The Milwaukee Brewers added another key piece to their playoff bullpen puzzle last week with the addition of Francisco Rodriguez.  After KRod waived his vesting option that was based on games finished, Runnin’ Ron Roenicke now has the luxury of two closers at his disposal to use as he sees fit.  I have seen a great deal of speculation as to who will pitch the ninth, but as long as one of these guys is red hot come playoff time, I could care less.

Regardless of how it all plays out, it seems obvious that the 8 th and 9 th innings have been claimed in RRR’s rigid bullpen alignment.  I believe that on most nights the starters can handle the responsibility of getting through six innings of work.  This leaves the critical 7 th inning as the most important inning in Milwaukee baseball.  I would like to examine the options available for the 7th inning and put together some sort of chart to dictate which pitcher should be making an appearance. Unlike the last two innings, of the ball game, Roenicke will earn his pay down the stretch by making the tough decisions to maximize every advantage possible, based on matchups in the 7 th inning.

For the important task of getting through the 7th inning, RRR has been given five options that are resting comfortably in the bullpen:  Loe, Saito, Hawkins, Estrada, and Dillard. Each reliever certainly has their strengths and weaknesses, but when used together could be an effective weapon for the seventh inning challenge that lies ahead.

Here is a chart showing all five relievers and their batting average against splits in 2011, and in their career:

 

Pitcher

2011 Avg vs LHH

Career AVG vs. LHH

2011 Avg vs. RHH

Career Avg vs. RHH

Saito

.385

. 219

.294

.179

Hawkins

.167

.233

.343

.259

Loe

.259

.305

.232

.249

Estrada

.235

.282

.250

.233

Dillard

.265

.288

.200

.259

 

I understand batting average against is a statistic that can have variables such as park factors, luck, and poor defense.  For that very reason, I also chose to do an analysis of each reliever’s FIP splits.  FIP is a statistic that takes away these factors described as flaws for batting average against.  FIP only looks at the things a pitcher can control.  For a refresher on FIP , go here for an education .  When using batting average against and FIP together, I feel an accurate picture begins to come into focus as to what type of reliever each pitcher is versus right and left handed hitters.  Here are the FIP numbers:

 

Pitcher

2011 FIP vs LHH

Career FIP vs. LHH

2011 FIP vs. RHH

Career FIP vs. RHH

Saito

0.96

3.01

8.21

2.30

Hawkins

2.13

3.69

2.44

3.26

Loe

4.11

5.01

2.80

3.66

Estrada

5.09

6.06

3.50

4.04

Dillard

5.00

7.60

2.09

2.81

 

 

RRR tries to be a cerebral manager in his approach to statistics.  His use of spray charts and a myriad of other statistical tools help him play defensive shifts throughout a game.  Since he trusts the numbers, let’s see what they have to say about each reliever.

Saito: It’s hard to draw any conclusions based on 2011 because Saito has only pitched seven innings thus far.  However for his career, he is solid versus lefties and righties and has over 300 innings of MLB experience.  Saito has the best career FIP and AVG against numbers out of all five relievers against right handed and left handed hitters.  If healthy, I am confident Takashi Saito is the team’s best answer to the 7 th inning problem.  Obviously, Saito is fragile and cannot pitch on multiple days in a row, when the game is close.

Hawkins.   LaTroy is having a good year, but may be starting to regress towards his career numbers.  Thus far he has been a solid option in 27 innings of relief work, as evidenced by a scoreless streak of 20 innings earlier this season.  If Saito is not available, Hawkins is clearly the choice to face a pinch hitting left hander with a .233 AVG against and a 3.69 FIP career marks against lefties.

Loe.   As we all know, Kameron has solid numbers versus righties and stinks versus lefties.  It is hard to deny that fact after 450 innings in the big leagues.  In his career, lefties have hit him to the tune of a .305 average and a 5.01 FIP.  The evidence, regardless of how hard RRR tries to change it, clearly shows that out of all Milwaukee relievers, Kameron Loe should be the last pitcher in the seventh inning against a left handed hitter.

Estrada.   I have been adamant about making sure Estrada stays stretched out in case of injury.  He could accomplish this by pitching multiple innings in his appearances.  Instead, if Marco doesn’t pick it up soon, he may be on the outside looking in as the races heat up in another month.  Without even 100 career innings, his numbers scream small sample size and don’t distinguish themselves either way in his splits.  I think it is best that Estrada stays far away from the 7 th inning until he gets back to the dominating form we all saw earlier this year.

Dillard.   When Tim Dillard changed his delivery to a more sidearm action, he saw his numbers improve versus right handed hitters.  I am comfortable currently in any situation that finds Dillard facing a right handed hitter, as evidenced by his .211 average against righties in 2011.  Like Estrada, his numbers are sketchy because of having less than 40 innings of career experience, but they are starting to suggest he shouldn’t be pitching against lefties either.

 

Clearly the team would be best served having an actual left handed threat coming out of the bullpen.  A LOOGY like Brian Shouse or the old Mitch Stetter would be great.  A trade is certainly possible, but if not a trade, then what are the in- house options?

Braddock.   This is everyone’s choice but the guy can’t fall asleep and can’t show up on time.  Zach has decent numbers against left handers (.181 AVG against LHH career) and is the overwhelming choice of fans and management to be the seventh inning LOOGY the team will desperately need in the playoffs.  However, even if Braddock does get it together, expectations must be tempered due to his career total of 51 innings.

Stetter.   Mitch is currently on rehab in AAA and has struggled to regain his 2008/2009 form. I won’t simply give up on Stetter because he has been a successful LOOGY in the past, and I think he can be one again.  Remember, Mitch rocks a .191 career average against vs. lefties. Stetter needs to get back to being the guy that got all lefthanders out when needed. However, given the news that KROD is wearing #57, it seems as if the Brewers perhaps have moved on from Stetter?

Parra.   Manny has been hurt all year but he did have some success as a reliever, as evidenced by his 2.39 ERA as a reliever last season.  I dislike Manny Parra’s makeup as a reliever and have serious, serious questions about his mental toughness in high leverage situations.

 

As much as RRR may not like it, clearly the numbers indicate that Kameron Loe should be the last reliever facing left handed hitters.  He has been hit hard throughout his career by lefties, and he certainly hasn’t solved the riddle this season.  The entire bullpen staff is solid against right-handers and I am confident in each reliever’s ability to perform in that matchup. What has me concerned is getting out talented lefthanded hitters in the 7 th inning. The numbers indicate that Takashi Saito should be called upon first, and if unavailable, then LaTroy Hawkins.  Perhaps the team will find an in house candidate, or a trade will be made.  If not, I hope the charts I put together will help you second guess Roenicke throughout the remainder of the season when he veers from the common sense solution to the 7 th inning problem.

 

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now

There have been five players in baseball history that have walked in their only career plate appearance without ever playing the field.  Three of these players played in the 1910s.  The fourth player of the ’97 A’s is named Kevin Melillo and he is still active and currently toiling in the minors.  The fifth player to achieve this extremely rare feat is named Eddie Gaedel of the 1951 St. Louis Browns.

You might know Gaedel better as the midget who Bill Veeck used as a pinch hitter in the back half of a Sunday double header.  He walked on 4 pitches and was replaced with a pinch runner.  However, he made his debut in even more auspicious style when he emerged from a cake between games of that double header. Much hilarity ensued and I suppose baseball is better for the stunt long term as we are discussing the feat 60 years later.

The entire goal of a hitter is to reach base and he succeeded in doing so.  Of course, the league made a rule against hiring vertically challenged people and Gaedel never played again, but he still is tied for the highest on base percentage in baseball history.   The next time a player is making his major league debut as a pinch hitter and he walks, remember that for a rare moment he joins a list consisting of five major leaguers, until he plays in the field or has another at bat.  Hopefully, you’ll remember Gaedel and his season that otherwise you would have forgotten about by now.

 

Something You Might Have Missed

Bill Veeck is a legend in his own right.  His ability to promote the game coupled with innate business acumen, allowed him to etch out a space in Cooperstown with a Hall of Fame induction in 1991.  I could do an entire column on his influence in regards to how baseball is played in the modern era.  However, today I will count down my favorite ten Bill Veeck moments.

10. Signed and pinch hit a midget.   See above.

9. Wrote ‘Veeck as in Wreck’ .  A great book and a must read by baseball fans everywhere.  This work goes through the entire history of Veeck and gives the reader a sense of appreciation for how Veeck would not stop trying new ideas to get fans to come to the ballpark.

8. Bought the White Sox before ’59 season and they immediately go to World Series.   True they lost to the Dodgers, but Veeck once again creates a winner and also had his players actually wear white socks during the series.

7. First owner to have names on the back of player uniforms.   This is now standard operating procedure but was started in 1960 by Veeck.

6. Planted ivy and constructed scoreboard at Wrigley Field.   Yes, Bill Veeck is also responsible for the only two things more charming than the urinal troughs at Wrigley Field.  The ivy and the huge manually operated scoreboard have been calling cards in an otherwise decrepit venue.

5.  Shorts as part of a uniform.   Much like the Sacramento Salons that I discussed last week , Veeck pushed for the idea of shorts as a part of the major league uniform .  What a terrible idea.  But even while terrible, it was innovative and as time moves on, it becomes even more ludicrous in nature and thus increasingly legendary.

4. Owner of 1948 World Champion Cleveland Indians.   Cleveland is a tortured sports city and some of that is due in part to not having a World Series winner in over 60 years.  Veeck signed Larry Doby (the first African American in the American League) and Satchel Paige to help build the city’s last winner.  Interestingly enough, Bob Hope was also a minority owner .

3. Demolition Disco Night.   Oh Yeah, the good stuff .  The first forfeit since the infamous ‘10 cent beer night’ resulted from this brainchild of Veeck.

2. Showers in the centerfield bleachers.   If you combine this idea with Ladies Night and 10 cent beer night you would really have a promotion!  I would predict a few sellouts.

1. The first owner to have an Exploding Scoreboard.   It cost $300,000 and made the White Sox a must see event in Chicago after their World Series loss in 1959. This is a precursor to Miller Park and the fireworks in baseball everywhere. My three year old loves to go to Brewers games for two reasons: Bernie Brewer and fireworks.

He was truly a legend and an innovator ahead of his time.  All of that, plus the guy had a wooden leg !

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

July 26, 2011.  The team returns home for a massive three series homestand against Chicago, Houston, and St Louis.  There will be some ground to be made up after the road trip and I expect the team to be back in first place by the end of this particular stretch of games.

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan and my brand new Google+ account at + A Simple Kind of Fan.   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 the social calendar fills up in the summer.

 

 

 

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  • http://www.tecweigh.com Shane Kilpin

    John, great writing and even better article. Nice work. I would love to Saito, Hawkins and Dillard split the 7th inning work. Leave Estrada in for long relief situations as when Marcum gets hurt or someone gets clobbered. Use Estrada to eat innings, and to only eat innings right now until he can sucessfully string together a few outings like he did when the year started.

    Also, I am sooooo sick and tired of Yuni. I cringe seeing him walk to the plate and frequently change channels so I don’t have to watch the misery.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      I would appreciate it if you refer to him as “Red Hot Yuni Betancourt” from now on. Thanks!

  • http://www.retaggr.com/Page/crichar3 Chris

    Golly it would be nice if they still had Joe Thacher (the LOOGY pissed away for 25 innings of Scott Linebrink). While he’s been out all season, he’s rehabbing in he minors and is expected back in the majors soon. The four years he didn’t spend in MKE have shown Thatcher to be a LOOGY+, holding both righties and lefties to an OPS of ~.650, but with better peripherals v. LH. Coming off of arthroscopic shoulder surgery might make Thatcher affordable in a trade. Too bad they didn’t hang on to him as they could sure use someone like him now.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      Yep. That was a bad trade. Hopefully they get someone.

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