Breaking Down Brewers Pitching: What Gives?

Greinke
Being a Brewers fan this season is becoming an exercise in extreme patience to say the least.  On days when the bats come alive it seems we can’t get the pitching to help out.  On days when the pitching has been awesome we can’t hit to save our lives.  

So it got me to thinking about what gives, especially with our pitching staff.  Well, the numbers tell us that this staff as a whole is not exactly the best in the major’s in almost every single category.  However, it’s not the whole story.  (all stats courtesy of FanGraphs) 

Team Pitching Staff Numbers: 

Stat Number MLB Ranking NL Ranking
ERA 4.96 28th  16th
WHIP 1.54 29th 15th
K/BB 2.16 21st 13th
K/9 8.33 3rd 2nd
P/PA 3.92 4th worst 1st worst
RS avg 0.37 18th 7th
TB 381 5th worst 2nd worst
OPS .781 26th 15th
BAA .283 28th 15th
FIP 3.77 19th  7th

Here’s how the individual pitchers break down:

Name W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 3 1 0 6 6 35.0 9.00 2.57 0.26 4.2 % 4.11 2.20 2.76 1.2
Shaun Marcum 1 1 0 5 5 31.0 8.71 3.48 0.87 8.1 % 3.19 3.55 3.92 0.5
John Axford 0 1 6 10 0 8.2 15.58 6.23 0.00 0.0 % 4.15 1.59 2.53 0.4
Yovani Gallardo 1 3 0 6 6 32.2 8.54 3.86 1.10 10.0 % 5.79 3.95 4.03 0.3
Manny Parra 0 0 0 9 0 12.0 11.25 3.00 0.00 0.0 % 3.00 1.72 2.40 0.3
Kameron Loe 2 0 0 10 0 11.2 4.63 2.31 0.77 12.5 % 2.31 3.83 3.65 0.0
Wily Peralta 0 0 0 1 0 1.0 9.00 0.00 0.00 0.0 % 9.00 0.97 0.97 0.0
Jose Veras 2 1 0 12 0 11.0 12.27 7.36 0.82 14.3 % 5.73 3.88 3.57 0.0
Tim Dillard 0 0 0 11 0 12.0 6.00 3.75 0.75 14.3 % 5.25 3.97 3.68 0.0
Vinnie Chulk 0 0 0 1 0 1.0 9.00 9.00 0.00 0.0 % 18.00 3.97 6.70 0.0
Mike McClendon 0 0 0 3 0 5.1 5.06 6.75 0.00 0.0 % 10.13 4.10 5.12 0.0
Marco Estrada 0 1 0 7 2 17.0 9.53 2.65 2.12 19.0 % 3.71 4.80 3.42 0.0
Chris Narveson 1 1 0 2 2 9.0 5.00 4.00 2.00 18.2 % 7.00 6.08 4.86 -0.1
Randy Wolf 2 2 0 5 5 26.1 5.47 4.10 1.37 11.1 % 6.84 5.33 5.21 -0.1
Francisco Rodriguez 0 3 1 15 0 13.1 7.43 5.40 1.35 14.3 % 6.08 5.07 4.55 -0.2

(table courtesy FanGraphs) 

What these numbers tell us is interesting, but some individual notes tell us just how bad/good some of the big names that the Brewers need to perform are doing.  It also paints a picture that maybe not all is on the pitching staff this season.

Shaun Marcum statistically is in line to have the single best performance of his entire career.  Currently he has the best ERA and FIP of any of the starting pitchers on the staff.  His current FIP of 3.55 is his best number to date and more than adequate from your number three starter.  His previous season best season was actually last year with a 3.73 FIP and his best as member of the Blue Jays was the 2010 season where he had a FIP of 3.74.  

It also shows a pattern that Marcum gets better the more innings he pitches in a season. Each one of the past three seasons he’s improved his FIP along with the innings pitched each season.  So he clearly isn’t the problem with this team.   

Expected ace Yovani Gallardo has struggled mightily this season so far with an ERA of 5.79 and a FIP of 4.00.  The FIP isn’t all that bad as it’s considered above average, but you’d expect better than above average from your ace, right?  His biggest issue has been inconsistency and that bares out with an unusually high (for hiim) BB/9 of 3.86.   

A pattern begins to emerge when you start looking at the numbers of number two pitcher Zack Greinke who has an unusually high ERA of 4.11 yet he is 3-1 on the season.  However, if you look at his FIP of 2.25 you begin to see the issue could be behind the pitchers.  A FIP of 2.90 is considered excellent, so really Greinke, statistically speaking, is one of the better pitchers out there.  He ranks 3rd amongst all starters in FIP.  

Now, Randy Wolf, that’s a whole different story.  Wolf has just been god awful this season.  His 6.84 ERA would stand as his worst ever of his career in Milwaukee by a mile.  He needs to lower it below 4.87 to avoid his worst ERA season in a Brewers uniform.  But unlike the rest of the pitching staff Wolf’s FIP isn’t much better.  He has a 5.38 FIP which is the 7th worst amongst all starters in Major League Baseball.   

When it comes to the relief pitching guys like Manny Para (1.72 FIP), Jose Veras (3.88 FIP, 12.27 K/9), Kameron Loe (3.83 FIP, , and John Axford (1.59 FIP, 15.58 K/9) have been nothing short of stellar in their performances.  However, Francisco Rodriguez has really killed a lot of the efforts of the guys named above.  He’s produced a FIP of 5.07 which is the highest since his 2nd season in the big leagues and his 6.07 ERA also shows that the vast majority of what’s hap pend when he’s out there is on him.  

The one thing that you can really tell comparing the numbers of the pitchers is that the defense of this team also hasn’t done the pitching staff any favors at all.  When the ERA’s and FIP’s are so far apart, as they are for the majority of the pitchers it shows that they are doing their job, but the defense isn’t living up to their end of the bargain.  

We saw that play out last night with Rickie Weeks’ error and a passed ball given to Jonathan Lucroy that both proved costly.  Thankfully unlike the vast majority of the season the Brewers bats were able to pick up for the mistakes made.  

Overall, it’s clear that the pitching staff as a group has been less than spectacular, but the blame for the extremely slow start doesn’t fully lie in their laps.  Instead you may want to begin by looking at the defense and the lack of hitting as to why the Brewers are below .500 right now. 

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college football for nearly half a decade. He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com

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