A Simple Kind of Fan. A Solution to the Estrada Enquiry– 5.17.11
The Brewers have too many starting pitchers, which is obviously an awesome problem to have. For the first time in my memory as a Milwaukee Brewers fan, the team has six legitimate starting pitchers. As recently as last year, the Brewers were lucky to have had two or three productive starters at any given time. Yet in 2011, the Brewers are flush with Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo, Wolf, Narveson, and Estrada. Some fans have proposed a 6 man rotation. Others have proposed a starter being removed and Estrada being inserted into the rotation. Those fans are morons and should be removed from the bandwagon immediately. I have also seen much speculation about Estrada working his way into the bullpen in a defined role. While that does have some advantages, I propose a different solution. Before we get to that solution, let’s take a look at what the options are for Marco Estrada moving forward.
The first solution to the Estrada Enquiry is to insert him into the starting rotation. A six man rotation like the White Sox are currently attempting is foolish. Any off day (or rain day) means your staff ace is pitching only once a week. I don’t think the Brewers will be going the 6 man rotation route, so this leaves replacing a current starter. Which starter would it be? Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, and Gallardo are all highly doubtful choices because of the financial commitments made to each player. Anyone that has read this blog knows that I am all about Narveson. The Narv Dog is rocking a 3.07 FIP and is striking out almost a batter an inning. Narveson is pitching fine, despite getting a bit unlucky (.310 BABIP), and I believe he has exceeded expectations as a 5th starter. Since Ron Roenicke has been wise to not insert Estrada into the rotation, it appears for now a relief role is imminent for the emerging right hander.
The second solution to the Estrada Enquiry is to eventually let him play his way into a defined role at the back end of the bullpen. This solution is one that has a legitimate shot of happening. If you consider that Axford (5/15 debut) and Loe (6/1 debut) were not even on the team until around this time last year, Estrada certainly has sufficient time to bully his way into some high leverage innings at the end of games. However, this is unlikely to happen as it currently sets up as Hawkins in the 7th, Loe in the 8th, and Axford in the 9th. The return of Saito must also be factored into the future bullpen conundrum. Essentially, I don’t feel that this is a valid long term solution because if used in a series of one inning appearances, Estrada will not be stretched out to properly start games if an injury should occur to a starter. As a result, I feel that Estrada can be used in a much more effective manner.
The third solution to the Estrada Enquiry is to make him a true long reliever. For the last couple of years, long relievers have been thought of as mop up guys. Guys like Elmer Dessens, Jeff Suppan, Chris Smith, and Manny Parra fit the description of a journeyman pitcher coming in and eating some innings in a blowout. These are typically about as low leverage as innings get, certainly in the big leagues. This is NOT what I propose for Estrada.
I propose making Estrada a true 3-4 inning long reliever that can be used a couple of times a week. I have legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of this bullpen. Why? Currently, the Brewers are tied with St. Louis for the NL lead in bullpen losses at 10. Using this tactic would allow the bullpen to remain fresh, and sometimes would allow the bullpen to get a night off completely. This would also enable Estrada to remain prepared and capable of stepping into the rotation immediately when the inevitable injury strikes later this season. In fact, last Sunday’s game illustrated the perfect opportunity for this scenario to take place.
Zach Greinke was pitching a great game until the 5th inning. He used a ludicrous 47 pitches in the inning and consequently tired. Estrada came in and pitched great in the sixth and seventh innings. I would propose not limiting him to just two innings moving forward. He was dominating the Pirates and would have allowed Roenicke to use his bullpen differently. Axford came in and let the tying run to reach first base in a four run game. He did not look good and frankly, The Axman has me concerned about his ability to command his curveball for strikes.
I want to make it clear that I understand currently that the back end is Loe and Axford for the 8th and 9th. However, neither has been dominating this year and this strategy I am suggesting allows for some flexibility in late inning situations if these two pitchers continue to get hammered. If used correctly, the Brewers could get 7 or more meaningful innings out of Marco Estrada every week in high leverage situations.
I am Calling You Out!
Even though Milwaukee broke out the brooms and swept Pittsburgh over the weekend, the umpiring in the series was absolutely putrid. Usually umpiring is only brought up by the losing team and fans. However, there were many blunders throughout the series and it was obvious that the crew was struggling to provide a consistent strike zone. The games seemed to drag all weekend. This is incriminating evidence to expand replay and also speed up the game. Goal #1 is to get the call right.
Of course, baseball could fix this by using instant replays on the HUMUNGOUS High Definition scoreboards every stadium employs. Imagine confirming a call in seconds and moving on? Of course, until baseball wises up and gets computers to establish an actual consistent strike zone, we are stuck with these bozos in black. As far as speeding up the game, do I really need to see Ryan Braun step out and strap up his gloves after every pitch or wait forever for nothing while Jon Garland pitches? It is time to expand instant replay and speed up the game. Currently, these two factors are killing the beautiful game of baseball.
The “What the f*&# does that stat mean” Stat of the Week.
Over the course of the last five months, we have delved into many advanced statistics. The idea behind this segment is to realize that there are many more statistics used to evaluate the performance of a player than just those that appear on the back of a baseball card. Today we are going to look at ERA+.
The ERA statistic does a good job of defining how many earned runs a player gives up per 9 innings, yet it lacks in several areas. ERA+ evaluates a certain pitcher by comparing him to the average ERA of the league, as well as accounting for ballpark factors. What this means is that ERA+ takes into account whether a pitcher plays his games in Wrigley Field (bandbox), or Safeco Field (pitcher’s dream). Despite the complicated math, just remember that league average with all things considered is 100. If a player has an ERA+ of over 100, he is above average, if it is below 100, he stinks. When looking at two players with an identical ERA, hopefully now you will now know to immediately look at the FIP and ERA+ of each pitcher to determine who is truly having the better year.
So far in 2011, Shaun Marcum is the clear cut leader for starting pitchers with an ERA+ of 149. For the relievers, Sergio Mitre has an ERA+ of 209 in almost 15 innings of work (I don’t count Hawkins until he has at least 10 innings). Obviously, Milwaukee’s pitching staff is finally getting healthy and coming together. I predict that by September 1st, we will be able to take a look at this statistic once again and get a good idea of whether the team is competing for a division title based on how the starting pitching ranks in the National League.
This week in the Yuni Watch, it is time to celebrate. Yuni had the top play on Sportscenter this week. The backhanded flip from the glove to Weeks was a great play. OK, the celebration is over now. Too bad one great play doesn’t cancel out an entire season of poor range. I would imagine several Milwaukee pitchers are suffering from high BABIP because of McGehee and Yuni on the left side with little or no range. Those guys are certainly doing no favors to the Milwaukee pitching staff.
For the week Yuni was 4 x 20 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. Disgusting. For the season, he has a triple slash line of .225/.248/.326. These numbers are trending downward. For heaven’s sake, the guy isn’t even getting on base at a .250 clip! What angers me the most is probably his complete lack of ability to recognize the situation and put together a productive at bat when the teams needs it most. There has to be a better option somehow, somewhere.
Throwback Jersey of the Week
Don’t look now, but Chris Capuano is pitching pretty well for the Mets. Cappy was always a popular player and he was just simply a victim of the numbers game in Milwaukee. Personally, I had hoped there would be some sort of role for him with the team, but I am happy he has been given an opportunity to start somewhere in the big leagues. I have selected a LOW price point replica jersey that is always welcome in Milwaukee.
Growing up as a kid, Stormin’ Gorman was an idol of mine and was beloved by the entire city. Nobody epitomized the tough, burly Milwaukee image back in the early 80’s more than Thomas. I still find it astonishing that he was the team’s centerfielder during the glory days, as his body type profiled much more as a corner outfielder. Here is a sweet Gorman Thomas jersey at a MEDIUM price point.
A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now
In 1971 Ferguson Jenkins achieved his fifth consecutive 20 win season. He had a fine year and won the Cy Young Award in part due to his consistency, and in part because he finished 30 of 39 games that season. Regardless, in my opinion one of the great crimes in modern baseball occurred in 1971, when Tom Seaver was not awarded the Cy Young.
I am a big fan of Tom Seaver. Tom Terrific was dominant for a very long time in the major leagues. The 3 time Cy Young Award winner had many fine seasons. Sure, Seaver had a 20-10 record in 1971, but he led the National League in ERA (1.76), ERA+ (194), WHIP (.946), FIP (1.93), strikeouts (289), and K/9 (9.4). In fact, all of these numbers I listed were also career highs in a season for Seaver.
So I ask you, how does a Hall of Fame of Fame pitcher with a multitude of incredible statistics establish career highs in 6 separate pitching categories (plus 21 complete games) and not win the Cy Young Award? Outrageous. I am happy to remind you of a season you may have forgotten about by now and to help bring awareness to the one of the greatest award winning travesties in baseball history.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
June 13. Starting with a 4 game set in Wrigley, the schedule get ridiculously difficult until the All- Star break. I have already detailed my prediction that the team will be in big hole after this crucial stretch. Staying healthy will determine how big that hole is.
Shameless Self Promotion
Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan. If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this.
Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out? No worries, the Pocketdoppler is here for you. Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers. It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when things get busy.