Y’all might think I’ve become a lifestyle coach or something this week, with these posts about markers for the 2013 Brewers’ runs scored, and now, runs allowed. Yet, I think working with these kinds of numbers is a useful way to actually look at the firepower of the club, and figure out how they actually need to perform.
For instance, if the Brewers are to eye 90 wins (or so) as one type of goal to ensure a winning club (and a competitive one), we can look at the Brewers’ runs scored and runs allowed to determine their likelihood of reaching that specific wins level. If the Brewers’ offense continues improving with a cast of regulars, and they score 800 runs, a pitching staff that allows 700 runs — quite an improvement over 2012 — would help the club reach an expected winning percentage that lands between 90 and 91 wins. If the offense doesn’t keep up? Well, a 750 RS / 650 RA team would also likely get the club to an expected 91+ wins. Of course, teams can underplay or outplay their run differentials, but, teams don’t typically stray too far from their actual runs production.
The good news about reaching 700 runs allowed? Well, the Brewers’ starting pitchers were well above average in 2012. You read that right. Despite sending 11 hurlers to the bump, using a gang of youngsters, and trading Zack Greinke, the Brewers’ starting pitchers (as starters) were better than the National League/Miller Park average for starting pitchers. In 941.3 IP, the average NL/Miller Park club would be expected to allow approximately 477 runs; the Brewers’ starting rotation allowed 442 runs (only when they took the mound as starters). This, of course, leaves the bullpen to blame — once again — for the Brewers’ total runs allowed; in 512.3 IP, the average NL/Miller Park club would be expected to allow approximately 246 runs; the Brewers’ bullpen actually allowed 291 runs (!!!!).
So, there you have it! Trim the bullpen, and you have a winning ballclub! If only it were that easy.
Areas of Concern
(1) Although Yovani Gallardo‘s ratio of groundballs to flyballs improved in 2012, his line drive rate also increased (as did his HR/FB% and LOB%). Will Gallardo be able to reduce line drives and home runs in 2013?
(2) Fastballer Mike Fiers allowed more than 28% line drives in 2012, and induced fewer groundballs than flyballs. If he continues these trends, will a full season result in a successful campaign?
(3) Between 2011 and 2012, Marco Estrada allowed more flyballs, and fewer groundballs. Can he continue to limit the damage while allowing more flyballs over a full season?
(4) According to MLB.com, Ron Roenicke mentioned that Chris Narveson needs to get his command down, although he had one good and one wild bullpen session. How deep into the season can Narveson work if he’s a regular Brewers starter?
(5) What are the workload restrictions on Mark Rogers and Tyler Thornburg?
(6) Wily Peralta exhibited control improvements that appeared to move beyond his minor league record of commanding the ball. Can he continue those improvements in 2013?
Over the course of the offseason, I have become quite high on the Brewers’ gang of Fiers, Peralta, and Estrada, and I think that they will provide a fine supporting rotation behind Gallardo (along with the final arm the Brewers land, or one of Rogers, Narveson, or Thornburg). But, those questions are worth asking simply because these pitchers do not have records of extended workloads in the National League, and they have some batted-ball-in-play tendencies that we might scrutinize if they were free agents coming to Milwaukee. Their collective narrative of becoming a gang of replacement pitchers that seized available jobs and helped the team correct their course is powerful; now, it’s a matter of building on that for the grind of the season.
The Brewers certainly appeased fans that called for the heads of Brewers’ relievers last year, emptying their bullpen of most guilty parties from 2012. Remaining closer John Axford is arguably the only remaining piece that fans might also have called to be fired, but Axford’s track record of success over several seasons is too strong to be ignored (especially now that his controllable contract will fall below Jonathan Papelbon‘s record for a closer in their first-year of salary arbitration). Now, here are some pleasant things to think about, throwing aside Axford’s 69.3 IP, 42 R performance:
Hernandez: 36.3 IP, 31 R
Parra: 58.7 IP, 39 R
Loe: 68.3 IP, 41 R
Dillard: 37 IP, 21 R
McClendon: 14 IP, 11 R
Chulk: 9 IP, 10 R
Perez: 7 IP, 4 R
Total: 230.3 IP, 157 R
Remaining: 282 IP, 134 R
Nearly 54% of the Brewers’ relief runs allowed belong to this gang of pitchers that hardly worked 45% of the Brewers’ relief innings (if you include Axford, that’s nearly 70% of total runs allowed in less than 59% of total relief IP). Of course, the remaining relievers’ performance of 134 runs allowed in 282 innings of work prorates to an average performance for an entire season of relief work in the 2012 NL. This looks good, of course, but only if we throw aside the difficult facts of looking at who might throw those 230 innings in 2013. In this regard, we might simply throw our hands in the air about the bullpen; flip a coin. Perhaps the gang of Jim Henderson and Axford will lock down late innings once more; perhaps the Brewers’ inexpensive gang of middle relievers will outperform the 2012 gang. To attempt to answer those questions requires playing with the reality that bullpen performances frequently fluctuate, given the nature of relief pitchers.
So, here we stand, with the average-or-so gang of relievers remaining in the Brewers’ bullpen, as well as the rough-and-tumble shoestring rotation. Perhaps Doug Melvin‘s smartest gamble in 2013 is that a relatively cheap, cost-effective, relatively nameless, and flexible group of pitchers can out-perform the 2012 staff that featured names galore, and contracts galore. If the offense does their part, the rotation holds together, and the relievers do their part, we found a simple recipe for success.
90 wins never looked so easy! But then again, that’s why they play the games on the field.
Stats from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference
Fiers (Getty): http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/08/14/coors-field-is-stronger-than-mike-fiers-deal-with-the-devil/