One move that did not draw much attention this off-season was the Brewers shipping of Casey McGehee to Pittsburgh for veteran reliever Jose Veras. Just days after the signing of Aramis Ramirez to replace McGehee at third, Milwaukee filled a void in the bullpen by acquiring the 31-year-old Veras. In six seasons with New York (AL), Cleveland, Florida, and Pittsburgh, Veras is 14-13 with a 4.11 era.
With the losses of LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, who combined for a 2.30 era at the back of the Brewers bullpen in 2011, Veras was brought in to help bridge the gap between the starter and Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. Throughout his career, Veras has been primarily a seventh and eighth inning man–170.2 of his career 247. 1 innings pitched have come in those two frames. Ron Roenicke is expected to use him in the same role in 2012, possibly alternating turns with Kameron Loe.
Over the past three seasons, the strikeout has been Veras’s key to success, and maybe a bit too much. His BABIP has been well below the league average in each season (the lowest being a .238 mark in 2010), suggesting that luck may have been on his side in some cases. By looking at his BABIP, high K/9 ratio of 9.20, and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, Veras has a recipe for success. His era would be significantly lower if he minimized the walks. A career 4.80 BB/9 ratio has cost him significantly. His BABIP has been extremely favorable, showing that balls in play have not hurt him as much as they could. Egress half of his walks, though that is asking for a lot, and Veras is suddenly an arriviste reliever for the Brewers.
I love to hate to love to hate seeing walks. My logic on it is that the batter should at least earn his way on with the lumber in his hands. In a walk-free world, batters would put the ball into play around 80-85% (let’s take the 80% for this calculation) of the time. The average BABIP for a player is around .295-.310 (we’ll use .298). Using the K% and BABIP averages, that’s a .238 batting average. When players are forced to swing–whether the end result be a strikeout or ball put in play–the end result typically favors the pitcher. Of course, this doesn’t always hold true, but it sums up my soapbox fairly well.
Using this formula, Veras held hitters to a .195 mark on balls he made them put in play last season. (Home runs are usually the result of bad pitches, so they aren’t included). Yet opponents had a .304 OBP against him in 2011. I guess the denouement of this is that Veras can be an elite reliever for the Brewers this season if he cuts down on the walks.
Now we digress.
Veras draws swings on 40.7% of his pitches and make contact on 80.2% of those swings. He relies on a mixture of a 92-95 mph fastball,
high 70’s curve, and mid-80’s sinker to put hitters away. Veras’s Uncle Charlie is his “out” pitch, registering a 10.3 wCU in 2011 with the pitch. The Brewers would like to see his first strike percentage (FS%) increase from its career mark of 51.3%. When Veras gets ahead of hitters, he becomes all the more lethal by taking hitters out of commodious counts.
Now that all the sabermetrics are out of the way, the right hander’s season outlook can be recapped. Expect to see the new Brewer and Dominican Republic native in the seventh inning in winning situations and to close out the game when losing a contested battle.
Much like Loe, Veras has the ability to throw in multiple games in a row for Milwaukee. He pitched in 79 games in 2011, tied for second-best in the National League. His constant availability in middle relief for Roenicke will undoubtedly come in handy when other Brewers arms need rest. If, for example, Axford has pitched in three or four consecutive days and needs rest, Rodriguez can fill the closer’s role and Veras is an experienced set-up man.
2012 RtB Predictions: 75 G, 70 IP, 4-5, 3.61 era, 80 K, 30 BB, .280 BABIP, a not-so-electrifying entrance song