Brewers’ 2007 report cards: Pitchers

As Doug Melvin, Ned Yost, Gord Ash, Mike Maddux, and Jim Skaalen are evaluating Brewers’ players’ performance over the week, I thought I’d share my opinion as to how each Brewer did…with a couple of qualifications: First, one can’t not incorporate any biases regarding players, including their past performances, what I expected them to do, etc…, and how much they were paid and the corresponding value to the club. As such, my opinions will take those into account, simply because I cannot undo my thoughts on players.
Thanks to ESPN.com, here are the Brewers’ 2007 salaries, ranked from highest to lowest. I’ll start with the pitchers … from the most expensive to the least expensive:
1. Ben Sheets, $11,125,000– Sheets is the ace of the staff, and is paid accordingly. As such, you need to expect him to get a large number of starts…in other words, if one divides the 162 games over 5 starters in the rotation, one would get 33 starts for the top 2 pitchers in the rotation. But the ace should get more, as days off means the #5 pitcher can and should get bumped in favor of the ace making his scheduled start. In other words, I expect that Sheets should get at least 35 starts on the year…well, okay, subtract three for one 15-day stint on the DL. So Sheets is getting paid for 32 starts, 24 decisions, and at least a 2:1 win:loss record, or 16 wins at a bare minimum. Sheets made only 24 starts this year. While his 12-5 was in line with the number of starts, his 3.82 ERA is way too high for an ace making $11 million plus a season. Plus his 106 K’s over 141.3 IP is a bit light, and his 5.89 IP/start falls just short of the 6.00 benchmark. Grade: B
2. Jeff Suppan, $6,250,000–“Soup” was technically the #3 starter in the rotation at the start of the year, and commanded the big bucks due to his experience and strong second-half of last season. Suppan went 12-12, 4.62, with a whopping 1.50 WHIP and only a 4.96 K/9. His 4-4, 4.12 after the All-Star break was an improvement over his 8-8, 5.00 mark before the break, but his 3-9, 5.38 on the road was horrendous. Suppan will likely remain in the rotation next year, but and probably stay in the #3 spot. I had low expectations for him, but he underwhelmed everyone, and seems to be a waste of money so far. Grade: C-
3. Francisco Cordero, $5,425,000–Second in the NL in Saves, Coco’s 86 K’s was better than both Billy Wagner and José Valverde. But his 6.55 ERA and 6 blown Saves on the road keep his grade down. Grade: A-
4. Chris Capuano, $3,250,000–Cappy’s 5-12, 5.10 mark doesn’t even begin to tell the story…he was 1-12, 5.53 after April, and a 1.49 WHIP for the year were downright awful and a main reason the Brewers weren’t in the postseason. He started ’07 as the #2 starter, and, as he has no market value now, will return for ’08, but will likely have to battle for the #4 or #5 spot in the rotation, and could wind up in the pen. Grade: D
5. Claudio Vargas, $2,500,000–At the start of the year, I thought Vargas was overpaid…but compared to Suppan and Capuano, he was a bargain, sporting an 11-6, 5.09 mark. Although his ERA was comparable to Capuano’s, the difference lies in that Vargas has some good stretches, including 2-0, 3.68 in April and 3-1, 4.32 in July. Vargas was also 4-4, 5.19 on the road…but also finished with a 1.54 WHIP on the year. Vargas is likely to be dealt in the off season, due to the emergence of Yovani Gallardo and Carlos Villanueva as viable starters for ’08…but Vargas is best suited for a #5 starter spot or the bullpen with just about any team. Grade: C
6. Derrick Turnbow, $2,470,667–The Jekyl and Hyde of the bullpen, Turnbow’s 4-5, 4.63 mark was rather uninspiring, but he did finish tied for 3rd in the NL in Holds with 33. His 11.12 K/9 was near the top among NL setup men, but so was his 6.09 BB/9. Turnbow is under contract and most likely back for one more year. Grade: C+
7. Scott Linebrink, $2,150,000–5-6, 3.71 on the entire year, he was 2-3, 3.55, with 25 K’s to 11 BB’s for the Brewers after being acquired in July. Linebrink’s and UFA and is 50/50 to be back in ’08. Grade: B
8. Matt Wise, $1,050,000–Wise was the most reliable set-up man in ’06, but fell off in ’07, some due to age, some due to mental issues after hitting an opposing batter. Wise’s role is to get out hitters…his OBA edged up slightly to .336 from .330 in ’06, but his WHIP soared to 1.45 from 1.33. He’ll likely return in ’08, but at age 32, his better years appear to be behind him. Grade: B-
9. Brian Shouse, $975,000–1-1, 3.02, over 73 games and 47.67 IP. The 39 year-old situational lefty fanned 32 vs. walking 14, and had an OBA versus lefties of just .264. Grade: A
10. Dave Bush, $450,000–For the money, Bush’s 12-10, 5.12 was decent. Bush was 4-4, 6.14 on the road, and almost always struggled the third time through the order. Bush could very likely wind up in the bullpen in ’08…his 134 K’s versus 44 BB’s indicate that he has decent stuff, but he just can’t go deep into games. Grade: B-
11. Carlos Villanueva, $384,500–8-5, 3.94…99 K’s in 114.33 IP. Other than 16 gopher balls and a few bad outings, Villanueva shined both as a starter and as a reliever, and deserves a shot at the rotation in ’08. Grade: A-
12. Yovani Gallardo, $380,000 est.–9-5, 3.67…as a rookie. Grade: A+
All others get Incompletes due to small sample sizes.
Given the amount of money Mark Attanasio shelled out for pitchers in ’07, it would appear that this is an area that needs work…and not just the bullpen. When 3 of your 5 starters all finish with ERA’s over 5.00, you’re going to have a hard time making the postseason. Capuano, Vargas, and Bush all had many chances this year to prove their mettle…none of them did well enough to merit consideration for a spot in the ’08 rotation.

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