A Quick Case For Mitch Stetter

If you aren't paying close attention, there's a member of the Brewers' Opening Day roster you might have forgotten. Mitch Stetter broke camp with the team, but faced just two batters (retiring them both) in the team's first ten games before being sent to Nashville. It was nearly a month before he was recalled, and he made seven appearances in May before being sent down again on May 23. 

Stetter has been in Nashville since then, and when rosters expanded this week the Brewers opted not to call him up, at least at first. It's still possible he could be added to the roster sometime in September (likely after the AAA season ends), but I think it should happen sooner. 

Dispelling a myth

On the surface, Stetter's numbers in AAA have not been pretty. In 39 appearances, he's posted a 7.20 ERA over 40 innings. He's giving up a fair number of hits (around 10 per nine innings) and he's walking a few too many (4.0/9).

These numbers are disconcerting, to be sure, but they don't tell the whole story. As a major leaguer, Stetter has been used as a situational lefty (LOOGY), and he's been very good in that role. Since his major league debut in 2007, he's held opposing lefties to a .192/.315/.325 line, and he strikes out nearly every third batter he faces.

In the minors, he's still getting lefties out. According to Minor League Splits, Stetter is holding opposing lefties to a .206 batting average in AAA, and he's struck out 30 of the 78 he's faced, good for roughly 14 strikeouts per nine innings. 

On the whole, he's striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings on the season, which is much more than current/former Sounds teammates Carlos Villanueva (8.8), Mike McClendon (7.2), and Kameron Loe (5.6) at that level. 

We shouldn't be burying Stetter based his AAA numbers, because the most significant thing they tell us is what we already knew: He shouldn't be consistently used to face right handed hitters.

On value

As situational lefties go, Stetter is a pretty good one. His ability to strike out a tough opposing lefty is a valuable skill that can be leveraged into key situations.

The Brewers have two lefties in their bullpen right now, but neither of them are really cut out for a situational lefty role. Manny Parra hasn't been able to get lefties out this season (they're hitting .344/.410/.621 off of him), and using Zach Braddock as a LOOGY may hinder his ability to develop into a reliever that gets righties out too.

Furthermore, even if he's called up immediately Stetter will likely finish the season with less than two full years of service time, meaning he's available at the league minimum for next season and under team control for four more years.

Conclusion

A situational lefty isn't the most critical role on a team or even in the bullpen. Mitch Stetter has been gone almost all year and you can make the case that the Brewers haven't really missed him. But, if used correctly, Stetter could still be an effective and cheap member of the 2011 bullpen. With the bullpen already overworked and auditions for 2011 underway, in my mind there's really no reason why Stetter shouldn't get a callup to Milwaukee in the next week or two.

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