Although the series loss to the Astros was a disappointing note for the month of June to end on, it’s hard not to be at least a little bit excited about what the Brewers managed to do in June. The 14-13 month was their first winning month all season, and it was clear that some roster changes, particularly in the bullpen, simply resulted in a much better product on the field.
Despite Prince Fielder’s 10 HR explosion, the Brewers actually had by far their worst hitting month. The team’s wOBA was .328 in June after .360 in April and .336 in May. This is mostly a product of guys like Jim Edmonds and Casey McGehee cooling off and Alcides Escobar and Carlos Gomez staying bad. Ryan Braun slumped (.306 wOBA), but Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Corey Hart were all above .400 for the month. Overall, in terms of WPA, the hitters were marginally below average, at -0.07.
By now, everybody should recognize the dominance of Yovani Gallardo. He was solid in both April and May, but he really turned it on in June, posting season lows with a 2.50 FIP and 3.17 xFIP, both top-5 in the National League. Manny Parra was also excellent, with his 3.42 xFIP ranking 6th in the league. He struck out over 11 batters per nine innings in the month, only eclipsed by some guy named Stephen Strasburg, who I’ve certainly never heard of.
The rest of the rotation was mediocre. Dave Bush actually had an OK month, with an FIP of 4.06, but can’t be counted on to give up only 0.57 HR/9 going forward, and that’s why his xFIP is an ugly 5.06. Chris Narveson lost some of his strikeout touch, and so his FIP rose to 4.82 and his xFIP was just a touch below at 4.64. Randy Wolf continued to be terrible and put together his worst month yet, with a 8.22 FIP and 6.16 xFIP thanks to walking almost a batter more per nine innings than he struck out.
Overall, the starters were slightly above average according to win probability, at +0.50.
This is the major step forward, as the Brewers found a bunch of pieces under team control and showing legitimate talent. It starts with John Axford, of course, the new closer. Axford’s key is the strikeout, and he’s struck out 9.65 batters per nine innings this season while limiting the walks to 4.15 per nine – high, but acceptable from a reliever. His 2.32 FIP is excellent although unsustainable – somebody will eventually homer off him – but his 3.00 xFIP is still solid.
The young guns behind him are Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and Carlos Villanueva. Braddock has been arguably the best reliever in the NL, with a 0.58 FIP and 1.64 xFIP. Loe’s numbers are similar to Axford’s – 2.06 FIP, 2.96 xFIP. Villanueva, unfortunately has scuffled. He was the only Brewers reliever to give up a home run, giving up two in 12 innings. Still, the strikeouts are still there, and so I’m not worried about his performance in the long run.
Jeff Suppan was really bad, and Trevor Hoffman was better but still mediocre according to xFIP. Todd Coffey has been injured, and, unsurprisingly, that has hurt his performance. Chris Smith performed well in his short stint, as has Chris Capuano in limited usage. Dave Bush had 1 strikeout in 0.1 IP, so that’s pretty good.
Overall, the Brewers bullpen was just above average according to WPA, at +0.07.