Tag Archives: Ryan Braun

The projections: What I got right

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

But even though my projections were purely guesses, I still had my share of correct calls. Here’s where I went right:

Adam Lind

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .279 18 .353 122 .340 0.181 18.7% 7.8% 1.5
Season Stats .277 20 .351 119 .360 0.183 17.5% 11.5% 2.2

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I was dead on when it came to projecting LInd. Aside from his on-base percentage and walk rate, I was just one or two points off on every offensive statistic. His WAR was higher than I thought it’d be; credit that to his glove. His 5 Defensive Runs Saved at first base was far and away a career high.

Though it’s not saying much, Lind had one of the best offensive seasons on the Brewers in 2015. He got on base more than any Brewer not named Gerardo Parra, and he rediscovered his power swing after hitting just six home runs a year ago.

2016 outlook: Don’t be surprised if Lind is traded this winter. New general manager David Stearns already cleaned house with the coaching staff and has reorganized the front office. It’s only a matter of time before he starts moving player personnel.

Ryan Braun

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .308 26 .368 140 .378 .220 18.2% 8.9% 4.5
Season Stats .285 25 .366 129 .356 .213 20.2% 9.5% 2.8

Okay, okay, I know there’s a huge discrepancy in Braun’s projected Wins Above Replacement and his actual WAR. I thought he was going to improve at least a little in right field since he had a whole year there under his belt. but he was just as pitiful as he was in 2014.

However, my prediction that he would transform back into one of baseball’s best hitters came true. Braun put up his highest ISO since 2012 and finished 29th in all of baseball in weighted runs created plus.

2016 outlook: With his extension just about to kick in, it’ll be tough to trade Braun, no matter how badly Stearns wants to. Nonetheless, Braun proved he can still hit with the elite, and he should continue that next season.

Scooter Gennett

AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
Projection .268 6 .310 95 .314 .125 17.0% 4.1% 1.4
Season Stats .264 6 .289 77 .294 .117 17.4% 3.1% 0.2

As regular readers know, I’ve never been a fan of Scooter Gennett. Every time I see him at the plate, I shed a tear for the departed Rickie Weeks. Sigh.

I knew Gennett was going to have a below-average season, which is why I’m counting this as a win for my projections. Yet, I didn’t expect him to be so abysmal that I was rooting for Hector Gomez to take over his second-base job. He played no better than a replacement player. Offensively, he was useless, and his defense took a big slide as well.

2016 outlook: Honestly, I can’t imagine Gennett having a major-league job next year. Oh wait. The Brewers are rebuilding, which means Gennett will absolutely be on the team’s roster, unfortunately. Unless Milwaukee is ready to give one of their younger prospects a try. I mean, why not?

Jeremy Jeffress

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
Projection 2.62 3.11 3.00 2.59 4 21.9% 9.6% 57.4% 1.0
Season Stats 2.65 3.22 3.00 2.85 5 23.5% 7.7% 58.2% 0.8

Before the season started, I wrote that Jeremy Jeffress would be MLB’s next top closer sometime in the near future, and after the stand-out numbers he racked together as the setup man in 2015, I’m even more confident in saying that. I called this one almost perfectly.

Jeffress is a strikeout and ground-ball pitcher, and he proved that over a full season for the first time in his career. He struck out almost nine batters per game and his GB% was the 17th-best among qualified relievers, mostly due to his power sinker.

2016: Jeffress will again be Craig Counsell‘s go-to-guy in high leverage situations next season, and he even could slide into the closer’s role if the Brewers choose to shed money and a veteran by trading Francisco Rodriguez.

 

You can check out my full list of projections here:

Hitters

Pitchers

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The horrible luck of Ryan Braun

Luck is a part of baseball. It’s also the reason we have sabermetric statistics like Fielding Independent Pitching, Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average and Batting Average on Balls In Play. We have those to try and strip away the luck, or in BABIP’s case, to see how much luck is involved. We need these stats in order to get a better feel of a player’s true performance. Earned Run Average does by no means accomplish this. Same with batting average. (But you already know this, right?) We just can’t use old-school stats and act like they’re perfect. That’s being lazy. Sabermetrics isn’t perfect either, but it’s a lot closer to the right side than the wrong side.

Whether you like it or not, luck can contribute to a player’s great or poor performance. And that brings us to Ryan Braun.

In 2014, Ryan Braun posted career lows in hard- and medium-hit percentages while his soft-hit percentage was the highest it has been since 2011. In layman’s terms, Braun hit the ball “hard”, as categorized by Baseball Info Solutions, with less frequency than ever before. That’s why it’s not really an astonishment when you look at his numbers from that year. They were down across the board, highlighted by his .226 batting average and .299 wOBA in the second half. You can blame it on the performance-enhancing drugs (although you’d be wrong) or you can fault his faulty non-working thumb, but you can’t blame it on bad luck, not when looking at his quality of contact.

But Braun’s back, and so his is power. It’s just like I predicted. He has 10 home runs, an ISO of .241 and 123 wRC+. He’s back to the player baseball fans are accustomed to seeing, yet, despite the incredible spike in numbers, he’s been the victim of some downright horrendous luck in 2015.

Let’s investigate by looking at his quality of contact and his batting average on balls in play.

  • 14th. That’s where Braun ranks out of 175 qualified hitters in hard-hit rate with a percentage of 40%.
  • 133rd. That’s where Braun ranks out of 175 qualified hitters in BABIP with a .268 mark.

The hits just aren’t falling for Milwaukee’s right fielder. He’s crushing the ball, but very few are finding holes or gaps; he has just three extra-base hits (not including HRs). His BABIP is so low, that Johnny Giavotella is laughing at him. The fact you don’t even know who that is says everything.

What’s even more surprising is Braun’s career hard-hit rate and BABIP numbers. In parts of nine major league seasons, Braun has hit the ball hard 36.2% of the time, and owns a .334 batting average on balls in play. Bad luck is essentially kicking Braun’s ass this year.

It’s a good thing the MLB season is 162 games, and it’s a good a little thing called “regression to the mean” exists. In all likelihood, Braun’s BABIP will start rising faster than Harold Reynold’s disapproval ratings. There’s just no way Braun can continue to hit the ball as hard as he is without getting results.

Ryan Braun is hitting well right now. Just imagine how he’ll do when luck decides to stop torturing him.

 

The Brewers can’t hit the low pitch

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

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

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

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

Zone

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

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

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

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

Hitter projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers

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 hitter projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers (subject to change before the season commences).

Position Name AVG HR wOBA wRC+ OBP ISO K% BB% WAR
C Jonathan Lucroy .303 13 .370 131 .377 .159 10.3% 11.4% 4.9
1B Adam Lind .279 18 .353 122 .340 .181 18.7% 7.8% 1.5
2B Scooter Gennett .268 6 .310 95 .314 .125 17.0% 4.1% 1.4
3B Aramis Ramirez .280 16 .324 110 .330 .138 15.0% 6.5% 1.9
SS Jean Segura .255 5 .295 79 .310 .090 12.3% 5.5% 1.3
OF Khris Davis .257 19 .335 112 .308 .208 20.6% 5.2% 1.1
OF Carlos Gomez .287 22 .366 131 .350 .193 22.1% 7.7% 5.3
OF Ryan Braun .308 26 .368 140 .378 .220 18.2% 8.9% 4.5
OF Gerardo Parra .270 5 .309 86 .312 .122 17.7% 7.0% 1.0
C Martin Maldonado .241 3 .311 97 .322 .137 22.0% 9.1% 0.4
INF Elian Herrera .231 0 .269 66 .274 .071 25.4% 3.4% -0.3
OF Logan Schafer .210 1 .250 51 .281 .099 19.8% 7.7% -0.2
OF Shane Peterson .271 3 .315 98 .329 .100 24.0% 9.1% 0.2
INF Luis Jimenez .236 1 .270 79 .276 .115 21.0% 2.1% -0.3
Total   .264 138 .318 100 .322 .140 18.9% 6.8% 22.7

As an offense, the Brewers will be right around league average, which is an upgrade from 2014. The team’s OBP and wOBA should be slightly better, thanks to a hopefully healthy Braun and with Lind now in the fold. However, walk rate will continue to haunt the Brewers.

I have only two players reaching the 20 home run plateau, but Khris Davis and even Lind could easily hit that number. Davis will need to improve on the changeup, though.

There are a few other players I’d like to talk more about to give you a better understanding of why I believe they’ll perform like my projections predict.

Ryan Braun

A lot of Braun’s struggles last season can be blamed on his thumb, and if you think performance-enhancing drugs had anything to do with it, you clearly didn’t watch enough Brewers’ games. And that’s not me being biased. I’ll never wear his jersey again because of what he did. His thumb numbness made it hard for him to pull the ball, and he would roll over on it more times than not. Braun’s career average when pulling the ball sits at .406, but he hit just .298 on balls to left field in ’14. Imagine swinging at an inside pitch without being able to feel your thumb. It just sounds brutal. If Braun’s thumb is healthy (all signs point to that it is), he should return to MVP-form. His WAR would’ve been higher if not for his lackluster defense in right field (-6.6 UZR).

Carlos Gomez

As long as the Brewers compete, Gomez has a real chance to take home the 2015 MVP award. His projected 5.3 WAR is the highest on the Brewers, not only because I believe his walk rate (and in turn his OBP ) will increase, but because his defensive stats should get a boost after an uncharacteristically low performance last season.

Scooter Gennett

I went more in-depth of my expected woes for Gennett here, but the fact is, he can’t hit left-handed pitchers. Everyone keeps bringing up the small sample size argument, which is just fine and dandy until you look at his numbers against southpaws in the minors. There’s no small sample size there, and he was terrible. Gennett can “laugh at his splits” all he wants, but being without a platoon partner is really going to hurt him, and the Brewers will regret not finding one if they, in fact, end up sticking with him. Frankly, Gennett will be a below-average hitter in 2015.

Adam Lind

Acquiring Lind was maybe the best low-key acquisition of the winter. Finally, the Brewers have someone to shore up first base, and finally, the Brewers have a left-handed power hitter who can actually get on base (.369 OBP over the last two seasons). His 7.8% walk rate would be a welcome site to a lineup that doesn’t walk. I like Lind a little more than Steamer does when it comes to OBP and wOBA, but Steamer projects him to have 21 home runs while I have him hitting 18. His horrible defense will cost the Brewers a few runs/wins, which is why I have him as a 1.5 win player.

Shane Peterson

Peterson’s my sleeper, and should ultimately replace Schafer on the bench (fingers crossed). Peterson’s one of those rare players that can man center field, and then move to first base the next day. Versatile is the word. He has pop in his bat and should maintain a somewhat okay OBP in spite of his Mount Everest strikeout rate.

 

There you have it. My pitcher projections will be out in the next couple of days as well, so make sure you give them a good look over as you wait for this monstrosity of a winter to be over.

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

Constructing the best possible Brewers’ batting order

Not many baseball teams, if any, construct their lineup correctly.

Well, correctly as deemed by Tom Tango, Mitchel G. Litchman and Andrew Dolphin of the statistical bible “The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball”. If you want to learn things like run expectancy, leveraging relievers, platoon splits and, wait for it, building a batting order, then this is the book for you. It is so insightful and eye-opening that it should be on every GM’s desk. Did you hear that, Doug? Read it.

But enough advocacy (I promise my endorsement was not compensated in any way). Based on “The Book”, I’m going to attempt to build the Milwaukee Brewers’ batting order that will produce the absolute most runs down to the smallest decimal point. Instead of essentially rewriting “The Book” to explain why my batting order looks the way it does, I’m going to provide you with a couple of snippets from it. That way, I won’t be sued for plagiarism, and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Let’s begin.

The Book Says: Your best three hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.

According to this, there’s no way in K-Rod’s leg kick Ryan Braun should be batting in the three-hole as he is clearly one of the Brewers’ top three hitters (best, probably). And this makes sense. Hitters in the one, two and four spots have higher run values over the three spot when it comes to singles, doubles and triples (home runs come out about even). For example, when you modify run values by plate appearances, if a two-hole hitter hits a double, it’s worth .799 runs versus .779 runs it’d be worth from a three-hole hitter. The difference is microscopic, but hey, I want the best possible lineup.

I now have to decide who the best three hitters on the Brewers are and put them in slots #1, #2 and #4 in order to utilize my lineup most effectively. I want my first two hitters to be capable of drawing walks. Therefore, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez will take the top two spots, with Braun coming in at the cleanup position. Lucroy (10.1 BB%) and Gomez (7.3 BB%) walked the most among the Brewers last year, and since home runs are worth the highest run total from the cleanup spot, Braun is the clear candidate there (his home run totals should rebound in ’15).

You may be wondering why I decided to bat Lucroy ahead of Gomez. It’s simple, really. Lucroy walks more and strikes out at a lesser rate.

But who are the Brewers fourth- and fifth-best hitters? I’m going with Aramis Ramirez and Adam Lind. Compared to the rest of Milwaukee’s lineup, they’re light years ahead in terms of offense. They can both hit for power and put up respectable averages. I’ll decide where to put them in my order after we talk more about what “The Book” has to say.

The Book Says: Worry about the strikeout only if you have the opportunity to use a pinch hitter or reliever. Don’t consider the strikeout, or the ability of the hitter to move runners over on outs, when constructing your starting lineup.

I shouldn’t care if Gomez strikes out a ton, so him hitting in the two slot is okay. At the very least, he’ll stay out of the double play. Speaking of which:

The Book Says: The propensity to ground into, or avoid, double plays is an important consideration for players at the extreme double play levels. It is also an important consideration for leadoff hitters in the NL.

The three-hole hitter comes to the plate a lot more with two outs than the five-hole hitter, meaning he has a smaller chance of grounding into two outs. Lind grounded into eight double plays in 2014, and 20 the year before that, but, luckily, 2013 was an extreme and that number should shrink. The last three years prior to that, he averaged 10.6 double plays. In comparison, Ramirez grounded into 18 double plays in 2014, and with his age climbing the staircase and concurrent leg problems, he should post a number similar to that. Since Ramirez has a knack for double plays, the three spot is best suited for him, with Lind following Braun in the five spot.

Since I’ve determined hitters one through five, that only leaves Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Scooter Gennett and the pitcher, and “The Book” tells me to put them in descending order of quality. While doing that, I also want to split up the lefty (Gennett) and put Davis behind Ramirez to reinforce the power.

Now comes the Tony La Russa part.

The Book Says: The second leadoff hitter theory exists. You can put your pitcher in the eighth slot and gain a couple of extra runs a year.

Segura has an insurmountable ground ball rate (59.6%), and with a player like Gennett who hits a lot of singles, it would be foolish to place Segura behind him. A pitcher is more likely to strikeout, and one out is always better than two. Therefore, the pitcher should bat eighth and Segura will assume the role of the second leadoff hitter.

Here’s the finished product.

 

1. Jonathan Lucroy

2. Carlos Gomez

3. Aramis Ramirez

4. Ryan Braun

5. Adam Lind

6. Khris Davis

7. Scooter Gennett

8. Pitcher

9. Jean Segura

 

This will not be what the Brewers’ lineup looks like next season, probably at any point. I’m saying this without any prior knowledge, but it wouldn’t be a bombshell if Ron Roenicke has never heard of “The Book”. He’s more of an old-school guy and shies away from the analytics, except for when it comes to moving his infielders all over the place.

And although there’s not a butterfly’s wings chance of this batting order being written on the lineup card come the season, this lineup would most likely score more runs than any other combination.