With San Diego probable starter Cory Luebke injured, the Padres have called on an old friend for this evening’s series finale against the Brewers: Jeff Suppan. Milwaukee’s memories of Jeff Suppan are a bit less than special given his unfortunate performance over his four years as the highest paid Brewer free agent ever. The $42 million man finished his Milwaukee career with a brutal 5.08 ERA (119 ERA-), but let’s not dwell on the bad times. Instead, let’s remember Jeff Suppan’s excellent August 2008, in which he helped the Brewers put enough wins in the bank to stay in the playoff race throughout a brutal September and eventually earn their first berth since 1982.
Suppan was under replacement level in 2008 by both the measures provided by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. But Suppan was a huge part of the Brewers’ rush to a 20-7 record in August and a record 24 games over .500 at the end of the month. Suppan made six starts in the month and won all five of his decisions, with the club going 5-1 in his starts.
Was it the prettiest month ever pitched? Hardly, but this is Jeff Suppan we’re talking about. An ERA of 3.00 is a good month for many pitchers, but rarely the highlight of a four-year contract. Still, his control was pristine, as only nine batters reached on walks. Overall, hitters managed just a .232/.279/.445 batting line, and back in the hitters’ era of 2008, not a single qualified batter managed an on-base percentage below .288 (Michael Bourn).
The month doesn’t really hold up to the classification of “magical” under the microscope, though. None of the teams he beat (Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, Pittsburgh twice) won more than 74 games. Suppan still had an FIP of 5.56, only better than two months of the season. He survived on the back of a .212 BABIP and a 92% strand rate. Maybe “magical” is the right word after all.
To be quite honest, I think most Brewers fans thought the Jeff Suppan experience was over once he was designated for assignment in 2010. He had nothing left as a pitcher, and was routinely shelled but teams both good and bad in his years a Brewer. And it doesn’t look as if anything has changed. He managed just a 4.78 ERA in the Pacific Coast League last season and has allowed nine runs on 17 hits with San Diego’s Triple-A squad this season. The Brewers should be licking their chops. I know their fans are.