Tag Archives: Milwaukee Brewers

Projecting Stephen Vogt

With the Brewers making another move to its 25-man roster, it’s time for another projection post. But don’t worry. I have a Matt Garza article scheduled for later this week, so make sure to stop by again. I mean, who doesn’t want to read about Matt Garza?

Jett Bandy — the owner of a 72 wRC+ — was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Stephen Vogt, who the Brewers claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics in another low-risk and cheap move by David Stearns. The former two-time All-Star Vogt will share time with incumbent Manny Pina behind the plate, but Pina figures to see most of the playing time. Vogt has earned a 94 wRC+ over his last 1.217 plate appearances but has been substantially underwhelming in 2017. He’s batting just .217 with an OBP under .300, but with a walk rate of 9.2 percent, his batted ball average of just .244 is the main culprit. His hard-hit rate is actually up compared to the last two seasons, so expect some positive regression in the second half.

Now, Vogt is 32, so by no means do the Brewers view him as a long-term option. They still believe in Bandy, and they sent him down in order to get consistent at-bats and to see if he can rediscover his confidence. Vogt and Pina make a fairly decent catching tandem, though, and RW23 projects the former as a serviceable catcher.

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 180 163 .257 .321 .401 .722 .145 .316 16.5% 8.3% .286 5

RW23 still believes Bandy is the better option, although it’s extremely close. Bandy has more power, but Vogt is the better OBP player. He makes consistent contact and will walk a smidge more often. Hopefully, Bandy hits AAA pitching, and his demotion is short-lived. But for now, we’ll see what Vogt can do on a first-place team.

Projecting Lewis Brinson

The future is here.

Just a few days after promoting Brett Phillips and Josh Hader, the Milwaukee Brewers made the call to No. 1 prospect Lewis Brinson, effectively commencing the team’s bright, bright outlook and future. Phillips was hitting the ball well in Triple-A, while Hader was having his fair share of problems. Lewis, on the other hand, was devastating opposing pitchers. In 204 plate appearances, the newly minted 23 year old posted a 134 wRC+, a .397 on-base clip and a .390 weighted-on base mark. He also mashed six dingers en route to his promotion. He earned his call.

Brinson marks the new wave of players coming to Milwaukee. He and Phillips seem destined to man the outfield grass in Miller Park for years to come, but as Brinson is set to make his debut, one must wonder how much playing time he’ll get. Domingo Santana (128 wRC+) isn’t going to lose any at-bats, and Ryan Braun — when he returns from a lengthy disabled list stint — figures to play almost everyday as well. Keon Broxton (79 wRC+) seems to be the odd-man out if the Brewers want to get Brinson and/or Phillips consistent time on the field. But of the two, Brinson is the one who will most likely stay when Braun makes his way back. Phillips could use some more time to improve his plate discipline and cut down the strike outs.

With that being said, here’s what RW23 foresees for Brinson in 2017.

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 179 200 .256 .325 .429 .754 .173 .327 25.0% 8.6% .314 7

Compared to Phillips’ projection, RW23 likes Brinson quite a bit more. Depending on Milwaukee’s plan for him, Brinson’s 200 plate appearances might be on the high side, but to me, calling him up to sit him on the pine is a waste of everyone’s time — especially Brinson’s. He needs to be in the lineup as much as possible.

Projecting Brett Phillips

Highly regarded prospect Brett Phillips was called up Monday to take over the roster spot of Travis Shaw. But since Shaw is only on paternity leave, Phillips’ stay in the big leagues will most likely be a short one. This is nonetheless exciting, though. Phillips was the main piece in the Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers trade, and I wrote about that acquisition here. (Keep in mind that I did predict Domingo Santana would be the star of the trade, however).

After a quiet season in Double-A in 2016, Phillips has smashed the ball in Triple-A so far in 2017. In 198 plate appearances, the 23 year old has 11 home runs, running a 144 wRC+ in the process. His promotion was obviously well deserved, even if it’s just for a few games. But while Phillips has been a monster at the plate in the minors, he’s still striking out at an outrageous clip (30.3 percent), which should be a huge, flashing warning sign as he enters the majors. That alone is scary, and that alone is why the RW23 projection has little faith him in this season.

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 75 68 .231 .310 .390 .700 .159 .307 33.1% 9.5% .330 2

Phillips is a top prospect for a reason. His defense will flirt with elite — particularly his arm — and he has home-run power and extra-base pop. But his holes in swing are worrisome, and it may take him awhile to get it figured out. Don’t jump off his bandwagon if he struggles to begin his career.

If Keon Broxton doesn’t pan out and/or Ryan Braun is traded, Phillips — along with Lewis Brinson — could man the outfield for the 2017 Brewers. He’ll always be a strikeout-prone player, but his defense and power should be able to overlook that.

Get excited. The future is here.

Orlando Arcia still isn’t hitting, but…

Orlando Arcia still isn’t hitting. He’s had 399 plate appearances, and he’s still not hitting. He owns a career 66 wRC+ and has only managed a base hit on 27 percent of his batted balls. Both marks are well below league average. Now, we before we go any further, we have to understand we really didn’t expect him to make a big impact with the bat. Coming up through the minors, Arcia was known for his glove with his offense a distant second. However, his 66 wRC+ was unexpected, at least by me. I was expecting more of a league-average bat, with an OBP in the low .300’s. But man, Arcia just cannot get going.

BUT I HAVE GOOD NEWS.

Arcia is improving. Just take a look at this.

Month WRC+
April 2017 77
May 2017 62

Oh wait. This isn’t the right chart. According to this, he’s actually been worse than dreadful in May. Ha! This is a trick. Yes, Arcia has floundered in May, but there’s still reason to believe the 22 year old is improving.

Month K% BB% OBP
April 22.6% 3.6% .274
May 12.2% 7.1% .309

Arcia has dropped his strikeout rate by over 10 percent, improved his walk rate and has gotten on base at a higher clip as a result. His eye at the plate is better, evidenced by his decreased out-of-the-zone swings.

Around games 20 to 30, he had a really bad stretch of chasing pitches, but since then, he’s been better than most. Hopefully, this trend continues, and hopefully, with better pitches put in play, his BABIP will rise.

Arcia has been worth 0.6 WAR without hitting a lick due to his defense. If he can somehow manage to be just a league-average hitter (100 wRC+), he could be the prospect everyone once loved. But in keep mind, he’s only 22. Patience is a virtue, my friends.

One stat that explains why Eric Thames is for real

Eric Thames is in the MVP conversation. He may not be leading the charge, but he’s definitely among consideration. In the National League, the strongest man alive (probably) ranks sixth in WAR (1.8), fourth in wRC+ (183) and is tied for second with 13 home runs. He’s also a big reason as to why the Brewers are over .500 and in first place of the NL Central — which is just as astounding as Kim Kardashian’s level of fame. So yes, he’s right up there with Bryce Harper for MVP votes.

The critics, pundits and idiots — hi, John Lackey — choose to believe Thames is on performance-enhancing drugs, because, of course, that’s the only explanation for Lackey not being good. But that’s a silly statement, and one that’s been denied time and time again by the numerous negative samples Thames has produced for Major League Baseball thus far. We won’t spend anymore time on these lunatics.

The truth is that Thames is refusing to swing at bad pitches and is crushing the good ones. It’s really as simple as that. He’s always had power. But now that his eye at the plate is superior, so is his performance. And there’s a new statistic that leads us to believe his performance is the real deal.

A few weeks ago, Statcast rolled out  new stat called xwOBA or expected weighted on-base average. I’ll let the folks at Statcast give you the definition.

Expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) is formulated using exit velocity and launch angle, two metrics measured by Statcast.

In the same way that each batted ball is assigned a Hit Probability, every batted ball has been given a single, double, triple and home run probability based on the results of comparable batted balls — in terms of exit velocity and launch angle — since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015

To sum up,  xwOBA is what a player’s wOBA is expected to be based on exit velocity and launch angle. Simple enough. For example, Freddie Freeman has the highest xwOBA in MLB with a mark of .463 (minimum of 100 plate appearances), while his actual wOBA is .491, which is behind only Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Freeman has been absolutely demolishing the ball and both his xwOBA and wOBA portray that.

This is where Thames comes in.

Thames has a .396 xwOBA — the 23rd-highest mark in baseball. That’s better than Justin Upton, Robinson Cano and Manny Machado. His actual wOBA, however, is .464. That’s a pretty large difference, and at this point you may be confused about the title of this post. If he’s outperforming expectations, why do I believe he’s still for real?

Well, because Freddie Freeman isn’t going to finish with a .491 wOBA. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his final wOBA fell beneath .400. Last season, only six players finished with a wOBA of .400 or higher, and one of them was the greatest player on earth. In 2015, only five players completed that feat. In other words, it’s not easy to do. If Thames finishes with his xwOBA of .396, that’ll probably be among the top 10. Kris Bryant had a .396 wOBA in 2016, and he won MVP.

RW23 projected Thames for 31 home runs and a .360 wOBA. Odds are he exceeds both. I don’t know if he’ll still be in the MVP conversation in August or September, but it’s May, and he’s still smack dab in the middle of it, and according to his xwOBA, he’s for real. Thames will come down to earth, and he won’t hit 11 home runs every month. But his performance isn’t Chris Shelton-esque (if you don’t remember him, look him up). He made real changes in Korea and has translated those changes to MLB.

But it must be the steroids, right?

Has Chase Anderson figured it out?

As of April 25, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Chase Anderson owns the lowest ERA among qualified pitchers in the National League. I don’t know what part of that is more strange; the fact that a Brewers’ pitcher has been that dominant or that it’s Chase Anderson — a 3.8 WAR player over 442.2 innings. And we can’t forget that Anderson was on the outside looking in in terms of the starting rotation during spring training, and he himself believes he wouldn’t be among the five if Matt Garza hadn’t gotten hurt.

But Garza, unsurprisingly, opened the season on the disabled list, and Anderson has made the most of it, and will almost definitely keep his spot when Junior Guerra comes back. So now that we’ve established that Chase Anderson will win this year’s Cy Young Award, it’s time to figure out how and why. Has he finally figured it out?

In this new era of sabermetrics, we talk a lot about exit velocity, and how limiting hard-hit balls is usually a good thing for pitchers. With that being said, let’s take a gander over to the exit velocity leaderboards according to Statcast. Below is a chart. On that chart is a list of starting pitchers who have allowed the lowest exit velocities in MLB this year. Maybe you’ll see someone familiar down there.

Rank Player Avg. Exit Veloity
1 Michael Wacha 81.9 MPH
2 Jon Gray 82.0 MPH
3 Jake Arrieta 83.0 MPH
4 Ervin Santana 83.2 MPH
5 Chase Anderson 83.5 MPH

Well, darn it all, if it isn’t Chase Anderson! No wonder he’s been so good!

It’s well known that strikeout pitchers usually generate more weak contact than a non-strikeout pitcher, and Anderson has indeed raised his K rate from 18.6% in 2016 to 22.9% in 2017. Yes, the sample size is small — just 24.0 innings — but there’s reason to believe these strike outs are for real. For starters, Anderson has increased the vertical movement on almost all of his pitches, particularly his cutter — which he’s throwing at the highest rate of his career (15%). And, as you probably know, more movement = harder to hit.

Below is a chart of Anderson’s vertical movement in terms of inches (courtesy of Brooks Baseball).

His pitches have more vertical movement than ever before, but instead of moving down in the zone, Anderson’s pitches seem to be rising. His cutter has risen by over 2.6 inches, while his sinker — which you would think a pitcher would typically want to drop away into the lower half of the zone — has risen by almost by half an inch as well. His fourseamer has seen some mediocre rise, as well has his changeup. Now, his curveball has lost some drop, and that’s probably not a good thing, especially moving forward. But if nothing else, this is an interesting development, so let’s see how well batters are faring against these pitches to get a better understanding if his increase in vertical movement is helping.

Clearly, the vertical movement is helping Anderson, especially when throwing his hard stuff. His two offspeed pitches — curveball and changeup– are the only two that have seen a negative effect over a decrease in drop, but can we really complain about a .214 average? No. No, we can’t.

But despite all of this, it’s Anderson’s new-found belief in his cutter that has him leading the Cy Young race (not really, but you know what I mean). He’s increased his cutter usage from 5% to over 15% and the vertical movement probably has a lot to do with that. Now, I’m not saying Anderson will continue this dominance, because he surely won’t, but the signs so far are encouraging. His FIP and xFIP back up his ERA, and his walks — which have never really been an issue — have decreased by over a walk per inning.

I’m hesitant to say it, but maybe, just maybe, Chase Anderson is good?

Projecting David Goforth

It seems like the Brewers are destined to make a bullpen move every day this season, as the team sent Brent Suter down to the minors just days after promoting him and recalled reliever David Goforth.

Goforth has seen major league action each of the last two seasons, compiling a 6.11 ERA and 4.86 FIP across 35.1 innings. He was hit hard in 2016 (10.97 ERA) and has really struggled to keep the ball in the yard – his 19.4% home-run-to-fly-ball rate is one of the worst marks among relievers over the last two campaigns. And as I’m sure you’re aware, Miller Park is friendly to fly balls, meaning if Goforth wants any sort of success, he needs to keep the ball on the ground.

Here’s what RW23 — The First Out At Third’s projection system — thinks of Goforth.

IP HR WHIP BABIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
RW23 15 2 1.46 .317 6.12 2.96 15.5% 7.5% 4.46 4.17 4.39

RW23 is projecting just 15 innings for the right-handed reliever, and even that might be on the high side, considering the Brewers alternate their bullpen guys as often as President Donald Trump tweets “Sad!” Goforth throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s but doesn’t miss many bats, which is unfortunate, considering RW23 thinks he’ll allow a high BABIP.

Goforth doesn’t figure to be a mainstay in the bullpen and shouldn’t be in Milwaukee’s future plans. He’s had little-to-moderate success in the minor leagues and has never proven he has the stuff to be a reliable major league pitcher.