BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Shaun Marcum #18 of the Milwaukee Brewers takes a breather in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 17, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Kyle is at the T-Rats game tonight and I didn't turn in my homework on time so I'm posting this one on my own.
KL: We've talked an awful lot about Zack Greinke this season. What're your expectations for him in the second half?
JM: The ratios are now 11.9 K/9 to 1.34 BB/9, which over a full season would be one of the top pitching seasons ever. That's the kind of historic performance we're dealing with so far. The ERA is 4.77 and the FIP is 2.3, and like usual I would expect something in between those two numbers going forward-- I don't think his peripherals are going to stay this good, and I don't think he's going to keep giving up this many runs. So far this year he's put up a 3.2 tERA, which is a metric that determines how many runs a pitcher "should" have given up given average outcomes for each walk, strikeout, line drive, fly ball, ground ball, and home run given up as a pitcher (sort of a wOBA for pitchers). I think that is a very fair expectation going forward, as he's not going to maintain a low 2 FIP but that's going to be balanced by less hits falling in. That's a roundabout way to get what would have been the simple answer, the ZiPS Rest-of-Season projection: a 3.2 ERA. If that were to be his production the rest of the way, he'd finish the year with about 160 innings and a 3.7 overall.
KL: When it's all said and done, which will be better: Shaun Marcum's first half or any Brewer pitcher's second half?
JM: Great question. First, Marcum's numbers: 95 innings, 2.95 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts to 2.4 walks per 9 innings, and about 3.2 for the FIP and tERA. He's been everything we've hoped for and then some, and one of my favorite facts right now is that Marcum is second among qualified starters in swinging strike percentage, behind Michael Pineda and ahead of James Shields, Anibal Sanchez, and Cole Hamels. The question could be looked at two different ways: do I project any pitcher to have a better second half than Marcum's first? Nope. Off the top of my head I'd project 3.2 for Greinke, 3.3 for Marcum, 3.5 for Gallardo (and about 4.2 for Wolf, 4.3 for Narveson). However, a projection is the middle figure in a potential distribution of outcomes-- the average of what you'd expect if you played the second half a thousand times. And I'd probably bet money that one of the three righties has both an ERA and FIP under 3 in the second half. I could see Greinke having a big time second half and putting up a sub-3 ERA and also going really, really deep into games. For as awesome as Marcum's first half was, he only got through 8 innings once, and I have a feeling we'll see Greinke go on a stretch that matches Marcum and also has a few complete games thrown in (he had 6 in 09). Similar things could be said about Gallardo, he's certainly capable of a sub-3 ERA second half as well.
Narveson, on the other hand, has really come around. I mentioned earlier that Marcum has the second-best swinging strike rate in the majors, the next Brewer on that list is none other than Narveson at #13. He's tied with Lincecum and 2 ahead of Halladay, and 3 ahead of Sabathia. Narveson's 5 ERA last year hid a nice 4.2 FIP, and this year his 4.2 ERA is hiding a 3.5 FIP. He's getting better, he's pretty young, he's striking out everybody, and he's starting to limit the home runs and get more ground balls.
These two are about as close as you can get projection-wise. At this point I'd have to project Wolf for a slightly better ERA, while saying that Narveson's the better pitcher already, and that Narveson has a better chance of having a "great" second half while I'm more confident in saying that Wolf will be around 4. But to zoom out for a second, the fact that the 4 and 5 starters are projected at or around 4 is phenomenal, and if the Brewers make the playoffs I think they're going to have a tough decision on their hands on who to bump from the rotation. I'd guess Wolf would get to stay because of his veteran-ness but it's awfully close now.
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