his own, managing just five innings and allowing four runs on eight hits. The Colorado Rockies hit Garza so hard, that he and Jonathan Lucroy switched up their signs midway through the game in case he was tipping his pitches.

So what went wrong?

Throughout spring training, Garza boasted that he rediscovered his slider. Here’s what he told MLB.com after his final spring training start:

“Losing that last year, it taught me how to pitch. When I didn’t have my slider — I was a fastball/slider guy — now I had to learn how to pitch. I have a curveball, I developed a changeup. Yeah, it was a terrible year without strikeouts, but I was able to get through it and make pitches and get out of stuff. I still don’t forget that, and now I have my slider. It’s like, ‘Yay, new toy!’ I feel confident with my stuff right now, and I want to keep it going.”

Despite his confidence, Garza only threw his slider nine times. That doesn’t sound like much of a new toy, nor does it sound like it’s very fun to play with (three of the four sliders that were put in play went for base hits). The truth is, however, that Garza needs his slider to be successful, and from his comments above, he’s well aware of that fact. He threw it 21.7% of the time in 2014, the lowest rate since 2010, and that needs to change this season. Increased slider usage should create an uptick in strikeouts (he had just two on Tuesday) and take pressure off his fourseam fastball of which he threw 43 times out of 81 pitches.

In addition to his limited slider use, Garza had a difficult time locating his pitches.

Capture

He spent a lot of time in the middle portion of the zone, which is where the majority of Colorado’s hits came from. Garza rarely challenged hitters up in the zone, and when he did, they fouled him off. Garza was actually pretty lucky he allowed just five runs considering the Rockies posted a .381 BABIP that included more doubles than I could count. Fortunately, he kept the ball in Miller Park and Garza allowed just one free pass.

Going forward, Garza needs to work the corners more. He also can’t be afraid of utilizing his slider more or going up in the strike zone with his 93 mph fastball.

 

Pitcher projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers

Find my hitter projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers here

Warning: Below is the same opening I used for my hitter projections (lazy is my name), so feel free to skip it and scroll down to the projections.

It’s that time of year again, when projections are being unleashed and the biased trolls of the internet emerge from their caves. I love it.

People say that projections are like throwing darts at a dart board and hoping it sticks where you want it too. Well, if that’s the case, then the dart’s trajectory has been calculated countless of times and the dart board is bigger than the average one. Projection systems, like Steamer and ZiPS, are the most accurate darts we currently have at our disposable. So many components (i.e. park factors, age, injury history, talent) play into their forecasts that it’s asinine not to put at least a little merit in them.

With that being said, my projections are not based on a mathematical model. My brain doesn’t possess the functionality it requires to build one or to even interpret simple mathematical equations. For someone who is so invested in sabermetrics, I don’t know a lick of math. So, there’s my warning about my projections.

On the other hand, my projections are more than just guess work. I’ve poured over each player’s statistical history, taken injuries and age into account, looked at splits, went over other projection systems and basically every other thing I could possibly do to make sure my projections were well-informed.

Here are my pitcher projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers (subject to change before the season commences).

Position Name ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
SP Yovani Gallardo 3.94 4.06 3.70 3.72 23 17.1% 7.8% 52.0% 1.5
SP Kyle Lohse 3.72 3.91 4.11 4.12 24 14.9% 4.3% 39.8% 1.9
SP Matt Garza 3.39 3.64 3.99 3.76 14 21.2% 6.6% 42.5% 2.0
SP Wily Peralta 4.01 4.09 3.81 3.99 23 20.0% 8.5% 52.6% 1.6
SP Mike Fiers 3.09 3.33 3.29 3.21 15 26.2% 7.0% 34.0% 3.1
SP Will Smith 3.29 3.34 3.15 2.65 8 31.3% 9.2% 45.1% 0.6
RP Jeremy Jeffress 2.62 3.11 3.00 2.59 4 21.9% 9.6% 57.4% 1.0
RP Brandon Kintzler 3.91 4.34 3.83 3.75 7 15.4% 7.7% 57.2% -0.5
RP Jonathan Broxton 3.55 3.49 3.72 3.80 6 20.0% 6.9% 47.3% 0.4
RP Rob Wooten 4.08 3.32 3.84 3.43 3 17.6% 6.1% 48.1% 0.2
RP Jim Henderson 3.45 3.70 2.99 2.79 5 27.1% 9.2% 34.0% 0.1
RP Tyler Thornburg 4.11 3.86 4.29 4.30 3 19.2% 8.5% 36.2% 0.0
RP Jimmy Nelson 4.08 4.17 3.80 3.91 10 19.7% 8.3% 50.7% -0.1
3.63 3.72 3.66 3.54 145 20.9% 7.7% 45.9% 11.7

Let’s start by comparing my projections to last season’s statistics. As a team, the Brewers had a 3.67 team ERA, 3.89 FIP and 3.65 FIP, equaling 11 wins. My projections have them outperforming last year, but not by much (11.5 WAR). Much of this is due to my belief in Mike Fiers and Jeremy Jeffress breaking out.

As far as the rotation goes, I foresee home runs being a big issue (some of Jimmy Nelson’s projected home runs are as a starter), like it was in 2014. Kyle Lohse will struggle with keeping the ball in the yard (fastball velocity has gone down in three straight seasons) and same goes for Yovani Gallardo who has seen his HR/FB ratio increase in back-to-back seasons (I still think the Brewers would be wise to trade him). Wily Peralta had a 3.53 ERA but a 4.11 FIP in ’14, and his high FIP is why I see his ERA going back up. I’m putting a lot of faith in Garza this year, as I think he’ll be the second-best pitcher in Milwaukee’s rotation. He just needs to stay healthy.

Now for the bullpen. Jeffress is going to kill it, and Will Smith’s strikeout rate will be through the roof. I like Rob Wooten a lot as a reliever, but his FIP has always outperformed his ERA, meaning he might just be one of those players with a better FIP than ERA. Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg are huge question marks health wise, so as soon as I know more about their ability to throw a ball without pain, my projections may change.

Overall, Brewers’ pitchers will be right around league average in 2015, and that’s with Fiers becoming an ace. If I’m wrong about that, the rotation could/will be a whole different story.

If you have any questions about my projections, please comment or find me on Twitter