One of the big stories with the Brewers recently is the performance of the starting pitching. Brewers starters have a 2.64 ERA this month and a solid 3.39 FIP to go with it. Given the amount of talent on this starting staff, I think we can be relatively certain that this kind of domination isn’t going to continue. However, we know Yovani Gallardo is on the cusp of achieving ace status (if he hasn’t already), Chris Narveson is starting to fit into the starter mold at the MLB level, Randy Wolf is rebounding, and Chris Capuano has been one of the best feel-good stories in the game.
CHONE put out updated projections on August 28th. Let’s take a look at those projections and what each pitcher has done since then to get a preliminary idea of what the Brewers rotation currently looks like.
8/28 Projection: 3.64 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9. 35 runs above replacement in 168 IP (roughly 4 WAR)
Since: 26 IP, 11 ER (3.81 ERA), 22 K, 9 BB, 1 HR.
Gallardo isn’t quite projected at an ace level, but it’s important to keep in mind that these projections will be (as they should) relatively conservative with regards to IP levels. CHONE projects Gallardo to continue to rack up the Ks, but it’s not convinced that his walk totals will stay down. That will be the key next season for Gallardo, both in terms of keeping runs off the board and in terms of keeping his pitch counts low enough to stay deep in games.
Since then, we saw Gallardo give up 8 runs against the Reds, but it’s been smooth sailing besides that start. Even in that disaster against the Reds, Gallardo struck out twice as many as he walked. Not much new here, just Yovani being Yovani.
8/28 Projection: 4.65 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, 16 RAR (roughly 1.8 WAR) in 172 IP
Since: 28.2 IP, 6 ER (1.88 ERA), 17 K, 10 BB, 2 HR
Wolf’s projection isn’t exactly exciting, as that would make the Brewers #2 pitcher a good amount below the league average. The problem is walks, and to a lesser extent, home runs, both of which plagued Wolf early in the season. To be successful, Wolf needs that BB/9 closer to 3.0 and that HR/9 closer to 1.0.
Lately, Wolf has been extremely successful, particularly his last 3 starts, which includes his complete game shutout against the Giants. His walk rate is at 3.1 over this stretch and the two home runs allowed is a fantastic (albeit unsustainable) sign. Wolf’s finish is encouraging, but we have to keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed with a pitcher of his age.
8/28 Projection: RP – 3.97 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9
Since: 24 IP, 10 ER (3.75 ERA), 23 K, 10 BB, 1 HR
This projection isn’t terribly meaningful due to its assumption of Narveson as a reliever. Typically, we can add from .7 runs to a full run to get a good starter projection. I would take the low end for that, as Narveson has been much better as a starter, which would put Narveson as a roughly 4.70 ERA pitcher. Again, I feel that Narveson is better than that, and I wouldn’t put much stock into that projection. The peripheral numbers look about right.
In September, continuing the trend, Narveson has been solid. He continues to strike batters out at a prolific rate, and, at least for now, he’s keeping the ball in the yard. He’s probably not quite a league average starter, but I maintain that he’s deserving of a rotation spot.
8/28 Projection: N/A
Since: 24.1 IP, 7 ER (2.59 ERA), 16 K, 8 BB, 3 HR
Since Capuano didn’t pitch for the last two seasons, we don’t have a projection for Capuano. What little data we have for this season isn’t terribly meaningful, and his performance from 2007 and before probably doesn’t mean much, given that he’s had two Tommy John surgeries since.
That said, his return to the rotation has been fantastically encouraging. His peripherals don’t suggest that he’s quite this good, but even his 4.37 FIP would be a welcome addition to this rotation. I wouldn’t guarantee Capuano a spot in the 2011 rotation at this point, but he deserves every shot next season.
8/28 Projection: 4.85 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9
Since: 23 IP, 12 ER (4.70 ERA), 18 K, 8 BB, 5 HR (not including Tuesday vs. CIN)
Bush is the worst starter on the Brewers in terms of talent, and although his season hasn’t been a disaster in terms of runs allowed, he just hasn’t been very good. His 5.15 FIP is dangerously close to replacement level and his -1.67 WPA doesn’t suggest much different. CHONE doesn’t think there’s any reason to expect much better – too many HRs, and too many BBs for a guy that can’t strike people out.
Bush has had the homeritis lately, and for that reason he’s been the worst starter recently. Bush will likely be out at the end of this season, and although he provided some decent value in his first few years here, his services are no longer helpful to the Milwaukee Brewers.