This is what you have all been waiting for, my ultra objective, numbers only based, non-fan view of what the Zack Greinke trade means for the Milwaukee Brewers 2011. As you all know, I am a build from within through scouting and player development type of guy, primarily when it comes to a team like the smallest market in MLB Brewers. Do I agree with what Doug Melvin did in acquiring Greinke, and giving up the teams remaining impact talent, its starting Shortstop and Center Fielder, as well as a potential closer? No, I do not agree with it, but I feel that it is definitely a move that improves the team and puts them right back into contention for the NL Central this coming season.
I will not nail down my projection until sometime in February when Baseball Prospectus publishes its annual preview, but I spent a bit this morning going over what the team did in 2010 performance wise, and what I would expect them to do in 2011 based on how the individuals fared versus what was projected for them.
As some of you saw when the Greinke news hit, I had projected an 85 win season for the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. After looking at some numbers, that number has not changed.
Here are some things that affect that number for me:
Rickie Weeks 6.1 WAR in 2010 down to 4.4 WAR in 2011
Casey McGehee 3.5 down to 1.9
Overall I have the offense being worse by 5 games, most of this comes from regression from Weeks and McGehee, and the loss of Cain and Jim Edmonds. And while a guy like Jonathan Lucroy (from 0.9 to 1.3 WAR) may be a bit conservative, I do not have huge improvements from Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder either, and Corey Hart flat.
The pitching is a much different story of course. The additions of Greinke and Shaun Marcum drastically alter the fortunes of the 2011 Brewers no matter how you slice it. Overall, I see the pitching staff improving from a total of 10.9 WAR to 20.4. This number does not include a league adjustment for Greinke or Marcum and it has some regression in place for Marcum. For the record, I have the 2011 starting rotation projections as Greinke 5.4, Gallardo 4.9, Marcum 1.7 and Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson both at 1.0. I have a tiny bit of regression in place for John Axford as well, with slight improvements from the other bullpen arms like Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra and Mark Rogers, but nothing that really makes a significant difference.
So maybe these Cheerios dont taste as awful as you thought. Obviously these things never work out as expected, and if you really wanted to you could say "You need to add at least 1 whole win for Greinke and Marcum coming over to the NL" and you could say "No way Marcum or McGehee regress that much", And then you would make the case that they are an 88 win team instead.
The big things to keep them in contention and beat my projection (as it stands right now) is that the starters all stay healthy. This one is huge, because there isnt a lot of depth anywhere in the organization, and if a big injury occurs, everything goes out the window and a fire sale takes place in July. Weeks, McGehee and Marcum all have to approach what they did last year. Greinke, Gallardo, Braun and Fielder all have to stay consistent with past performance. And even with all of that, and a possible 88 win season, a little luck and help from other teams will be what it takes.
I havent done a big analysis like this for the Reds, but I see them as being the same or slightley better or worse (the whole margin of error thing). But I do see the NL Central, right now, as a race between the Brewers and the Reds. The one big difference maker there could be if the Reds use Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation, and whether or not he thrives there. If this is the case, the Reds could run away with the division.
So after the backtocali reality check and bowl full of Cheerios served by WAR, you may need to go get some Scope and was your mouth out, or you just might think "that wasnt too bad" and ask me to make you some breakfast again sometime.