Tuesday Morning Coffee: SP, Lucroy, Aramis, Trade Season | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

After scoring at least four runs in 12 of their first 16 games in July, the Brewers offense has gone completely cold. That cold streak extended from Phoenix to San Francisco, as Milwaukee lost to the Giants last night in a 4-to-2 affair. The game featured another rough start for veteran Kyle Lohse, who remained in the rotation despite a difficult year and the return to health of youngster Wily Peralta. Last night, Lohse worked deep into the seventh inning, but a 0 K / 3 BB / 1 HR performance with 15 flyballs and four line drives sealed his fate. The offense also squandered several opportunities:

  • An opening inning single by Gerardo Parra was erased by a Carlos Gomez double play.
  • Khris Davis was stranded in the second inning (after another lead-off single).
  • A Hernan Perez single and Gerardo Parra walk were negated by a Jonathan Lucroy double play in the third.
  • A fifth inning walk by Shane Peterson was overturned by a Hernan Perez double play.
  • Carlos Gomez was thrown out in the ninth on an attempted steal after a single.

All told, the Brewers isolated their scoring to an eventful sixth inning, but otherwise turned six baserunners into nothing. This is disappointing, as one could easily squint to see six baserunners returning at least a couple of runs if the club executed with runners on base.

End the Six Man Rotation!
The Brewers are using a six-man rotation as Peralta returns to the mound, presumably because the Brewers do not yet have a decision on struggling veterans Matt Garza and Lohse (or trading Fastballer Mike Fiers). Both veterans should unfortunately be out of the rotation, despite their previous success for the Brewers (Lohse lead the rotation in both 2013 and 2014, while Garza was a solid middle rotation option in his first effort for Milwaukee). Fortunately, Garza has shown some solid development since his trip to the disabled list prior to the All Star Break, while Lohse is no longer the “limit the damage” candidate he used to be:

Last Five Starts IP / R (K / BB / HR) Quality Starts
Jungmann 36.0 / 8 (27 / 13 / 1) 5
Fiers 32.0 / 11 (27 / 12 / 4) 3
Nelson 31.0 / 14 (27 / 11 / 2) 2
Lohse 28.0 / 19 (17 / 9 / 5)
Garza 11.7 / 3 (9 / 5 / 0) since DL 1

Hopefully, this will be the last week of the six-man rotation, as the Brewers can finally make aggressive “rebuilding” moves once the deadline passes: veterans can head to the bullpen or be released, and the organization can look at waiver claims and organizational depth (like Tyler Cravy or Michael Blazek). I understand that this is a pipe dream of sorts, as Garza’s vesting option criteria will probably keep him in the rotation during his entire time in Milwaukee. But, it simply remains to be argued that Milwaukee does not need to be using a six-man rotation for longer than a week.

True OBP
As the Brewers’ offense continues to be quite the streaky bunch, I have attempted to find ways to explain their streakiness. One potential avenue for investigating their streakiness is to tally outs on the basepaths and double plays against the club’s OBP. Basically, I hypothesize that the club might be streaky because their aggressive decisions and propensity for groundballs harms their ability to consistently score (for example, the Brewers’ team groundball percentage of 47.2 is eighth highest in the MLB, compared to a median of 45.1% GB%).

Adjusting OBP for Additional Outs
Approx. Times on Base 1137 (~1189 NL/park)
Ground into Double Play 87 (75 NL)
Caught Stealing 19 (23 NL)
Additional Pick Offs 3 (4 NL)
Outs on Base 35 (33 NL)
Approx. “Additional Outs ” 144 (135 NL)
Listed OBP .306 (NL/ park approx. .320)
“Adjusted” OBP ~.267 (~.284 NL/park)

First and foremost, it should be clear that the Brewers’ basic issue is their lack of getting runners on base in the first place. Over 100 games, lacking approximately 52 baserunners is a huge deal; even a conservative estimate probably places that value at 10 runs (and an aggressive estimate places those baserunners at a value of 15-to-17 runs). Secondly, and probably to the disbelief of Brewers fans, the club has not necessarily made as many baserunning outs as the club’s aggressive reputation suggests. Third, it is also clear that the club’s groundballs are an extreme issue: over 100 games, Brewers bats have already hit into 12 more double plays than league average.

This trend was especially evident last night, as the Brewers readily grounded into double plays when they could have potentially staged rallies. One might look to this area in the offseason, to see how the Brewers front office addresses these types of batting peripheral batting profiles. It’s one thing to design a club with potential power and speed impact, but those traits can be knocked out when other on-base skills wane (such as a 6.7% BB%, or even a .297 BABIP). One could argue that the Brewers’ offense is experiencing a perfect storm of problems, as power potential lags, and several previous speed threats are not materializing in 2015.

Jonathan Lucroy
Speaking of groundballs, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is fully advancing his 2014 batting profile into problematic territory this year. I outlined a potential “groundball issue” last year when I reassessed Lucroy’s potential contractual value, and perhaps we all should have been asking whether the Brewers should have capitalized on his great year by trading the catcher then. For, the once declining groundball rates (from 2010-2013) reversed for Lucroy, and now 42.1% GB / 35.7% FB ratio from last season has progressed to a 46.5% GB / 30.0% FB rate this year. Understandably, some commenters vocalized what could be construed as the overall fan sentiment: Lucroy hit 50 doubles, there is not necessarily a problem with his batted balls in play. Unfortunately, as the groundball rate climbs and flyball rate plummets, so too has Lucroy’s power: his home runs have declined by 40% (!!!), and those doubles are down 47%, too.

What is most interesting about Lucroy’s batting development is that his plate discipline has largely remained consistent overall, even as his strike out rate climbs slightly (and his walk rate drops slightly). Ironically, Lucroy is even seeing significantly more pitches in the strike zone in 2015. So, one must investigate the actual outcomes of his swings, and swinging areas within the strike zone, since Lucroy’s batting performance in 2015 exhibits several troubling trends.

37-Year Old Trades
The other day, a commenter asked about the potential trade value for Aramis Ramirez, which is an entirely legitimate question to ask during trade season. The question piqued my interest in the general trade value of 37-year old players, so I perused the records for 37-year old trades from 2000-present.

As it turns out, Ramirez is one of five players traded during their 37-year old season over 16 seasons, so trades of these types of players is incredibly rare to begin with. By contrast, other 37-year old players change teams after being released (like Royce Clayton and A.J. Pierzynski) or selected off waivers (like Jeff Cirillo or Cody Ransom). There have also been several notable 36-year old and 38-year old players traded over this timeframe (cf. Michael Young, Randy Winn, Lenny Harris, Bobby Abreu. For the purposes of judging the Ramirez deal, I specifically focused on position players, because I believe it will be easier to compare actual value than by comparing Ramirez to veteran arms that were traded.

Age 37 Trades WAR in Trade Year 3-Yr WAR Trade Return Impact for Club
Larry Walker 1.8 18.3 J. Burch / PTBNL (C. Narveson 2002 #86) Narveson part of B-H Kim trade (1.6 WAR)
Fred McGriff 2.5 7.1 PTBNL (J. Smith) / M. Aybar Smith -0.4 WAR
Mark Sweeney 0.6 2.9 PTBNL (T. Denker) Denker 0.1 WAR
Ivan Rodriguez 0.5 6.1 PTBNL (J. Vallejo) / M. Nevarez Nevarez & Vallejo never made MLB
Aramis Ramirez -0.2 7.5 Yhonathan Barrios ???

Not surprisingly, the best value received from a 37-year old position player was procured by the team that decided to re-swap their return; Chris Narveson begat Byung-Hyun Kim for the Rockies, who in turn produced 1.6 WAR for the Colorado Nine. The teams that kept their prospects received an aggregate -0.3 WAR (and three of the players traded never cracked the MLB). It seems strange to me that Fred McGriff‘s trade value dropped so far below Larry Walker‘s value, since both players were largely Hall of Fame Candidates moved during relatively-solid seasons. Of course, McGriff served as a designated hitter in nearly 15% of his games with Tampa Bay, which may have negatively impacted his trade value.

Trade Rumors
Yesterday, the reported trade markets for several Brewers players heated up, including intriguing news on Carlos Gomez. It appears that the centerfielder is receiving an unorthodox trade market, given his additional year of contractual control (and elite, impact tools). Both contenders and non-contenders are allegedly lining up for Gomez. Adam Lind is also receiving legitimate interest from the St. Louis Cardinals.

BrewCrewBall, ReviewingTheBrew, BrewersBar, and BP Milwaukee have all had recent analysis and comments on the Brewers’ potential trade markets. Suffice to say, Brewers fans clamoring for a rebuild could see the Milwaukee club receive a hardcore makeover in a relatively short amount of time. The best part is that both Gomez and Lucroy have that reasonable contract control factor, which means that the Brewers can assemble a winter market if they do not like their current trade potential.

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