Brewers Mid-Season Report Card: Pitchers
Apr 2, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Will Smith (13) pitches in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Brewers have played 82 games this season and have a franchise best 50 wins in that span. Yesterday we posted our Mid-Season Report Card for the Brewers’ position players. Today we’re going to look at the pitching staff.
There are a couple of points to remember: First, I am comparing everybody to the league as a whole; second, a C isn’t a bad grade. If everybody position player and pitcher on your team was average, you’d expect to win around 81 games, meaning a C is not bad. You take your C’s and you add in your A’s and B’s and you get more wins.
Ok, let’s take a look at the staff so far this year.
Jun 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (26) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Lohse – B
A 9-2 record is building some talk about Lohse pitching for the National League All Star team. Lohse has been solid for the Brewers this season, pitching to a 3.20 ERA with a 3.61 FIP and 3.92 xFIP.
His FIP and xFIP show that he could have some trouble ahead, but nothing serious or that would cause the Brewers too much pain.
Lohse has pitched into the seventh inning in 10 of his 17 starts and has allowed more than three runs just three times all season. It isn’t terribly likely that Lohse will give you a scoreless outing (he has just 1 this season) but he’s the least likely pitcher on the staff to get blown up.
Matt Garza – C
If Matt Garza has any luck, it is bad luck. Garza’s 4.01 ERA is nearly 1/2 a run higher than the league average of 3.68, but his 3.64 FIP is nearly 1/2 a run better than league average so it kind of evens out.
The Brewers seem to play their worst defensive games when Garza is on the mound. Now, part of that is Garza’s fault. The man simply cannot throw to the bases. He’s already been charged with two errors, and frankly that is generous. Garza has given up 10 unearned runs this season. The other four members of the rotation have given up a combined 14.
Garza took a while to get going, with a 5.00 ERA in April and 4.65 ERA in May, he’s down to 2.38 in June. Like Lohse, Garza has gone into the 7th inning in 10 of his 16 starts and has just one scoreless outing this season.
Wily Peralta – B
On the face of it, Wily’s pitching line looks very similar to that of Kyle Lohse. They have identical ERAs with a FIP that indicates they’ll fall off a little bit as the season progresses, but nothing too serious.
Wily has gone into the 7th inning in 9 of his 16 starts and has thrown one scoreless outing (are you noticing a pattern yet).
Wily’s trajectory isn’t as positive as Garza’s however. Wily was fantastic in April and May with sub-3.00 ERA’s both months, it risen sharply in June where he’s given up four runs in three of his five starts.
That said, it is Wily’s second season as a full-time major league starter so you can’t be anything but thrilled with is progress. He has improved on last season in every meaningful way and looks to have a bright future ahead.
May 15, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) reacts after giving up a hit in the fifth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Yovani Gallardo – B
It is weird to think about it, but Gallardo is easily the longest tenured member of the Brewer staff, having been a full-time starter since 2009.
Gallardo’s velocity is still down from where it was a few years ago, and as such his strike outs have suffered. From 2009-2012 Gallardo was a 9+ K/9 pitcher, but in 2013 and 2014 he’s a 7 K/9 pitcher.
So far in 2014 he’s improved on his walk rate and his ground ball rate, which reduces the chances of giving up multi-run home runs. Unlike Garza, Peralta and Lohse, Gallardo has gotten into the 7th inning in less than half of his starts (7 of 16) because he still works with high pitch counts.
He’s in the midst of one of the best four-game stretches of his career though. After a six run outing against Minnesota on June 3rd, Gallardo has thrown 27 innings across four starts and allowed just three runs.
Marco Estrada – F
There are going to be a lot of people who look at Marco’s 7-4 record and say how can he be getting an ‘F.’ Well, I’m not giving credit for the fact that the Brewers have scored the second most runs in the National League.
There are 70 pitchers in the National League who have thrown 50 innings this season. Of those 70 pitchers, Estrada is 70th in WAR, 65th in ERA, 69th in FIP, and 57th in xFIP.
His 2.66 K/BB ratio is the worst on the team, and his 2.25 HR/9 rate would be a major league record if allowed to continue through the rest of the season. Marco actually started the season pretty well, but he’s gotten worse every month, and now he’s carrying a 7.45 ERA in June.
Jun 8, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) reacts after earning a save against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Brewers won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Francisco Rodríguez – A
Striking out 10 batters per nine innings and walking just two batters per nine innings is an effective way to be a good major league closer, and that is exactly what K-Rod has been for the Brewers this season.
K-Rod has 26 saves and just three blown saves. His ERA is thrown off by the fact that he was nearly unhittable in April. He’s since returned to reality but he’s still been great.
Although he hasn’t been the best pitcher in the bullpen.
Will Smith – A
Many Brewers fans were disappointed when we got Smith from the Royals for Nori Aoki, but Smith shut them all up pretty well.
Smith made 14 appearances to start the season before he gave up a run and he had a second 14 appearance stretch where he didn’t give up an earned run.
He’s only allowed two home runs in 38 2/3 innings of work, good for a home run rate of 0.48 per nine innings. He’s striking out 11 batters per nine and walking 3.82.
Very few relief pitchers are as good as Smith has been, and his performance might be unsustainable in the long run as evidenced by the fact that he has a human ERA of 3.65 in June.
Apr 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Zach Duke (59) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Duke – A
For his the overwhelming majority of his major league career Zach Duke has been a below average starting pitcher. Apparently it just took a while for him to find his niche, because he’s been a stellar reliever.
His strike out rate is a team best 11.78 per nine innings, and his walk rate is a team best 1.44 per nine innings. Like Smith he’s only given up two home runs this season.
Also like Smith, Duke had a 14-appearance scoreless streak out of the pen this season. If you like FIP and xFIP you’ll love Zach Duke, as he looks to be the most likely of all the Brewers pitchers to keep up his ridiculous performance.
Rob Wooten – C
Wooten has been good, but not great out of the Brewer pen. He’s actually been a fairly trusty guy to bring in with a lead. His 4.32 ERA is largely influenced by one horrific appearance in which he gave up six hits and five runs without recording an out.
Wooten doesn’t have the strike out numbers to lock down a mid-inning appearance like Smith or Duke, but he doesn’t walk many batters and he’s only allowed one home run in 25 innings of work.
Tyler Thornburg – C
Thornburg gave up a run in his first outing of the season. In his next 13 outings he didn’t give up any more runs, in fact he only gave up four more hits.
After that Thornburg came back down to earth and his high walk rate (6.37 BB/9) started to cause him problems.
When Thornburg isn’t giving free passes, he’s a quality relief pitcher, but his walk rate is too high to use him in any high leverage situations.
Thornburg has been on the DL since June 7th, and he still isn’t throwing yet, but he has made progress with other aspects of his rehab, according to assistant GM Gord Ash.
Brandon Kintzler – C
Kintzler is having a good season out of the pen despite the fact that he can’t seem to strike anybody out. His 4.50 K/9 is easily the worst mark on the team.
His 59% ground ball rate is the tops in the Brewer bullpen and has helped him continue to turn out an ERA right at the league average for relief pitchers. His FIP points to trouble ahead however, as guys who strike out that few hitters rarely stay league average.
Kintzler doesn’t have any gaudy stretches of scoreless appearances like some of the other Brewers relievers but he’s one of the guys Ron Roenicke calls on to go more than one inning, and he’s done well in that role.
We’re not going to assign grades to any of the guys who pitched fewer than 15 innings, such as Tom Gorzelanny, Alfredo Figaro, Mike Fiers, Jim Henderson and Wei-Chung Wang.
So what do you think? Are our grades fare? What would you give everybody? Let us know in the comments.