What They Did: 83-79, 3rd Place NL Central.
Actual Runs: Scored 776 runs, Allowed 733.
Expected wins based on RS and RA: 85.2 (2.2 above actual)
Restated: Scored 771 runs, Allowed 736.
Exp. wins based on restated RS and RA: 84.4 (1.4 above actual)
(Glossary: Expected wins, based on a modification of Bill James’ Pythagorean Theorem, are the amount of wins a team should win in any season based on the amount of runs it actually scored and allowed. Deviations will be explained in the appropriate team capsules.
Restated Runs Scored and Runs Allowed are the amount of runs a team should have tallied based on its actual components of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging achieved/allowed. In the case of the Brewers, if they posted exactly the same stats in 2013 as 2012, they should expect to win 84 games.)
Last year had to be both pleasing and depressing for Brewers fans. Pleasing because the team that lost Prince Fielder to free agency still finished as the highest-scoring team in the National League. Depressing because while the average bullpen in the major leagues had an ERA of 3.77, the relievers for the Brewers had a 4.66 ERA – the worst in baseball. If Milwaukee had simply had an average bullpen, over the 512 innings pitched, they would have given up 51 less runs. 51 runs equate to something between five and six wins and the Brewers finished five games out of the final wild card spot. It does seem a shame that they wasted a second straight MVP-caliber season from Ryan Braun and traded away Zack Greinke with two months left in the season all because the bullpen was horrendous.
Making it even more of a waste is that the Brewers pen actually displayed skill sets above the MLB average. They were 9th in strikeout rate, 6th at inducing ground balls, although they were 28th in walk rate. Put together though and it comes to an 11th ranked bullpen by SIERA, or expected ERA – a far cry from the one that got the worst results in all of baseball.
Knowing how often extreme bullpen performances reverse, both good and bad, you’d think the Brewers would be a candidate for a playoff spot this year. Instead, I see a team that will get outscored and finish below .500. The problem this year is going to be the other side of the pitching staff. Although signing Kyle Lohse helps immensely by taking 200 innings out of the hands of possible 5.00 ERA guys like Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta, there are still a lot of innings that need to be started by two inexperienced and largely unproven arms plus another 5.00 ERA candidate in Chris Narveson. On the unproven side, I like Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada a lot, but even though they are inexperienced, they’re not that young (28 and 29, respectively) and the nearly 130 innings both started last year were by far the most of their career. I don’t see how the Brewers can expect to get 400 innings of work out of them of the same caliber they got last year. Either their performance will suffer from the excess work or injury/fatigue/ineffectiveness will lead to being replaced by one of the 5.00 ERA candidates.
I also know “your eyes lie” and skill sets, not past results, are supposed to be the best predictors of future results, but despite his strikeout rate, John Axford scares the hell out of me. His walk rate skyrocketed last year, to 12.6%, and that is unacceptable for a closer. The only other double-digit rates for a closer in 2012 were from former Pirate Joel Hanrahan (14.2% -- enjoy Red Sox fans!) and the Marlins 2013 disaster, Heath Bell (10.1%). Perhaps Axford’s failure in high leverage situations wasn’t all bad luck and reflected a rapidly diminishing ability to locate his pitches.
Offensively, the Brewers have injury problems at the key offensive position of first base. Mat Gamel is lost for the season and Corey Hart projects to play no more than 100 games. That’s important because in 2012 the Brewers averaged more than 600 plate appearances from five highly productive players – Braun, Hart, Norichika Aoki, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks. It’s doubtful they could get both that level of health and production from all of them in 2013 as only Braun enters the season less than 30 years-old.
Oddsmakers’ expectations: The Brewers offense looks like a candidate for regression at the same time their rotation will rely on inexperienced arms. I liked this under a lot better – and in fact had the Brewers in 4th place – until they signed Kyle Lohse this week. I will don’t think he will get them to a .500 record but he definitely improves their outlook. The opening market for the Brewers total wins is 81 ½. I can’t quite pull the trigger on the under as the result of the Lohse signing.
79-83 – Third in NL Central
689 Runs Scored 711 Runs Allowed
Mop Up Duty:
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