Tag Archives: Zach Davies

If I were manager: Picking the Brewers starting rotation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quick take: Brewers made the right decision with Wily Peralta

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

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

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

Fortunately, the Brewers sent down Peralta.

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

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

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

Who are the Brewers getting in Zach Davies?

The Milwaukee Brewers may have traded away Mike Fiers, but they may have already replaced him, as well. After Doug Melvin sent Carlos Gomez and Fiers to the Houston Astros, he shipped Gerardo Parra off to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for right-handed pitcher Zach Davies.

Davies wasted no time in making a great impression with his new club, as he struck out seven batters in six innings while allowing just one run in his first start with the Brewers Triple-A affiliate.

But who exactly is the Brewers getting in Davies?

Here’s what Baseball Prospectus writer Jeff Long had to say about him:

Davies isn’t built like a pitcher. At 6’0″ 150 lbs, he looks more like a shortstop than a guy who throws darts on the mound. A lot of the speculation that surrounds Davies is because of his small build. People who know the game well question if he can last a full 32-start season, thinking his body will eventually break down. But pitchers like Tim Lincecum (5’11”, 170 lbs) and Travis Wood (5’11”, 175 lbs) have overcome their short and skinny stature to become successful major league pitchers. There’s no reason Davies can’t add his name to that list.

Davies’ fastball won’t overpower hitters, but he does a good job of hiding the ball up until he releases it, making the pitch seem much faster than it is. His strikeout rate of 21.1% is very good for a pitcher without blow-it-by-you stuff, although the strikeouts will probably drop a bit when he faces major league hitters. His changeup is his best pitch, but he’ll need to expand his arsenal or strengthen it in order to be an effective starter.

Along with his decent strikeout percentage, Davies does an excellent job of pounding the strike zone and forcing ground balls. He’s walked under three hitters per nine innings in each of his last three minor league seasons, and has had a groundball rate north of 46% in every season of his career.

Giving up Gerardo Parra, a free-agent-to-be who is in the midst of a career year, for a pitcher like Davies is a win for the Brewers, in my opinion. Parra is due for some serious regression in 2016, so to get a young arm who has the potential to be a solid back-of-the-rotation guy in return for him should be looked at as a victory.

At 22 years old and almost a full season of Triple-A under his belt, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Davies break into the rotation in 2016. He could easily transition to the No. 4 or No. 5 spot in Milwaukee’s rotation, which is in need of some quality arms.