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The Weekend Mug: Grading the Milwaukee Brewers

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Today, the Brewers played their final game before Ryan Braun and Corey Hart (and maybe Yovani Gallardo, if he decides to attend for fun) head off to Anaheim for the MLB all-star game.  And, since the all-star break is often used as the traditional mid-point in a season, I figured what better time to take a look at how Brewers players are doing and subjectively give them letter grades on their performances.

How I'll be doing this is looking at each player and determining how they've been playing based on their stats (of course) while weighing in the expectations of the player that most people would have had at the beginning of the season.  Any stats I'm using are current as of this morning. Also, I'll be doing every player that has played an inning for the Brewers this year, whether they are still on the team or not.

So let's get started!

John Axford, P - The man, the myth, the Ax.  Since being called up on May 15, Axford and his amazing mustache have commandeered the closers role and ran with it.  In 22 games, Axford has a 2.88 ERA and a 2.40 FIP.  He has nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks and has converted 10 saves without blowing a single one.  And he's doing all this with opposing batters hitting a lucky .330 BABIP.  Grade:  A

Follow the jump for the rest

Zach Braddock, P - At the beginning of the year, before the emergence of Axford, Braddock looked like he was set to become the Brewers closer of the future.  There would be nothing wrong with him becoming a dominant setup man and giving the Brewers a great 8th-9th inning duo, though.  Braddock has pitched in 19 games (16.2 innings, as he has been used, unfortunately, as a lefty specialist on occasion) since being called up.  His 4.32 ERA belies an FIP of 1.38.  He has a K/9 rate of 11.88 compared to a BB/9 of 2.70.  Basically, his ERA is bloated due to an extremely high opponent BABIP of .444.  Grade: A

Ryan Braun, LF - He hasn't been the Ryan Braun that we all know and love lately, that's for sure.  There's been discussion around these parts that he's not 100% due to an injury sustained early in the year, and/or he's phoned it in some this season, and/or his business ventures are distracting him, and/or he just needs a mental health day or two (which he got).  At the start of June, Braun was hitting .318/.387/.532, basically what we've come to expect from him.  Since June 1, though, he has been hitting .250/.282/.385 with just four homeruns.  Ew.  Bill Hall hits better than that. Craig Counsell has been hitting better than that.  As it stands now, Braun is hitting .289/.344/.468.  If the Brewers management honestly thinks the team can still make a run this year, they need Braun to get back on track now.  Grade: C+

Dave Bush, P - ERA-wise, thus far 2010 is one of the best seasons of Dave Bush's career.  His 4.10 ERA is topped only by his rookie season, where he posted a 3.69 ERA.  In terms of FIP, this year is right in the middle of the pack for Bush, as he currently stands at 4.87.  And xFIP has this as the worst season of his career.  He's certainly not helped by the fact that he doesn't strike out a whole lot of batters (4.89 K/9) and that he has the highest WHIP he's ever had (1.495).  He's probably a good #5 starter, but this is Bush's last year of team control, and I would be surprised if he was resigned for next year.  Grade: C

Chris Capuano, P - He worked hard to get back from his second Tommy John surgery, finally made it back to the big leagues, and is hardly being used by Ken Macha.  In just 8 games, he has a 4.35 ERA and a 3.70 FIP.  His WHIP is really high (1.839) but I would expect that to normalize if he was given consistent playing time.  Grade:  Incomplete

Todd Coffey, P - The Coffey's not as strong as I like it.  He's not nearly as dominant as he was the last two seasons with the Brewers, as his WHIP has jumped to 1.426 and his ERA to 4.54.  His FIP is actually the exact same as he finished with last year, 3.65.  But last year, his WHIP was nearly .3 lower.  Grade: C+

Craig Counsell, INF - The Deity might be showing his age this season, finally.  He has a .238/.306/.308 batting line this season (better than Ryan Brauns June/July).  What little power he had is completely gone and he's not even getting on base at a league average rate anymore.  Maybe there's some worth in being a veteran clubhouse presence, but that' not anything we can measure.  After having a resurgence last year, I hope this years .282 wOBA is enough to convince him to finally retire.  Grade: D

Doug Davis, P - I don't like Doug Davis very much.  He's not a very good pitcher, he makes games take forever, and he cost the Brewers $4.25MM this year for his poor pitching.  He has a horrendous 7.51 ERA (partially due to his oppenents .398 BABIP, I'm sure) and a bad 5.26 FIP.  He is striking out a batter more per nine innings, so good for him on that.  I can't wait until he's gone again, though.  Grade: D+

Jim Edmonds, OF - I loathe Jim Edmonds, but I can't deny that he has been playing much better than I would have expected him to.  His .269/.333/.439 line is good for a .342 wOBA.  He has even been above average defensively, if you want to trust a half season of UZR for that, which probably isn't really advised.  I still don't like him playing center field, but with Carlos Gomez showing us just how bad of a hitter he can be and Corey Hart having a renaissance, there are no other options in CF until Jody Gerut comes back from his injury.  Grade: B

Alcides Escobar, SS - When the Brewers traded JJ Hardy to make room for the 23 year old Escobar, everyone knew that he wasn't going to light the world on fire with his bat (and he absolutely hasn't).  What was expected was phenomenal defense.  Unfortunately, that hasn't quite shown up, either.  Errors aren't a great stat for judging defense, but 14 errors in half a season is Ryan-Braun-at-third-base-esque.  His UZR is right around average, but again, a half season of UZR isn't a very good indicator, either.  Hitting-wise, Escobar has a line of .240/.298/.323.  He may not be lighting the world on fire yet this season, but he hasn't been worthless, either.  Grade: C-

Marco Estrada, P - I forgot he was even a Brewer.  Grade: Incomplete

Prince Fielder, 1B - This is a tough one.  He's been hitting better than he did in 2006 or 2008, but hitting much worse than in 2007 or 2009.  Right now, he stands at a .267/.399/.497 line with 20 HR and just 39 RBI.  Basically, he's slugging about fifty points less than his career average and a hundred points less than last year.  His batting average is lower than it should be.  And for some inexplicable reason, he has not been nearly the RBI machine that he has been in the past.  He is walking a lot, which is good.  Since the beginning of July, he has been on a hot streak, hitting .333/.511/.636.  But he has just four RBI in ten games.  If both he and Braun were hitting like they did last year, there might not be any doubt that the Brewers would be contending this year.  Grade: B-

Yovani Gallardo, P - He has a really crappy chinstrap beard.  That and a high walk rate are his only imperfections.  He has cut the walks down from last year, though, from a 4.57 BB/9 in 2009 to 3.87 in 2010.  He's still striking out a ton of batters, and he cut his HR/9 in half this year--from 1.02 in 2009 to 0.48 this year.  He has a 2.58 ERA, a 2.97 FIP, a 3.46 xFIP, and a 3.42 tRA.  He made the jump to being one of the best pitchers in the NL this year.  His opponents BABIP might even be a teensy bit high at .311, too.  And he is a really, really good hitter for a pitcher.  And he signed a long term contract with the Brewers in the offseason.  My god I am in love with this man.  Grade: A

Jody Gerut, OF - He's only had 74 plate appearances and has been injured for a while, now.  He wasn't hitting well when he went down, either, standing at a .197/.230/.366 line.  He's a good defender in the outfield, though, and obviously not as bad of a hitter as this season was showing.  I like having him around as a fifth outfielder.  Grade: D+

Carlos Gomez, CF - Oh Carlos, you can be so exciting and so frustrating at the same time.  Gomez seemingly has all the talent in the world, and just can't seem to ever pull it together.  This year, he's hitting .224/.278/.353, good for a .288 wOBA.  He's clearly a superior defensive outfielder, but that barely makes up for his terrible offense.  I still wish he would steal more than he has been, despite the discussions we've had on it in the past week.   He has a very low BABIP at .265, but he clearly needs to learn to walk more and be more selective at the plate.  With this season going down the toilet, I would like Gomez to start nearly every day in CF and see if consistent playing time would help him. Grade: D+

Corey Hart, RF - At this point we all know that he pretty much lost his starting job to Jim Edmonds in spring training, only to light the world on fire and earn a starting OF spot in the all-star game.  Hart has probably been the best hitter on the Brewers this season, surprisingly, with a .289/.351/.565 line with 20 HR and 63 RBI.  He's been awesome, and hopefully the Brewers can trade him for a good return.  The only reason I'm not giving him an A is because his defense is still pretty poor.  Grade: A-

Latroy Hawkins, P - I think most people on this site know that Hawkins isn't as bad as his 9.26 ERA would suggest.  Hawkins opponents have a completely unsustainable .421 BABIP against him, which will regress to the mean sooner than later.  The only problem that Hawkins has been having this year is a high walk rate, as he currently has a 4.63 BB/9.  With a 3.96 FIP, Hawkins will be just fine.  Grade: B+

Trevor Hoffman, P - Should retire.  Grade: F

Joe Inglett, UT - He's been hitting really well this year when he has gotten the opportunity.  In 76 plate appearances, he has a .333/.421/.515 slash line playing OF and 2B.  I'm not sure how good he would be at SS or 3B (he's only played a handful of games at either spot in his career), but if he's passable I would rather see him backing those spots up over Counsell at this point.  Grade: B

George Kottaras, C - He who hates singles.  Kottaras has 16 extra base hits compared to just 11 singles.  He's hitting a good .206/.333/.427 slash line with 6 HR and 20 RBI in 41 games.  It would be nice to see the average up a little bit, but not necessary.  For a backup catcher that is under team control through 2014, I'll take that kind of hitting any time.  Though there aren't any good metrics for catcher defense, what I've seen hasn't impressed me much.  Grade: B-

Kameron Loe, P - Since being called up, he's been a part of a very strong Brewers bullpen.  A 1.59 ERA and 3.19 FIP demonstrate how well he has been doing.  He strikes out a little over seven batters per nine innings while walking just three.  However, one might expect Loe to get worse as he has been rather lucky as opponents have just a .193 BABIP against him.  Hopefully it won't hurt him to bad when some of those outs start dropping in for hits, but we'll see.  Grade: B

Jonathon Lucroy, C - I like Lucroy a lot, and even was able to be in attendance for his first career HR.  He hasn't been hitting great, but he hasn't really struggled, either, with a .267/.300/.372 line.  That's probably about what we can expect for the rest of this season, too.  Again, there are no good defensive metrics for catchers, but from what I've seen Lucroy has been decent.  He will probably be a solidly good, not great catcher for the Brewers for many years to come, and I for one think that sounds great after seeing the revolving door of catchers the last decade.  Grade: C+

Casey McGehee, 3B - He started the year off with a bang, hitting .305/.372/.573 through the month of April, with 5 HR and 19 RBI.  He's still hitting well--now at .277/.345/.461 with 13 HR and 53 RBI--but not quite as well as he did last season or the beginning of this year.  The Brewers have control of him through 2014, though, and he should be very valuable as their everyday 3B as long as he's not needed to be the star hitter on the team (which he shouldn't).  His defense isn't terrible, but it's nowhere near good either.  He'll probably be looked at as the fourth or fifth best hitter on the team, and I think with a slash line like his the Brewers should be pretty happy with that.  Grade: B

Chris Narveson, P - The Narv-Dog is weird.  It seems like he'll have a couple really bad starts, then all of a sudden pitch a gem, particularly if a starting pitcher who was injured is due to be back.  He hasn't really been good, but I can't say he's been bad.  I would love to have him as a spot starter rather than being in the actual rotation, personally.  He has a 6.02 ERA, but a more indicative measure of his performance is the 4.71 FIP.  I don't know.  He's been OK, nothing better, nothing worse.  Grade: C-

Manny Parra, P - Basically, you can take a lot of what I said about Narveson and apply it to Parra, except Manny has been in the bullpen more and has pitched better, with a 4.65 ERA and 4.27 FIP.  It's nice to see this from Parra, at least, after the rough season that he had last year, when he had a 6.36 ERA.  He's striking out around 1.5 more hitters per nine innings than last year, while walking about half a man less.  Hopefully his development continues.  Grade: C+

David Riske, P - He's pitching as well as he ever has for the Brewers.  His 2.31 ERA is actually lower than his FIP of 4.06, which, I think, makes him one of two Brewer pitchers who has done that so far this season (Randy Wolf is the other).  It's interesting, his ERA has been lower than his FIP most of his career, actually.  Either way, he isn't striking out many men, nor is he walking many.  He's been a good relief pitcher in a strong Milwaukee 'pen.  Grade: B

Chris Smith, P - Pitched a whopping 3.1 innings this year.  Grade: Incomplete

Adam Stern, OF - Gets an A for being a team player, but didn't do anything for the actual team.  Grade: Incomplete

Mitch Stetter, P - Pitched 3.2 really bad innings.  Grade: Incomplete

Jeff Suppan, P - HAHAHAHAHA, I hope you choke on him and die, Cardinals. Grade: F-, Grade for choice of team to go to after getting released: A+

Claudio Vargas, P - A 5.12 FIP in 19.2 innings earned him a release.  The Brewers bullpen has been stronger since.  He did strike out nearly two batters more per nine innings this year than he has over his career, so that's nice.  Grade: D

Carlos Villanueva, P - Yet another piece in a very good Brewers bullpen.  A 4.26 ERA and 3.66 FIP is very solid.  He's pitched 44.1 innings and struck out 55 batters while walking just 19.  He's also been giving up just 1.02 HR per nine innings.  This Brewers bullpen should be very good for the next few years.  Especially after Hoffman is gone.  Grade: B

Rickie Weeks, 2B - One of my favorite Brewers has been having another very good, if underrated season.  Weeks continues to do what he does best, getting on base at a high rate (.369 OBP, best mark in his career) while showing some power (.448 SLG) and striking out a good amount (101 Ks).  He's already just one short of his career high of 16 HR.  He already has his career high in RBI, as well, at 52.  My only complaint is he has just 6 stolen bases.  I want more stolen bases!  Grade: B+

Randy Wolf, P - The thirty million dollar man hasn't been worth it so far this season.  He has a bad 5.74 FIP to go along with a not good 4.49 ERA.  He's been striking out nearly two batters less per nine innings than in his career and has been walking one more per nine.  He's also giving up 1.55 HR per nine innings.  And all of this has come with opponents actually being unlucky against Wolf as they have just a .273 BABIP against him.  Hopefully he figures out how to be good again because I'm sure nobody wants Jeff Suppan v2.0.  Grade: D

Gregg Zaun, C - His career could very well be over after the injury he suffered earlier in the year.  His Brewer career almost certainly is.  He was hitting a very nice .265/.350/.392 on the season.  Oh well, now we get to see Jonathon Lucroy, which I don't mind.  Hope you heal well triple G!  Grade: B

That should be everyone.  What do you disagree with me on?