Doug Davis is about to return from injury, and so his return to the starting rotation is imminent. Given his 7.56 ERA, it will likely be a bit of an unwelcome return. However, Davis is the victim of a ridiculous .415 BABIP which is simply unsustainable from somebody who has the stuff to strike out nearly a batter per inning still. That’s why ZiPS projects a 4.61 ERA and a 4.51 FIP out of Davis. That’s a slightly below average performance, but given that the Brewers are not a good pitching team, that could be enough to mark an improvement over one of the current rotation members. Let’s take a look at each pitcher’s case to stay.
Of course Yovani will remain in the rotation. He’s clearly been the best Brewers pitcher for the entire season, and his numbers are legitimately ace-level for the first time in his career. Anybody with a 2.36 ERA has likely had a little bit of luck, but his 2.87 FIP ranks in the top 5 in the NL and his 3.01 xFIP over the last 30 days trails only Stephen Strasburg and Josh Johnson. They’re pretty good, and so is Yovani.
There actually appears to be a possibility, however slight, that Manny Parra might be ejected from the rotation. I’ve been calm on the Fire Ken Macha front recently – I feel like he’s done a good job over the past month or so – but that would be more than enough to push me over the brink once more. Parra’s 3.41 xFIP over the last 30 days – since he rejoined the rotation – falls between Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia. That’s a solid pair of left handers as company. Parra has the stuff to turn a majority of NL hitters into fools, even if he sometimes gets a case of the walks. Not only that, but we need to find out what we can get out of Parra for the next few years – he absolutely has to remain in the rotation.
I’m starting to come around on Chris Narveson – an 8 inning, 7 strikeout game will do that for me. His struggles in the first inning are certainly worth examining, but given the tiny sample size it’s likely just an abberation. He certainly didn’t struggle against the Mariners. He’s certainly not a front-line pitcher, and I’m not even convinced that he’s an average pitcher, but his ability to change speeds and strike batters out makes him a Major League quality (well, National League at least) starting pitcher. The short term loss of sending Narveson back to the bullpen wouldn’t be great, but, much like Parra, now is the ideal time to see what kind of starting pitcher we have in Chris Narveson.
Then it comes down to our last two starters.
Unquestionably the most disappointing starter this season, Wolf has looked terrible by every metric you can look at. His 4.92 ERA is probably lucky, given his terrible 6.04 FIP and 5.39 xFIP. Wolf’s velocity is down about a mile per hour on all of his pitches, and it’s possible that this is the explanation for how brutal he’s performed. Still, he was excellent from 2007-2009, sitting around a 4.00 FIP. That doesn’t sound great, but 200 innings of that kind of performance is worth about 4 wins, so I would gladly take adding that to the Brewers rotation. Given Wolf’s advanced age, expecting that kind of recovery is unrealistic. However, we can expect him to get back into the productive pitcher territory, with a 4.60 FIP as what we should expect and with anywhere around the league average mark of 4.30 FIP as a possibility. There’s nothing to be gained by moving a pitcher with 2.5 years left in a Brewers uniform to the bullpen this early in the process; Wolf needs his chance to work it out before we crown him as the next Jeff Suppan.
That leaves Dave Bush as the odd man out. Simply put, Bush is the least talented pitcher on this team, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. He has 8 “quality starts” by that ever-so-arbitrary measure of 6 IP, 3 ER or less. Still, Bush has only struck out twice as many batters as he’s walked out once this season. He’s completely lost the ability to strike batters out, as his K/9 sits at a paltry 4.66. He’s walking more batters than ever before. His fastball velocity is down from 87.9 to 85.9. The only reason he hasn’t been chased out of Miller Park by a mob of angry fans is that his HR/FB is at 9.9%, the lowest of his Brewers career. This is simply not sustainable. It’s inevitable that Bush will start giving up home runs again and will show why he was removed from the rotation in the first place and why his spot was skipped last week. Bush has actually performed moderately well in June – 3.83 FIP, 4.68 xFIP. The best course of action to trade Dave Bush right now for whatever you can get – live A-ball arm, C+ hitter, bag of balls, anything. Chris Capuano can serve as a long reliever and emergency starter. Anything above that is gravy. His contract is up at the end of the season and that will likely be the end of Bush in a Brewers uniform. The return of Doug Davis should mark the end of his time in the Brewers rotation.