Tag Archives: Milwaukee Brewers

Pitcher projections for the 2020 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the RW23 pitcher projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. RW23 — creatively named after Rickie Weeks — was created in 2017 with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book, “Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance.” Since its existence, RW23 has gone toe-to-toe with major projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. After the season ends, I’ll compare RW23 to both of those systems in order to see which one had the better year.

You can find the 2020 RW23 hitter projections here.

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

RHP Brandon Woodruff

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 193 3.13 3.20 3.25 1.11 .226 0.94 211 49 27.0% 6.2%

RHP Josh Lindblom

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 158 3.72 3.72 3.96 1.33 2.43 0.82 149 61 22.1% 9.1%

RHP Adrian Houser

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 163 3.99 3.97 3.72 1.33 .245 1.09 165 61 23.7% 8.7%

LHP Eric Lauer

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 153 4.22 4.16 3.96 1.32 .255 1.30 149 48 22.8% 7.4%

LHP Brett Anderson

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 118 4.76 4.60 4.21 1.43 .290 1.26 68 28 13.3% 5.5%

RHP Freddy Peralta

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 128 3.88 3.74 3.41 1.25 .227 1.39 172 49 32.1% 9.2%

RHP Corbin Burnes

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 80 3.84 3.81 3.26 1.26 .232 1.25 96 30.00 28.6% 9.0%

LHP Brent Suter

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 65 3.82 4.04 3.72 1.17 .254 1.34 55 11 20.5% 4.2%

LHP Josh Hader

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 71 2.74 3.13 2.17 0.82 .157 1.63 118 19 44.1% 7.2%

RHP Corey Knebel

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 45 3.41 3.39 3.35 1.24 .217 0.92 57 19 30.3% 10.0%

LHP Alex Claudio

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 59 3.73 4.27 3.83 1.23 .253 1.05 38 13 15.2% 5.4%

RHP David Phelps

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 51 3.93 3.93 3.81 1.37 .235 1.00 55 24 25.2% 11.0%

RHP Ray Black

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 46 4.26 4.56 3.97 1.28 .233 1.67 52 18 26.7% 9.3%

RHP Bobby Wahl

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 52 4.19 3.98 3.80 1.40 .233 1.22 66 27 29.4% 12.0%

RHP Devin Williams

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 25 5.00 4.94 4.32 1.44 .267 1.69 24 9 21.6% 8.5%

RHP Eric Yardley

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 21 3.32 3.53 3.62 1.22 .246 0.65 16 5 18.2% 6.1%

RHP J.P. Feyereisen

IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BAA HR/9 SO BB K% BB%
RW23 19 3.75 3.77 4.01 1.32 .226 1.03 22 9 27.6% 11.1%

Hitter projections for the 2020 Milwaukee Brewers

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the RW23 hitter projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. RW23 — creatively named after Rickie Weeks — was created in 2017 with the help of Mike Podhorzer and his book, “Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance.” Since its existence, RW23 has gone toe-to-toe with major projection systems Steamer and ZiPS. After the season ends, I’ll compare RW23 to both of those projection systems in order to see what system had the better year.

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

C Omar Narvaez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 450 .276 .355 .467 .822 .190 .356 110 73 17 1 19 19.5% 10.2%

1B Justin Smoak

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 522 .246 .359 .485 .844 .239 .362 108 55 26 1 25 23.3% 13.8%

2B Keston Hiura

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 603 .269 .331 .510 .841 .241 .357 148 77 39 3 29 28.5% 6.4%

SS Luis Urias

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 522 .237 .333 .368 .701 .131 .311 108 72 23 3 10 21.2% 10.3%

3B Eric Sogard

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 410 .269 .339 .386 .725 .117 .320 99 71 19 1 7 14.8% 9.3%

OF Ryan Braun

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 485 .273 .323 .469 .792 .197 .338 122 76 25 1 20 21.2% 6.5%

OF Lorenzo Cain

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 590 .275 .350 .388 .737 .112 .325 145 108 25 1 11 17.4% 9.2%

OF Christian Yelich

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 675 .317 .407 .604 1.011 .287 .422 184 105 34 4 42 20.6% 12.2%

OF Avisail Garcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 445 .263 .314 .452 .766 .189 .329 108 69 20 1 19 24.1% 6.3%

OF Ben Gamel 

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 192 .256 .343 .390 .733 .134 .324 43 29 10 1 4 26.5% 10.8%

SS Orlando Arcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 308 .240 .293 .366 .659 .125 .289 68 49 10 1 8 22.3% 6.8%

INF Jedd Gyorko

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 339 .231 .299 .372 .671 .141 .295 70 47 13 1 9 22.1% 8.6%

C Manny Pina

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 300 .240 .307 .394 .701 .154 .308 65 43 12 0 10 22.5% 7.5%

INF Ryon Healy

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 220 .253 .302 .476 .778 .223 .333 51 29 10 1 11 21.7% 6.3%

INF Ronny Rodriguez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA Hits 1B 2B 3B HR K% BB%
RW23 119 .224 .260 .381 .641 .158 .277 25 16 4 1 4 26.4% 4.5%

The Milwaukee Brewers should sign Collin McHugh

The Milwaukee Brewers and Collin McHugh are a perfect fit. There’s really no feasible explanation why this pairing hasn’t happened yet. It makes complete sense. It makes less sense that McHugh is still sitting on the free agent market. Yes, there are a few warning signs that might be keeping teams away from him, from his elbow problems to his forgettable 2019 season, and while McHugh definitely carries a bit of risk, the potential greatly outweighs it. And the Brewers are all about acquiring high-potential players.

McHugh is coming off a frustrating season, a season which ended in September when he was shut down by the Houston Astros with continued pain in his elbow. He began the season as a starter, but was quickly relegated to the bullpen. In all, he pitched 74.2 innings (eight starts) and posted a 4.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP and 4.34 xFIP. It was a tremendously disappointing campaign for McHugh, but really it was his first poor season since 2013.

IP GS ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2014 154.2 25 2.73 3.11 3.11 3.0
2015 203.2 32 3.89 3.58 3.91 3.5
2016 184.2 33 4.34 3.95 4.09 2.7
2017 63.1 12 3.55 3.82 4.66 1.1
2018 72.1 0 1.99 2.72 3.26 1.4
2019 74.2 8 4.70 4.43 4.34 0.5

The Astros moved McHugh to the bullpen beginning in 2017 due to a plethora of quality starting pitchers. He just happened to be the odd man out. McHugh proved just as reliable as a reliever as he was as a starter and was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018. And as noted earlier, McHugh earned a rotation spot for the 2019 season but gave up 29 earned runs in just 41 innings (6.37 ERA) in eight starts. Once he was back in the bullpen, though, he flourished — when he was healthy that is. In 33.2 innings as a reliever, McHugh posted a 2.67 ERA and struck out 40 batters (28.2% K%).

Not only does McHugh have a a strong track record of success in both the bullpen and as a starter, his fastball spin, curveball spin and his ability to limit hard contact are among the elite. Take a look at his 2019 Statcast marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now look at 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been 63 pitchers who have accumulated 750 or more innings since 2014. McHugh ranks 19th in strikeout rate 23rd in FIP over that time period. I would make the argument that McHugh is close to an elite pitcher who has not received the respect he deserves.

McHugh made $5.8 million during his final arbitration year as an Astro, and FanGraphs’ Crowd Source predicted he’d sign a two-year, $10 million deal this offseason. McHugh is likely asking for a higher AAV — and he deserves it — but pitchers and catchers are about to report for spring training, and he might not have the leverage he once did. He’ll likely sign a one-year, prove it deal, also known as the Milwaukee Brewers special. The Brewers are in love with one-year contracts, which is another reason why McHugh and Milwaukee are a perfect match.

It seems like the Brewers are always in need of pitchers, and 2020 is no different. The Brewers need an arm like McHugh, whether that’s as a reliever, as a starter or as both. General manager David Stearns targets and focuses on versatile players when he makes acquisitions, so McHugh should be on high on his wish list. It’s curious to me why McHugh hasn’t signed with Milwaukee — or any other team for that matter — yet. Maybe his elbow isn’t healthy. Maybe he’s demanding too much. But the fact of the matter remains, McHugh has consistently shown he’s a dominant pitcher and teams should be lining up for his services.

And the Brewers should be first in line.

Attempting to use Eric Lauer’s success against the Dodgers to build a better pitcher

When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Eric Lauer from the San Diego Padres in November, the instant reaction from almost everyone — particularly Brewers fans — was a shoulder shrug. The prize of that trade for Milwaukee was Luis Urias — a former top prospect with enormous upside. And it was Urias who was talked about the most, and it was Urias who made giving up Trent Grisham and Zach Davies easier to swallow. Lauer was considered by many as a throw-in in a deal that centered around other players. And that makes sense. Lauer has a career 4.40 ERA with a low-velocity fastball. There’s nothing flashy or eye-opening about that, especially compared to a player in Urias who MLB.com ranked as the 16th-best prospect in baseball in 2019.

But I see potential in Lauer, and the potential spawns from his continuous dominance against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Is there a reason why he looks like an ace when he faces the Dodgers? Does he do something different? Let’s investigate.

First, we need to look at just how successful Lauer has been against the Dodgers relative to other teams. Here is how Lauer has performed against opponents in his former division, the National League West.

Opponent IP ERA
Dodgers 42.2 2.11
Diamondbacks 39.0 2.77
Giants 35.1 4.08
Rockies 26.0 9.35

Lauer has thrown 42.2 innings against the Dodgers in his career, the most out of any other opponent. Over those 42.2 innings, he has a 2.11 ERA with 43 strikeouts. Need further proof that he owns the Dodgers?

Opponent AVG OBP SLG OPS
Dodgers .199 .254 .354 .608
Diamondbacks .263 .333 .388 .721
Giants .259 .306 .400 .706
Rockies .370 .347 .563 1.000
Career as a starter .275 .342 .435 .777

The Dodgers must be over-the-moon happy that Lauer makes his living in a different division now. Maybe they’ll finally win a World Series. I joke with all seriousness. But the question remains; does Lauer do something different when he faces the Dodgers? Does he switch his pitch sequences? Does he attack a different zone? Or is it as simple as Lauer’s a left-hander and the Dodgers’ lineup is made up of mostly left-handed hitters?

The lefty against lefty argument actually doesn’t hold any weight in this case. Lauer has surprisingly been worse against left-handed hitters than righties in his career, and it hasn’t been particularly close. Lauer has allowed a .377 wOBA against left-handers versus a .318 wOBA against right-handers. So we can reasonably move on from that line of thought.

Let’s get into his pitch mixes.

According to Baseball Savant, Lauer throws five pitches but really relies on four. His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a curveball, a slider and a changeup.

His breakdown of pitch usage is as follows:

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 53.1%
Cutter 21.4%
Curve 13.8%
Slider 8.0%
Changeup 3.6%

Lauer’s four-seamer and cutter make up most of his repertoire, as he launches those pitches around 75 percent of the time. Lauer has allowed a .332 wOBA against his four-seam fastball and a .360 wOBA against his cutter, which are not friendly marks and broadly illustrates why Lauer’s career ERA sits at 4.40.

So now that we know his pitch repertoire and usage, we can look at his splits against the Dodgers and see if there’s a difference. There just has to be a reason Lauer looks like Nolan Ryan when facing Los Angeles. I broke down every one of Lauer’s starts against the Dodgers by pitch type, and then lumped them all together in the end to compare them against his career.

May 6, 2018

In Lauer’s third career start, he began his dominance over the Dodgers. He went six innings and allowed no runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out five. Unfortunately, it appears Baseball Savant doesn’t have his pitch types for this game, so we’re going to have to exclude this outing from the data. And that’s too bad because Lauer was brilliant.

July 10, 2018

Lauer pitched maybe the greatest game of his young career during this outing, as he finished one out away from a complete-game shutout. Max Muncy hit a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning to spoil Lauer’s outing and end his night. In total, Lauer pitched 8.2 innings of four-hit ball, with one run allowed and eight strikeouts. That’s close to a masterpiece. Here are his pitch breakdowns:

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 53.0%
Cutter 22.6%
Curve 12.2%
Slider 12.2%
Changeup 0.0%

There’s nothing that jumps out to you when you compare his pitch usage to his career norms, though he did rely on his slider more often than usual and didn’t throw a single changeup.

September 21, 2018

Lauer went five innings in this September start against the Dodgers, limiting Los Angeles to one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked one. Yet another solid performance from the rookie pitcher.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 55.8%
Cutter 13.7%
Curve 15.8%
Slider 10.5%
Changeup 4.2%

In this outing, Lauer reduced his cutter usage dramatically from his previous start against the Dodgers. He also cut down on his cutter and mixed in a changeup here and there while relying on his four-seamer a bit more.

May 3, 2019

In his seventh start of 2019, Lauer once again limited Los Angeles’ potent offense. The lefty finished five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 48.8%
Cutter 35.0%
Curve 13.0%
Slider 0.0%
Changeup 0.0%

This is drastically different than Lauer’s previous outings against the Dodgers, and it’s a bit shocking. He still threw his four-seam fastball the most, but it dropped under 50 percent, while he threw his cutter over a third of the time. Lauer also completely set aside his slider and changeup. He went with a different pitch mix and still saw positive results.

July 5, 2019

Lauer gave up one earned run in six innings. He allowed four hits and set down six via the strikeout.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 49.5%
Cutter 14.7%
Curve 3.2%
Slider 29.5%
Changeup 3.2%

After completely throwing away his slider in his May start against Los Angeles, Lauer brought it back with a vengeance. For the first time, he threw it more than his cutter. This makes one thing certain; Lauer has done a good job of changing things up in order to keep the Dodgers guessing.

August 2, 2019

Less than a month later, Lauer faced the Dodgers again and Los Angeles still couldn’t figure him out. Lauer pitched six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 65.5%
Cutter 10.3%
Curve 3.4%
Slider 16.1%
Changeup 4.6%

For the second-straight start against the Dodgers, Lauer used his slider more than his cutter. His four-seam fastball, however, was his go-to pitch even more of than usual, as 57 of his 87 pitches fell into that category.

August 26, 2019

In his final start against the Dodgers, Lauer struck out eight batters over six innings while allowing three earned runs. Not a bad way to end a season against his favorite opponent.

Pitch Pitch %
Four-seam 55.0%
Cutter 18.3%
Curve 7.3%
Slider 22.9%
Changeup 0.9%

Although his cutter usage surged a little, Lauer continued his slider-over-cutter trend for the third consecutive outing. His eight strikeouts matched a career high against Los Angeles.

Now that we’ve broken down each of Lauer’s starts against the Dodgers, it’s time to compare that to his career as a whole. Hopefully, we’ll be able to figure out why he’s had so much success against the Dodgers while being basically a league-average pitcher against the rest of the league. And if we can’t, well, this was a fun exercise anyway.

Pitch Pitch % against the Dodgers Career Pitch %
Four-seam 53.7% 53.1%
Cutter 18.9% 21.4%
Curve 9.6% 13.8%
Slider 15.7% 8.0%
Changeup 2.1% 3.6%

The biggest difference seems to be Lauer’s slider usage. Lauer has thrown his slider nearly eight percent more often against the Dodgers than he does against the rest of the league. Could that be the thing keeping him from being a front-of-the-rotation type arm? Maybe. But maybe not. Lauer has allowed an unbelievable  .177 wOBA when throwing his slider to the Dodgers, but a .313 wOBA against it for his career. The latter ranks 182 of 218 qualified pitchers. So while his slider is dominant against the Dodgers, it’s largely ineffective against most other teams. And if we break it down even more, it makes sense. The Dodgers have the fourth-worst wOBA against the slider since 2018 (when Lauer began his career). Their .286 wOBA is only better than the Pirates, Red Sox and Astros during that time.

The last thing I want to look at is Lauer’s pitch locations. The heat map on the left is Lauer’s pitch locations against every team he’s faced. The heat map on the right is his pitch locations against the Dodgers.

Lauer has been able to locate his pitches better against the Dodgers than he has against the rest of the league. When facing the Dodgers, Lauer has been able to stay out of the middle of the zone more often and has hit the bottom corner on a relatively consistent basis. Placing a cutter and/or a slider on the bottom corner edge as he does against the Dodgers is borderline unhittable. There’s no doubt that location has played a significant part in Lauer’s success and failure, but I don’t necessarily think it explains his complete and utter ownership of the Dodgers’ franchise.

I don’t know if we solved anything here, but it was still a fun attempt. In 2020 as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers,  I would like to see Lauer continuously change his usage between his cutter and slider in drastic and noticeable ways, while maybe being less reliant on his four-seam fastball. Lauer has said in the past that his slider is a constant work in progress, so maybe with more time to hone it, his slider can be just as devastating to the rest of Major League Baseball as it is to the Dodgers.

Breaking down the offseason acquisitions of the Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have been busy.

The Brewers — in need of a roster rebuild after a plethora of free agents and non-tendered players moved on — have signed six free agents to major-league contracts (three to minor-league deals), made three (two significant) trades and claimed two players off waivers so far this offseason. And there’s still plenty of time for more moves to happen.

However, as per usual, Milwaukee Brewers fans are complaining that general manager David Stearns hasn’t done enough to improve the team. The free agents they’ve signed aren’t the type to make the team a playoff contender, they say.  Fans, by nature, are unhappy and restless and want fast results. But the moves Stearns has made so far are his typical under-the-radar deals that could pay off in a huge way in the end.

The Brewers non-tendered a couple of interesting, bounce-back candidate players (I’ll never get over letting Travis Shaw walk), freeing up a considerable amount of money. As the roster stands now, FanGraphs projects the Brewers to carry a payroll of $107 million. The team’s payroll was around $134 million in 2019, meaning the Brewers have the capacity to spend more and sign/trade players while taking on more money. Whether they do that remains to be seen, but I’ve learned not to doubt Stearns’ operation. You shouldn’t either.

So let’s go in order by time of acquisition and learn about the new players who will soon be donning the new and improved Milwaukee Brewers uniform.

INF Luis Urias

On November 27, the Brewers traded Zach Davies and Trent Grisham to San Diego for Luis Urias and Eric Lauer, the former being the main prize for Milwaukee.

Urias has long been a top prospect in the Padres’ farm system. In 2018, the shortstop slashed .296/.398/.447 in Triple-A and followed that up with a .315/.398/.600 line in 2019 for his Triple-A squad. He has superior bat-to-ball skills, though his short time in the major leagues has been a disappointment. Over 302 plate appearances, the 22 year old owns a 79 wRC+ with a meager .318 on-base percentage. Luckily for the Brewers, those 302 plate appearances qualify as a small-sample size, and that, coupled with his young age, really doesn’t mean much. He’s proven he can hit at a high level in the high minors, and at the very least, he’s an immediate upgrade over Orlando Arcia — who was the worst hitter in baseball last year. Urias will likely spend most of his time at shortstop, though Stearns has said he is more than capable of handling third base, which is still a hole the Brewers should work on filling.

Urias and Keston Hiura have the opportunity to spearhead Milwaukee’s infield for years to come, and if Urias turns out to be the hitter he was in the minors with just a little more power, he could ultimately become a star.

LHP Eric Lauer

By trading away starting pitcher Zach Davies and Chase Anderson — reliable, consistent hurlers if nothing else — Milwaukee’s already thin rotation became even more of a weak point. And that’s why getting Eric Lauer in the Padres deal was significant. Urias was the big get in the in the trade with San Diego, but Lauer should be considered more than just a throw-in, especially considering he’s slotted to be in the starting rotation.

Lauer is just 24 years of age with 261 innings under his belt. The southpaw has a career 4.40 ERA and 4.35 FIP and has made more than 20 starts in each of his two seasons. In his second year, Lauer raised his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate while forcing more ground balls. Home runs were an issue, however, as he gave up too many, and the move to Miller Park won’t be any more friendly to him. Strikeouts and keeping the ball on the ground will be crucial to his success in 2020.

Lauer and Davies are similar in many ways, so replacing one for the other doesn’t really hurt or help the Brewers rotation in any immediate way. But it could turn out to be a solid, long-term investment; Lauer is under team control until 2024, while Davies will become a free agent after the 2021 season.

C Omar Narvaez

The Brewers needed a catcher and the Mariners were selling one. Acquiring Omar Narvaez for minor-leaguer Adam Hill and a Competitive Balance draft pick was a no-brainer for Milwaukee and a bit of a head-scratcher for Seattle.

Narvaez will be tasked with replacing Yasmani Grandal‘s 2019 production, and while that may seem like a big leap, the two have very similar offensive skill sets. Here is how they’ve fared over the past two seasons:

Narvaez: .346 wOBA, 120 wRC+

Grandal: .356 wOBA, 123 wRC+

Narvaez should be able to replicate Grandal’s production with the bat, but his defensive skills are lacking. He’s been graded as one of the worst pitch framers in the game and struggles throwing out runners, but the Brewers are confident they can turn him into at least an average defensive catcher. But this is why having Manny Pina — who will likely see much more playing time in 2020 — as a backup is important.

The former Mariners catcher is just 27 years old and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2022. He’s displayed high on-base capabilities in each of his four professional seasons, and last year he hit a career-high 22 home runs on his way to a 1.8 WAR season.  For how good of a hitter Narvaez has proven to be, he doesn’t hit the ball all that hard, which questions the sustainability of his above-average bat. His average exit velocity of 85.4 mph in 2019 ranked all the way down in the eighth percentile.

Orlando Arcia somehow hit the ball with more oompf than Narvaez last season. Yet, it’s Narvaez’s launch angle that has helped him find success. His launch angle ranked among the top 60, tying with the likes of Nolan Arenado and Eugenio Suarez, which allowed him to hit for power and find gaps. His lack of exit velocity is something to keep an eye on going forward, however, and it’ll be interesting to see if Narvaez can show the same home-run power in the friendly confines of Miller Park that he displayed in Seattle without hitting the ball with much authority.

RHP Josh Lindblom

Lindblom is an interesting player, and someone who, like Eric Thames, reinvented himself in Korea. Before making his way overseas, Lindblom was a struggling major-league pitcher. In 114 innings that only included six starts, Lindblom left Major League Baseball for Korea with a 4.10 ERA and 4.27 FIP. He was worth 0.4 WAR over that time period.

However, he found almost immediate success in the Korean Baseball Organization — the highest level of baseball in Korea. In 72 innings in 2017 as a starting pitcher, Lindblom posted a 3.79 ERA. The following year he finished with a 2.88 ERA and then a 2.50 ERA in 2019. He comes to America as the reigning MVP of the KBO League and a two-time winner of its Cy Young Award equivalent. In such short time, Lindblom went from an outcast to the most dominant pitcher in Korea, which is why the Brewers quickly pounced when Lindblom expressed interest in returning to the United States. The Brewers gave Lindblom a three-year, $9.125 million deal — that could eventually be worth $18 million with incentives — hoping he’ll be a fixture in their rotation for the next few seasons.

Lindblom doesn’t throw relatively hard — his fastball averages around 91 mph — but his spin rate on his four-seamer and sinker is up there with top major league pitchers, a quality the Brewers were surely aware of and interested in. He’ll likely slot in Milwaukee’s rotation behind Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser.

The Brewers found success when Thames returned from Korea, and they’re hoping for similar results with Lindblom, who will be a fascinating case study in 2020.

LHP Brett Anderson

The Brewers signed Anderson to a one-year, $5 million deal to be the team’s fourth or fifth starter. I like to call him the Alex Claudio of starting pitchers.

2019 K% GB% WHIP
Brett Anderson 12.1% 54.5% 1.31
Alex Claudio 16.5% 57.4% 1.31

They both make their living without striking out hitters. In fact, Anderson’s 12.1% strikeout rate was the lowest among qualified starters in 2019, while Claudio was the owner of the seventh-lowest rate among qualified relievers. Though to make up for their lack of punch outs, they force ground balls more often than not, which is undoubtedly why Stearns was drawn to Anderson. Any pitcher who can keep the ball on the ground in Miller Park has a decent shot at success.

Other than his ground-ball rate, though, there’s nothing really exciting about Anderson. He’s thrown over 100 innings just once since 2015, and that was this most recent season. The 31-year-old has dealt with injuries throughout his career and can’t be expected to remain healthy through all of 2020.

The Brewers plan on using him as a starter, but I think he could end up being more useful in the bullpen. Yes, $5 million is a lot to pay for a middling reliever, but he could fill a Chase Anderson-type role and could ultimately be an effective ground-ball pitcher out of the bullpen. With the way the Brewers use their pitchers, don’t be surprised if Anderson is deployed in multiple ways.

OF Avisail Garcia

Maybe the most surprising move by the Brewers this offseason, the team agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with Avisail Garcia. Critics questioned the move because an outfielder didn’t seem like it should be on top of Milwaukee’s wish list, but Stearns goes after good players, and doesn’t let their position dictate his interest. And Garcia is just that; a good player. He is an outfielder capable of playing all three positions, a hitter with strong Statcast marks and a runner with top-flight speed.

Garcia is coming off a season in which he hit a career-high 20 home runs, and posted a 1.8 WAR and a 112 wRC+ in his first and only year with the Tampa Bay Rays. The 28-year-old is just two years removed from a 4.2 WAR and 138 wRC+ season with the White Sox, during which he slashed .330/.380/.506.

Garcia will see a lot of time in the outfield when Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun need days off, or in Braun’s case, when he plays first base. It’s clear that Garcia is an upgrade over Ben Gamel and could even be better than Cain if Cain repeats his abysmal 2019 campaign. Expect Garcia to set a career high in home runs (granted he sees enough at-bats) and be an exciting patroller of the outfield.

INF Ryon Healy

As the roster is currently constructed, Ryon Healy and Eric Sogard will platoon as the team’s third basemen, and before you freak out and jump off a building, it’s reasonable to expect that situation to change before Opening Day on March 26. The Brewers signed Healy to a one-year deal after he was non-tendered by the Athletics. The 27-year-old infielder was limited to 47 games in 2019, as he spent most of the season dealing with a hip injury. He had hip surgery in August but should be ready for Opening Day or shortly thereafter.

Healy is known for his power and not much else. He has 69 career home runs in 401 games and  owns a career 102 wRC+. He doesn’t get on base and his defense is atrocious, and yet, I liked this move by the Brewers. Healy hits home runs and is someone with three minor-league options remaining, which gives the Brewers flexibility with how they use him. This is a no-risk move that could turn out to be great if Healy can be a league-average hitter. And like I said before, it’s likely he won’t be an everyday player, but he’ll have an opportunity to be a very useful bench bat.

INF Eric Sogard

Guess who’s back, back again? Eric Sogard — aka Nerd Power — makes his return to the Brewers after being one of the worst players in Brewers franchise history in 2018. Think I’m over exaggerating? In the team’s history, there have only been four players (minimum 100 plate appearances) who have recorded a worse wRC+ than Sogard’s mark in 2018.

Name Year wRC+
Marty Pattin 1971 -27
John Vukovich 1973 4
Alex Gonzalez 2013 11
Lenn Sakata 1977 13
Eric Sogard 2018 14

Yeah. Sogard was historically bad that year. But he proved enough in 2017 (1.1 WAR, .393 OBP and 109 wRC+) and 2019 (2.6 WAR, .353 OBP and 115 wRC+) to earn a $4.5 million contract from the Brewers. Why they couldn’t afford to pay that to Travis Shaw is beyond me, and I’ll take my hatred of that decision to my grave.

As of now, Sogard will play third base, though his lack of power makes that an odd fit. Usually the hot corner is considered a power-bat position. He is, however, capable of playing multiple positions, and the Brewers crave versatility, so this could end up being a nice signing. Sogard will have to hit like he did last year, though, to justify his $4.5 million contract.

1B Justin Smoak

The Brewers inked 33-year-old Justin Smoak to a one-year, $5 million deal with a 2021 club option to become the team’s primary first baseman. This is my favorite move the Brewers have made this offseason, and it paints a pretty clear picture as to why the Brewers declined Eric Thames’ $7.5 million club option, a move I found puzzling at the time.

Smoak is coming off a down season that was injury-riddled. He posted a 101 wRC+ and hit 22 home runs, both of which were considerably lower than his previous two seasons. He did, onm on the positive side, manage a career-high 15.8% walk rate, which was the seventh-highest mark in baseball. That’s why his .342 on-base percentage was so much more impressive than his .208 batting average. It’s a good thing we don’t care about batting average, right?

Smoak is a switch-hitter with most of his power coming from the left side, making Miller Park the perfect place for him to hit. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he bombed 30+ home runs in 2020. He’ll likely platoon at least a little with Braun, but Smoak should take the majority of reps at first base. He has equal if not more power than Thames and has a much better eye at the plate and fewer holes in his swing, and he comes on the cheap side. Smoak could easily be a 120 wRC+ hitter for the Brewers, making an already potent offense even more explosive.

Here’s a fun fact about Smoak: Since 2010 (Smoak’s first year in the league), he has 35 home runs in the ninth inning. That’s the most in Major League Baseball. Get ready for some walk-off dingers at Miller Park.

*****

The Brewers haven’t nabbed a front-line starter or a top-tier hitter so far this offseason, but they’ve nicely rebuilt a team that saw so many valuable players leave. Replacing Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas and Drew Pomeranz isn’t an easy task, but Stearns has worked his magic and found relatively cheap players who could put up similar production.

The team still has room in its budget to make more improvements. And hey, Josh Donaldson is still out there. Just saying.

Reviewing the pitcher projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers

The 2019 season came to an end for the Milwaukee Brewers after one playoff game. The Brewers choked away a late lead in the National League Wild Card winner-take-all showdown and were sent home packing a year after being one win away from a World Series berth. Overall it was a disappointing campaign for Milwaukee. They had too much talent to just disappear after a single game, though they were lucky to even make the playoffs in the first place.

Because the Brewers season is over, it’s time to look back at the preseason projections and see where the models went wrong and where they went right. So let’s review the season by looking over the pitcher projections from The First Out At Third’s own system (RW23), Steamer, and ZiPS. In 2017 — RW23’s debut season — RW23 was fairly accurate with its hitter projections, while it struggled with pitchers. I only projected hitters in 2018 due to a computer malfunction, and RW23 fell behind Steamer and ZiPS. It’ll be interesting to see how well RW23 holds its own in its third season.

You can find the original 2019 pitcher projections here.

*Note: I originally projected Corey Knebel, Taylor Williams and Alex Wilson, but chose not to include them below due to the limited — or zero — time spent with the Brewers.

RHP Jhoulys Chacin

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 185 3.80 4.38 4.43 1.30 7.33 3.46 1.04 19.1% 9.0%
Steamer 180 4.66 4.61 4.46 1.42 7.60 3.33 1.30 19.2% 8.4%
ZiPS 166 4.33 4.56 1.37 7.25 3.63 1.14
Actual 103 6.01 5.88 5.03 1.56 8.80 2.18 2.18 21.5% 9.8%

Winner: Steamer

Chacin had a miserable season for the Brewers and continued his forgettable performance when he signed with the Red Sox after his release. Steamer was most down on the righty going into the season, and therefore deserves the win.

RHP Freddy Peralta

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 114 4.09 4.50 4.37 1.38 10.65 5.03 1.28 27.3% 12.9%
Steamer 127 4.35 4.36 4.27 1.38 10.49 4.62 1.29 26.7% 11.8%
ZiPS 132 4.01 4.10 1.35 12.11 5.10 1.22
Actual 85 5.29 4.18 4.15 1.46 12.18 3.92 1.59 30.1% 9.7%

Winner: ZiPS

Like Chacin, all three projection systems had a difficult time projecting the flame-throwing Peralta, but in the end, ZiPS was most accurate. Peralta began the year in the rotation (7.07 ERA) before transitioning to the bullpen (4.01 ERA). It’ll be interesting to see how the Brewers use him in 2020.

RHP Brandon Woodruff

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 122 3.73 3.68 3.87 1.32 8.71 3.38 0.83 22.7% 8.8%
Steamer 133 4.39 4.36 4.17 1.37 8.24 3.41 1.22 21.0% 8.7%
ZiPS 117 4.21 4.16 1.36 8.57 3.59 1.07
Actual 121 3.62 3.01 3.36 1.14 10.58 2.22 0.89 29.0% 6.1%

Winner: RW23

As you”ll see, RW23 was higher on Milwaukee’s pitchers — especially the young arms like Woodruff — than Steamer and ZiPS were. And in this case, RW23 was correct about Woodruff. He broke out in a big way in 2019 and is set to headline the team’s rotation next season and in years to come.

RHP Corbin Burnes

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 124 3.64 3.74 3.84 1.29 8.87 3.26 0.85 23.1% 8.5%
Steamer 134 4.48 4.44 4.24 1.39 8.23 3.54 1.24 20.9% 9.0%
ZiPS 135 3.92 4.12 1.3 8.71 3.26 1.13
Actual 49 8.82 6.09 3.37 1.84 12.86 3.67 3.12 29.8% 8.5%

Winner: N/A

After a dominant performance out of the bullpen in 2018, Burnes was a disaster this season, giving up home run after home run. RW23 was incredibly high on Burnes coming into the year, and personally, I still like him, but he’ll need to fix his fastball location issues. No projection system gets the win here.

RHP Zach Davies

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 150 4.09 4.23 4.12 1.36 7.02 3.02 1.01 18.1% 7.8%
Steamer 119 4.62 4.48 4.28 1.41 7.06 2.72 1.29 17.7% 6.8%
ZiPS 145 4.26 4.34 1.35 6.73 2.78 1.11
Actual 159 3.55 4.56 5.20 1.29 5.75 2.87 1.13 15.2% 7.6%

Winner: RW23

For the fourth time in his five big-league seasons, Davies posted a sub-4.00 ERA despite nasty peripherals. RW23 takes home the win because it took into account that while Davies doesn’t strikeout many hitters, he has a knack for limiting hard contact, which allows him to beat his peripherals.

RHP Jimmy Nelson

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 119 3.67 3.60 3.45 1.27 9.40 2.86 0.93 24.6% 7.5%
Steamer 75 4.14 3.98 3.85 1.30 8.73 2.97 1.11 22.7% 7.7%
ZiPS 121 4.30 4.47 1.38 7.94 3.41 1.19
Actual 22 6.95 5.80 5.34 1.91 10.64 6.95 1.64 24.8% 16.2%

Winner: N/A

Nelson was nearly impossible to project heading into the season. We didn’t know his health situation and what is role would be if he returned. He made three starts and made seven relief appearances, all the while struggling with control. He definitely didn’t look like the Nelson of old. Hopefully, he has a completely healthy offseason and we’ll be able to project him more accurately in 2020.

RHP Chase Anderson

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 83 4.27 4.83 4.52 1.30 7.91 3.28 1.53 20.7% 8.6%
Steamer 116 4.63 4.58 4.40 1.32 8.36 2.72 1.55 21.4% 7.0%
ZiPS 141 4.47 5.13 1.35 7.28 3.19 1.66
Actual 139 4.21 4.83 5.26 1.27 8.03 3.24 1.49 21.0% 8.5%

Winner: RW23

RW23 hit Anderson’s projection right on the nose with it’s most accurate projection yet, giving it the easy win. Anderson was who he’s mainly always been; a reliable and innings-eating pitcher. The Brewers just recently traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Chad Spanberger.

LHP Josh Hader

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 74 2.37 2.87 2.63 0.91 13.91 3.46 1.06 40.2% 10.0%
Steamer 65 2.92 2.94 2.97 1.10 13.65 3.84 0.99 36.9% 10.4%
ZiPS 73 2.95 3.08 1.10 15.34 4.30 1.23
Actual 75 2.62 3.10 2.36 0.81 16.41 2.38 1.78 47.8% 6.9%

Winner: ZiPS

Hader continued to strike every one out, but he also started giving up home runs at a high rate, which is why he set career highs in ERA and FIP. ZiPS deserves the win for accurately projecting Hader’s batted ball issues.

RHP Jeremy Jeffress

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 59 3.39 3.50 3.27 1.26 9.73 3.62 0.83 25.8% 9.6%
Steamer 40 3.38 3.40 3.34 1.28 9.59 3.35 0.78 25.2% 8.8%
ZiPS 66 3.12 3.36 1.25 9.23 3.53 0.68
Actual 52 5.02 3.96 4.40 1.37 7.96 2.94 0.87 20.4% 7.6%

Winner: N/A

No winners here once again. This is getting annoying. But how can I declare a winner when nobody projected Jeffress would implode? Jeffress dealt with injuries in spring training and throughout the year, and that contributed to a decrease in fastball velocity and fewer strikeouts. The Brewers released him in September.

LHP Alex Claudio

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 71 3.06 2.97 2.98 1.15 6.43 1.21 0.51 17.5% 3.3%
Steamer 60 3.57 3.59 3.53 1.31 6.80 2.24 0.75 17.7% 5.8%
ZiPS 75 3.33 3.44 1.2 5.83 1.78 0.59
Actual 62 4.06 4.92 4.59 1.31 6.39 3.48 1.16 16.5% 9.0%

Winner: Steamer

Claudio led all relievers in appearances with 83, but he failed to be the pitcher the Brewers hoped he would be. RW23 was hoping Claudio would recapture his magic from 2017, but instead he pitched similar to 2018. Steamer adds another to the win column.

RHP Matt Albers

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 53 4.26 4.22 3.98 1.36 8.40 3.07 1.19 21.6% 7.9%
Steamer 65 4.18 4.11 3.96 1.33 8.35 2.93 1.17 21.4% 7.5%
ZiPS 41 4.35 4.49 1.28 8.49 2.61 1.52
Actual 59 5.13 4.66 4.55 1.37 8.60 4.37 1.21 22.1% 11.2%

Winner: ZiPS

Albers’ terrible tenure as a Milwaukee Brewer is finally over, as the two-year deal he signed turned out to be one of the worst moves by general manager David Stearns. Albers is a free agent and will likely sign a prove-it deal with a rebuilding team. ZiPS was closest on Albers’ poor production.

RHP Jacob Barnes

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 55 3.50 3.61 3.82 1.33 8.61 3.98 0.68 22.5% 10.4%
Steamer 35 4.04 4.04 3.97 1.38 8.97 3.84 1.03 22.9% 9.8%
ZiPS 61 3.65 3.74 1.38 8.90 4.23 0.73
Actual 32 7.44 6.06 5.22 1.78 8.82 6.06 1.93 20.0% 13.8%

Winner: N/A

Another pitcher who imploded for the Brewers and another contest that has no winner. The Brewers designated Barnes for assignment in August and the Royals just released him. He has talent, but his command is limiting his success.

RHP Junior Guerra

IP ERA FIP XFIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB%
RW23 41 4.03 4.28 4.00 1.28 8.72 3.07 1.34 23.0% 8.1%
Steamer 60 3.86 3.84 3.81 1.25 9.71 3.03 1.19 25.4% 7.9%
ZiPS 119 4.46 4.72 1.39 8.09 3.86 1.36
Actual 83 3.55 4.52 4.83 1.12 8.28 3.87 1.18 22.4% 10.5%

Winner: RW23

This was close between RW23 and Steamer, but RW23 was just a little more accurate in more categories. Guerra produced a nice season and eventually became one of Craig Counsell‘s most trusted bullpen arms. He seems to have found his spot as a reliever.

FINAL RESULTS:

RW23: 4 wins

ZiPS: 3 wins

Steamer: 2 wins

Reviewing the hitter projections for the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers

The 2019 season came to an end for the Milwaukee Brewers after one playoff game. The Brewers choked away a late lead in the National League Wild Card winner-take-all showdown and were sent home packing a year after being one win away from a World Series berth. Overall it was a disappointing campaign for Milwaukee. They had too much talent to just disappear after a single game, though they were lucky to even make the playoffs in the first place.

Because the Brewers season is over, it’s time to look back at the preseason projections and see where the models went wrong and where they went right. So let’s review the season by looking over the projections from The First Out At Third’s own system (RW23), Steamer, and ZiPS. In 2017 — RW23’s debut season — RW23 was fairly accurate with its hitter projections, while it struggled with pitchers. I only projected hitters in 2018 due to a computer malfunction, and RW23 fell behind Steamer and ZiPS. It’ll be interesting to see how well RW23 holds its own in its third season.

You can find the original 2019 hitter projections here.

C Yasmani Grandal

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 532 .247 .355 .487 .842 .240 .361 28 24.0% 14.1% .280
Steamer 496 .237 .344 .453 .797 .216 .345 23 25.0% 13.5% .277
ZiPS 475 .238 .349 .462 .811 .223 .351 23 25.7% 14.3% .281
Actual 632 .246 .380 .468 .848 .222 .361 28 22.0% 17.2% .279

Winner: RW23

RW23 accurately projected Grandal’s weighted on-base average and number of home runs, while nailing his batting average and OPS. RW23 is the clear winner here, as is Grandal after a fantastic season.

1B Jesus Aguilar

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 595 .258 .329 .480 .810 .223 .346 30 27.2% 8.8% .309
Steamer 578 .242 .317 .454 .771 .212 .330 28 26.4% 9.1% .286
ZiPS 526 .258 .333 .492 .825 .234 .350 28 25.3% 9.5% .297
Actual 369 .236 .325 .389 .714 .153 .307 12 22.0% 11.7% .272

Winner: N/A

The three projection systems all failed to predict Aguilar’s offensive fall. The Brewers ultimately traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays, and while he hit better, his power from 2018 remained gone. No winners here.

2B/3B Mike Moustakas

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 603 .269 .330 .508 .838 .239 .356 34 16.6% 8.1% .270
Steamer 575 .261 .321 .489 .809 .228 .342 30 16.5% 7.5% .264
ZiPS 580 .267 .324 .506 .818 .239 .350 32 16.2% 7.1% .268
Actual 584 .254 .329 .516 .845 .262 .348 35 16.8% 9.1% .250

Winner: RW23

It was a tight race, but RW23 comes away with a narrow victory, due to it more accurately projecting Moustakas’ power numbers. Playing a full year at Miller Park sure helped his power, as Moustakas’ 35 home runs were the second most of his career.

3B Travis Shaw

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 595 .282 .376 .534 .910 .252 .386 34 19.0% 12.9% .298
Steamer 598 .249 .334 .457 .791 .209 .338 27 21.3% 10.8% .276
ZiPS 560 .261 .340 .472 .812 .219 .346 26 21.4% 11.1% .282
Actual 270 .157 .281 .270 .551 .113 .248 7 33.0% 13.3% .216

Winner: N/A

Let’s forget I predicted Shaw would make the All-Star roster this year. Let’s just wipe that from our memories because this was a lost season for Shaw. He spent a lot of time in the minors and looked completely lost when he was with the Brewers. No one foresaw this kind of downfall. Nobody’s a winner.

SS Orlando Arcia

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 552 .245 .293 .357 .650 .112 .286 11 22.9% 6.2% .303
Steamer 507 .253 .302 .377 .679 .123 .293 10 19.4% 6.2% .299
ZiPS 553 .247 .294 .360 .654 .113 .283 10 21.3% 6.0% .302
Actual 546 .223 .283 .350 .633 .128 .269 15 20.0% 7.9% .253

Winner: RW23

Arcia was the worst hitter in baseball in 2019, and it may be time to question if his bat will ever play at a league-average level. RW23 takes home another win, though it was extremely close to being a three-way tie.

OF Ryan Braun

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 460 .270 .331 .493 .824 .222 .351 20 19.8% 8.0% .300
Steamer 507 .265 .330 .476 .807 .212 .342 23 19.6% 8.4% .290
ZiPS 440 .269 .332 .470 .802 .201 .340 18 19.5% 8.2% .300
Actual 508 .285 .343 .505 .849 .220 .354 22 20.7% 6.7% .325

Winner: RW23

Another win for RW23, as Braun enjoyed a offensive resurgence. Steamer and ZiPS underestimated his power numbers, giving RW23 the clear and decisive victory.

OF Lorenzo Cain

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 600 .296 .372 .424 .796 .128 .349 12 15.8% 10.3% .339
Steamer 620 .284 .356 .422 .778 .138 .339 14 16.9% 9.2% .327
ZiPS 568 .287 .359 .409 .768 .123 .336 11 16.2% 9.3% .330
Actual 623 .260 .325 .372 .697 .112 .302 11 17.0% 8.0% .301

Winner: ZiPS

This contest was close between ZiPS and Steamer, though neither projection system saw Cain’s offense falling as much as it did. Cain dealt with injuries throughout the season and was nowhere near the hitter he was for the Brewers in 2018. The Brewers will need him to bounce back in a big way.

OF Christian Yelich

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 662 .310 .390 .544 .934 .234 .397 29 20.5% 11.0% .360
Steamer 637 .297 .381 .515 .896 .218 .382 26 20.5% 11.2% .344
ZiPS 673 .298 .379 .522 .901 .224 .384 28 21.1% 10.8% .349
Actual 580 .329 .429 .671 1.100 .342 .442 44 20.3% 13.8% .355

Winner: RW23

All three projection systems thought Yelich would regress in 2019, a word Yelich grew to hate. And Yelich proved everyone wrong, as he set career marks in almost every offensive category. RW23 picks up another victory here, due to its more bullish projection.

1B Eric Thames

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 340 .232 .316 .478 .794 .246 .342 19 32.3% 10.0% .295
Steamer 258 .235 .329 .459 .788 .224 .336 12 30.3% 11.2% .299
ZiPS 427 .229 .333 .478 .818 .256 .346 23 32.3% 12.2% .293
Actual 459 .247 .346 .505 .851 .258 .354 25 30.5% 11.1% .313

Winner: ZiPS

Because Aguilar forgot how to hit, Thames saw more playing time and eventually took over the starting job completely when Aguilar was traded. As a result, put together a very solid season. His wRC+ of 116 was well above league average and his on-base skills returned after dipping a bit in 2018. However, he’s now on the free agent market after the Brewers declined his $7.5 million option. ZiPS takes home the win here, as it believed in Thames’ 2017 performance more than his 2018 performance.

OF Ben Gamel

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 322 .272 .346 .416 .762 .144 .332 6 19.7% 9.5% .330
Steamer 110 .267 .333 .393 .725 .126 .316 2 20.9% 8.5% .330
ZiPS 530 .267 .331 .413 .744 .146 .322 9 20.4% 8.3% .326
Actual 356 .248 .337 .373 .710 .125 .308 7 29.2% 11.2% .347

Winner: Steamer

Steamer is finally on the board! Gamel turned out to be a nice bench piece for the Brewers, but he showed little extra-base power and his strikeouts skyrocketed. He should likely resume is bench role next season.

INF Hernan Perez

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 295 .254 .288 .398 .686 .143 .297 9 21.6% 4.6% .301
Steamer 216 .253 .290 .394 .685 .141 .295 5 20.0% 4.9% .294
ZiPS 415 .255 .286 .401 .687 .145 .294 11 20.5% 4.3% .298
Actual 246 .228 .262 .379 .642 .151 .271 8 26.8% 4.5% .283

Winner: Three-way tie

The projections were so similar to each other that it’s basically impossible to pick a sole winner, so I’ve giving the victory to all three projection systems. Perez isn’t fun to project and he’s not fun to watch, so it makes sense.

INF Cory Spangenberg

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 252 .264 .328 .426 .753 .162 .328 8 27.1% 8.0% .339
Steamer 75 .245 .306 .383 .688 .138 .300 2 28.4% 7.4% .328
ZiPS 461 .246 .306 .406 .712 .160 .308 13 30.4% 7.2% .337
Actual 102 .232 .277 .358 .635 .126 .267 2 35.3% 5.9% .351

Winner: Steamer

Steamer takes home an easy victory here by correctly predicting Spangenberg’s role and low power numbers. Spangenberg is a free agent and will likely move on from Milwaukee.

C Manny Pina

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO WOBA HR K% BB% BABIP
RW23 261 .239 .303 .365 .668 .126 .293 6 19.0% 6.7% .281
Steamer 96 .250 .306 .388 .694 .138 .301 2 20.4% 6.6% .296
ZiPS 334 .247 .303 .385 .688 .138 .297 8 19.2% 6.3% .285
Actual 179 .228 .313 .411 .724 .184 .308 7 27.9% 8.9% .284

Winner: Steamer

Steamer’s projected plate appearances for Pina were far too low, but everything else was relatively on point, earning it a victory. Pina will return to the Brewers in 2020, though his role — with Grandal’s likely departure — is yet to be determined.

FINAL RESULTS:

RW23: 6 wins

Steamer: 4 wins

ZiPS: 3 wins

Looking at free agency: Which Brewers players will re-sign?

Some say that baseball free agency is more exciting than the actual season, and while free agency is definitely more thrilling than The Big Bang Theory (honestly, I don’t have the slightest clue why that show is so popular. It’s beyond me), baseball’s regular season still takes the cake. Don’t confuse it with the NBA.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love the winter months of baseball, because I absolutely do. I yearn for even the smallest transaction once players are eligible to sign with other teams. Oh, the Diamondbacks signed a pitcher who played in Korea for the past few seasons? Sign me up! So, yes, I love free agency. And I love it even more when the Milwaukee Brewers are heavily involved, and they’re set to have a couple of key free agents who they’ll have to either replace or re-sign.

The Brewers made the playoffs on the backs of performances of players who could be suited up in new uniforms in 2020. The Brewers currently have seven players who could enter the free agency pool; four who are guaranteed free agents, two who have mutual options (they’ll more than likely decline it and become free agents) and one with a club option that will probably be picked up.

In that vein, let’s take a look at all of Milwaukee’s free agents and figure out if the Brewers should bring them back and how likely it is.

Yasmani Grandal

The MVP of the 2019 Milwaukee Brewers if Christian Yelich didn’t exist is primed to receive a huge payday after putting together a career-high 5.2 WAR season. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year deal worth $60 million from the Mets this past offseason before joining the Brewers on a one-year, $18.25 million. He bet on himself and he’ll probably be happy he did. Teams should be lining up for his services, especially teams with big check books. And that’s where things get complicated for the Brewers. Milwaukee is aware it can’t compete with the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox of the world. That’s why it was so crucial to sign players like Grandal and Mike Moustakas to short-term deals. Those types of signings allows them to maintain flexibility for the future, which means if Grandal demands a four-year or longer contract, the Brewers would be hard-pressed to go there.

General manager David Stearns has said he wants Grandal back in Milwaukee, but wanting and doing are two different things. I could see the Brewers offering a or three-year deal to Grandal, but nothing higher than that. My guess is that Grandal moves on for a bigger paycheck. And who can blame him? He’s earned it.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 25 percent

Mike Moustakas

Without Moustakas the Brewers don’t make it to the National League Championship Series in 2018. Without Moustakas the Brewers don’t make the postseason in 2019. Moustakas was incredibly crucial to Milwaukee’s success this past season, especially with Travis Shaw‘s inability to perform like a major leaguer. Moustakas has been hurt by the new free agency market maybe more than any other player. He has settled for one-year deals in back-to-back seasons, despite putting up 2-win seasons in each of the last three years. Moustakas is, and probably always has been, underrated and unappreciated, and once again he’ll seek a long-term deal and grander paycheck. Whether he gets it is a different question. I’m sure the Brewers would love to have him back on another one-year contract, though I’d be surprised if Moustakas settled again.

The Brewers want to bring back both Moustakas and Grandal, but that would mean a higher payroll, and the team already set a record in 2019 for the highest payroll in franchise history. I prefer Grandal over Moustakas, mainly because finding a superior catcher is no walk in the park. Plus, I still believe in Shaw with everything I have. If Shaw can bounce-back and with Keston Hiura destined to man second base for years to come, Moustakas wouldn’t necessarily be needed. However, the market could beat Moustakas down again, leaving him little choice but to return to the Brewers on another short deal.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 50 percent

Drew Pomeranz

The man who got lit up as a starter and was better than Josh Hader as a reliever is likely due for a pay raise. That is, if he wants to continue being a reliever, which absolutely should be the case. As a member of the Brewers, Pomeranz posted a 2.39 ERA and a 2.68 FIP along with a nasty and unreal 45 percent strikeout. Teams in need of bullpen help should be all over Pomeranz as he enters free agency, and the Brewers should be first in line. The team traded one of its top prospects in Mauricio Dubon to get Pomeranz, so I doubt the Brewers will just let him walk without a fight. No team more than the Brewers know how valuable a deep bullpen is in October. Stearns would be smart to fork over the money that keeps Pomeranz put.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 60 percent

Gio Gonzalez

Similar to Moustakas, Gonzalez found his way back to the Brewers after the cold winds of the free agent market blew past him. Gonzalez is not the ace pitcher he once was, but he’s shown his worth time and time again with the Brewers. He posted a 2.13 ERA in his first stint with the club in 2018, and followed it up with a 3.50 ERA in 87 innings in 2019. He’s been worth more to the Brewers than his cost, which is why the Brewers should be interested in re-signing him.

As everyone knows, the Brewers starting rotation is a weak link. Stearns has repeatedly proved he’s weary of going after top-of-the class pitching on the open market, instead settling for small trades in order to make upgrades. That’s why bringing back Gonzalez is important. He’s reliably good, and he won’t demand a huge contract, whether that’s years or dollars. A two-year deal is likely enough for Gonzalez to re-sign, though Stearns may be more inclined to offer a one-year contract.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 45 percent

Jordan Lyles

Lyles loves pitching for the Brewers. Just look at his numbers compared to his other stops. When the Brewers traded for him for a second time this season, I wrote that the move didn’t do enough to make an impact, that it didn’t help the Brewers goal of making the playoffs. I was wrong. Stearns was right. Stearns is usually always right. Lyles turned out to be Milwaukee’s best pitcher down the stretch, ending the year with seven consecutive outings of allowing two runs or fewer. If there’s no Lyles, there’s no Wild Card berth.

Now, Lyles’ peripherals — mainly his FIP — last season didn’t look great compared to his basic run prevention stats (ERA), and teams may not trust him to repeat his superior performance. And that could open up the door for a Brewers return. Lyles has repeatedly said that he loves pitching to Grandal and credits a lot of his success to different sequencing. Lyles would likely be more interested in returning to Milwaukee if Grandal also came back, but I think there’s a good shot he’s back anyway. He’s a cheap starter you can trust. I’ll be surprised if he’s not a Brewer in 2020.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 70 percent

Matt Albers

The Albers’ signing was a disaster for the Brewers. Milwaukee signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract, and mercifully, it has finally expired. Albers recorded a 6.23 ERA in 94 innings in that two-year span and was left off the postseason roster in every round. This was one of the few Stearns’ signings that failed.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 3 percent

Eric Thames

Thames only becomes a free agent if the Brewers decline his $7.5 million club option. And while I believe that to be unlikely, there is a scenario where it makes sense. If the Brewers re-sign Moustakas to play third, and if they still believe in Shaw and tender him a contract (if they don’t, I’m going to lose my mind), Thames could be out the door. Shaw is capable of playing first base and a whole lot cheaper. MLB Trade Rumors projects Shaw to make $4.7 million in 2020, nearly $3 million less than Thames. It hurts Thames that he’s a very similar player as Shaw. They both hit left-handed and for power and they both get on base at a high clip while not hitting for a high average. The Brewers may choose to go with the cheaper option. Or they may keep both, though that seems like $12 million spent on redundancy.

Most Brewers fans will want Thames back and Shaw gone, because one horrible year of Shaw made everyone forget his 3.6 WAR season of 2018. This situation is one of the more interesting things to watch this offseason. Maybe the Brewers will pick up Thames’ option and trade him. Maybe the Brewers will tender Shaw and trade him. You can never count anything out when it comes to Milwaukee’s front office.

Chance of re-signing with the Brewers: 85 percent

Let’s talk about the Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline

In July 2018 the Milwaukee Brewers made waves before the MLB trade deadline hit. The Brewers — who were sitting a few percentage points behind the Chicago Cubs with a 63-47 record — added Mike Moustakas, Joakim Soria and Jonathan Schoop in three separate trades. Moustakas and Soria were significant contributors to Milwaukee’s NLCS run, while Schoop (-0.3 in 46 games) failed to make a positive impact. July 2018 was an important month for the Brewers, and it allowed fans to wonder and salivate over what moves were in store for the team this year.

Once again, the Brewers made three trades (Jordan Lyles was acquired from the Pirates on July 29) before the 3:00 p.m. CT deadline arrived, but unlike a year ago, the players acquired were far less remarkable. Here’s what the Brewers cooked up on trade deadline day:

When Robert Murray of The Athletic tweeted the Brewers were sending Dubon to the Giants in a “significant” trade, my heart stopped. For a brief second I thought that both Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith were headed to Milwaukee, until I realized that Murray’s definition of “significant” was drastically different than mine, and well, the rest of the world’s. The only thing significant about Milwaukee’s deadline is that they traded a 2018 All-Star and a fan and clubhouse favorite in Aguilar. The three players the Brewers got back? Not so noteworthy. But let’s talk about them anyway.

Jake Faria

Faria burst onto the scene in 2017 when he finished with a 3.43 ERA, 4.12 FIP and 1.3 WAR in 16 games (14 starts) as a rookie. He looked like a legitimate young rotation pitcher. But then 2018 rolled around and he looked lost, evidenced by his 5.40 ERA and 5.08 FIP. Here’s a quick look at the difference:

Faria’s never been known for his velocity or spin, but he was above average in strikeout rate and did a good job of limiting opponent’s power, although he did give up a fair amount of hard contact. Fast forward to 2018 and he plummeted in all categories. He wasn’t just bad, he was bottom-of-the-barrel terrible. This year’s been better, at least in terms of ERA, and while he’s been able to strikeout over 23 percent of batters, his walk rate is through the roof. And that’s been a constant in Faria’s young career, and something that will limit his success if he can’t fix his control.

Faria recently turned 26, so he’s still young enough to figure things out. And, might I add, he has years of team control left. He’s not eligible for free agency until 2024, which was very appealing to the Brewers. However, he won’t do much to help the Brewers this season and is a wild card for the future, which is why this trade didn’t do much for me. Plus, I think they gave up on Aguilar too quickly.

Drew Pomeranz

In December 2018 I tweeted that Pomeranz was a clear buy-low candidate for the Brewers. It only took them seven months and their fourth-best prospect before they listened. It wasn’t exactly a buy-low, but there’s stuff to like about the lefty.

Let’s first forget about his current ERA of 5.68. Pomeranz will be used as a reliever — not as a starter like he was deployed San Francisco — and so far the results out of the bullpen have been magnificent. His velocity is up a few ticks since the switch and of the 10 batters he’s faced, he’s struck out half of them. It’s a small sample, definitely, but encouraging nonetheless.

Pomeranz is also a lefty, and the Brewers have need a lefty reliever who’s not named Josh Hader and who’s more consistent and strike hitters out more often than Alex Claudio. Pomeranz will definitely help the bullpen, but is he worth Dubon? I’m not so sure. I’m not the biggest Dubon believer in the world, but I believe he could’ve been packaged with other prospects to secure a more dominant and helpful player. It hurts even more knowing that Pomeranz will likely walk in free agency after the season.

Ray Black

Black throws heat. He throws hard and and he throws fast. His fastball — which is capable of reaching over 100 mph — is in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity. Black also uses his velocity to his advantage. In 25.1 major league innings, Black has a strikeout rate of 35.9 percent. If we set the inning parameters to a minimum of 20 innings, Black has the 10th-highest strikeout rate in MLB history. Obviously that doesn’t mean all that much, other than the fact that Black is capable of being filthy.

On the flip side, he walks everyone, even more than Faria. And in those 25.1 aforementioned innings, he owns a 6.04 ERA, albeit a much more friendly 4.15 FIP, thanks to his strikeout ability. His limited control will keep him in the minors — where the Brewers sent him — and keep his potential hidden. But Black has the most upside of all three players, and it’s really not hard to see why.

***

The Brewers didn’t have a significant deadline because the moves they made won’t help the 2019 team enough in its playoff push. They also may not help in the future, though that remains to be seen. And that’s the biggest problem I had with Milwaukee’s deadline. It left me wondering, what was the point?

Jordan Lyles joins the Milwaukee Brewers again

It’s not the splash fans wanted, but the Milwaukee Brewers traded for a starting pitcher Monday. The Brewers sent RHP Cody Ponce to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Jordan Lyles.

Lyles, as some of you may recall, spent time with the Brewers in 2018 after being picked up off waivers from the San Diego Padres. He was deployed exclusively as a reliever for Milwaukee, pitching 16.1 innings and posting a 3.31 ERA and 2.49 FIP. The 28-year-old hurler ultimately elected free agency after the season and signed a one-year, $2.05 million contract with the Pirates. Some questioned why the Brewers let him walk so easily. Some were more than fine with his departure, citing his less-than-stellar track record as a major league pitcher.

But now Lyles is back in Milwaukee once again, where he hopefully — for the Brewers’ sake — can pitch like he did a year ago. However, that may not be in the cards, as his time in Pittsburgh wasn’t too friendly. Lyles joins the Brewers with the baggage of 5.36 ERA and 4.81 FIP, the former being the ninth-worst mark among starters in baseball (minimum 80 innings pitched). He’s giving up nearly two home runs a game (1.75/9) and currently sits in the 11th percentile in hard-hit rate allowed. So why do the Brewers think he’ll be an upgrade? General manager David Stearns discussed that very question:

The Brewers – like most clubs in 2019 — are looking past the ERA. They believe that he’s been a victim of a bit of bad luck, which is probably true. In fact, did you know that Lyles’ ERA was under 4.00 until the calendar turned to July? And did you know that in July teams have a batting average on balls in play of .556 against him? That’s the highest mark in baseball. A BABIP like that — and the same thing would be said for an incredibly low BABIP — is completely unsustainable. And then there’s the strike outs. Lyles is striking out batters at a career-high clip of 24.9 percent including 27.1 percent in July. He’s just getting severely punished when hitters make contact, kind of like Josh Hader. (No I’m not saying Lyles is like Hader, so please stop.)

Lyles joins a team that is desperate need of arms, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see where the Brewers use his talents. The team has already confirmed he’ll start at some point this week, but the best option may be to use him out of the bullpen. He’s already proved he can be a valuable bullpen arm for the Brewers, and his strikeout rate could potentially rise even more if he works just an inning or two. The Brewers should do everything they can to avoid Lyles having to face a lineup multiple times through the order.

Lyles isn’t going to help the Brewers win the World Series, but he might — just maybe — make them better. From the sound of it, Stearns and Co. expect to make more moves before Wednesday’s deadline hits. The question is: will they be significant moves or more Lyles-esque acquisitions?