I’m not sure if it’s the holiday season, the lack of significant snow in the Milwaukee area, or just the overall shortage of Brewers news this winter, but the entire Brewers Twitter community is abuzz with the signings of left-handed relievers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez.
While mulling over the thought of what it’s actually like to have solid left-handed arms in the bullpen, we’ve created the ultimate Brewers pitcher. The ultimate pitcher is created from the individual Brewers with the best velocity, command, change up, etc. The only catch is that each name can only be used once, so don’t expect this to be the Gorzelanny love fest you hope it’ll be.
Velocity: John Axford
Axford’s 2012 wasn’t nearly the follow-up season he nor the Brewers desired after a franchise save record-setting season in 2011.
However, despite his 4.67 era, Ax Man’s velocity was up, which places his struggles on lack of command and less-effective breaking pitches. He reached 100 mph multiple times for the first time in his career, per Fan Graphs, and his average fastball was 96.1 mph, highest on the team. Axford’s ability to elevate his fastball on batters separates him from the pack.
Repertoire: Yovani Gallardo
Taking it all into account, Gallardo’s repertoire is tops for the Crew. Wily Peralta can throw up some nasty stuff, as so can Marco Estrada, Tyler Thornburg, and Gorzellany, but Gallardo’s ability to baffle hitters with a curve, change, and slider to go along with the mid-90s heater.. Compared to his fastball, Yo’s line drive percentages are down against his breaking stuff and he owns a career 38.6 K% with his slider. Gallardo’s location chart vs. the lefty-loaded Pirates lineup from his seven inning, 14-strikeout game against Pittsburgh in July was superb. Really, really superb.
Single Pitch: Marco Estrada, Changeup
Raise your hand if you would have considered any of Tha Tha’s pitches for his honor last year at this time. There’s Axford’s curve and Yo’s slider, but those two have already been used. In his best starts (nearly all toward the end of the season), Estrada’s curve was unhittable. At times he elevated the change too much, resulting in a 10.8 % HR/FB figure, but the pitch got swinging strikes 14% of the time. By comparison, Gallardo forced swinging strikes on 7.8% of his pitches.
Delivery: Mike Fiers
It’s rare to see Fiers’ fastball reach the 90′s, thus making it rare to see him blow away hitters. His command was shaky from time-to-time and his ball doesn’t have as much movement Shaun Marcum, another Brewers teammate that relied on command to put away hitters. However, despite this, his 9.52 K/9 was tops among starters and fourth on the team, only trailing guys whose stuff is built for strikeouts. Some of this may be on hitters’ unfamiliarity with Fiers upon his arrival in the Bigs, but a large part can be attributed to his funky delivery. Fiers’ high leg kick, over-the-top-and-then-some delivery, and ability to hide the ball keep the batter off-balanced.
Command: Burke Badenhop
Marco Estrada’s career 2.50 career and 1.89 2012 BB/9 have already been used for his change up, so we “settle” for the sinkerballer whose middle name is Heinrich. The 28-year-old right hander relies on getting a 9-11 horizontal drop (last year he sat at 9.2 for the year) on his sinker to get the needed grounders. Badenhop gets swinging strikes on under 3 percent of his sinkers, making location crucial. His 62.7 percent of pitches being located in the zone would have been tops on the Brewers in 2012.
Note: I almost selected 2012 Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year Hiram Burgos here. Almost. Check out his nasty numbers from this last season.
Gotta Get One Out: Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny
You can only pick one, they said. That’s like picking your favorite child, I said. Gonzalez is projected to be used as a lefty specialist outo of the ‘pen, though Gorzelanny could likewise have the same title. The signing of Gonzalez–who holds lefties to a .206 average over ten seasons–opens up flexibility for the use of Gorzelanny, whose righty/lefty splits are much more alike. Gorzelanny stranded over 85% of runners against left-handed batters; Gonzalez was over 80%. Flip a coin, if you really desire, or just be extremely excited over two middle relief signings like I am.
Fielding: Tyler Thornburg
Think fielding isn’t important for pitchers? Ask the 2006 Tigers, then answer again. With Greinke, Wolf, and Marcum gone, Thornburg’s athleticism is one of his assets. Fielding is listed as a strength in scouting reports and it has shown during his time in the minors.