Pitching to Context: How bad is Jeff Suppan?

You might have heard that Jeff "Ace" Suppan is not pitching well. If you haven't, go back and read today's Frosty Mug, where I linked to seven articles and posts discussing it.

All of this has created an interesting debate: Can two terrible starts, combined with a poor performance down the stretch in 2008, be enough to boot a veteran pitcher from the rotation? That remains to be seen, but there is another question we can answer: Where does Jeff Suppan rank among the worst starting pitchers in Brewer history?

A quick disclaimer: For each leaderboard, I only used pitchers with at least 300 IP (approximately two full seasons as a starter) in a Brewer uniform. As such, Matt Kinney, Ruben Quevedo, Victor Santos, and Rafael Roque, among others, were not eligible for consideration. That doesn't mean they weren't terrible, because they all were, they just weren't terrible as a Brewer for long enough to get into this conversation.

Any conversation about bad pitching should probably start with ERA. Among Brewers who pitched at least 300 innings, Jeff Suppan has the fourth worst ERA:

Pitcher Seasons IP ERA
Glendon Rusch 2002-2003 334 5.34
Jimmy Haynes 2000-2001 372 5.10
Gene Brabender 1969-1970 331 5.00
Jeff Suppan 2007-2009 392 4.94
Steve Woodard 1997-2000 481

4.73

That's not an entirely fair comparison, though, because it's not league-adjusted. When you use ERA+ instead, Suppan drops to eighth place:

Pitcher Seasons IP ERA+
Gene Brabender 1969-1970 331 74
Glendon Rusch 2002-2003 334 78
Bill Champion 1973-1976 432.1 84
Bill Parsons 1971-1973 518.1 85
Don August 1988-1991 440 85
Pete Broberg 1975-1976 312.2 85
Jimmy Haynes 2000-2001 372 87
Jeff Suppan 2007-2009 392 89

And what about allowing baserunners? Last night (6 walks in 3.2 IP) was an extreme example, but Suppan is always pitching with men on. Again, among pitchers with at least 300 innings as a Brewer, Suppan is the sixth worst in WHIP:

Pitcher Seasons IP WHIP
Pete Broberg 1975-1976 312.2 1.586
Jimmy Haynes 2000-2001 372 1.581
Jaime Cocanower 1983-1986 365.2 1.564
Glendon Rusch 2002-2003 334 1.554
Angel Miranda 1993-1997 363.1 1.544
Jeff Suppan 2007-2009 393 1.531

But, in light of Suppan's last two starts, here's the last one I wanted to check: Among Brewer starting pitchers who pitched at least 300 innings, here are the bottom five in Quality Start percentage:

Pitcher Seasons W L QS%
Gene Brabender 1969-1970 19 29 .380
Jeff Suppan 2007-2009 22 24 .433
Steve Woodard 1997-2000 25 30 .438
Pete Broberg 1975-1976 15 23 .442
Don August 1988-1991 34 30 .457

So where does that leave Suppan? It's not fair to call him the worst SP in Brewer history: certainly Gene Brabender (the ace of the expansion Pilots, out of the majors after the 1970 season) was worse, and so were Glendon Rusch and Jimmy Haynes. But I think you can make a case for Suppan's inclusion in the bottom five, and that's an awfully heavy chain to allow to drag behind a contending team.

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