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The BCB First Half Review, #9: Jordan for the Save Opportunity

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)
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)
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.

KL: Which of the two lefties in the Brewer rotation (Chris Narveson and Randy Wolf) is a better bet to have a solid second half?

JM: I wrote a bunch about how last year Wolf's peripherals were a bit off his normal ones and he actually got a bit lucky to end up with the ERA he did, but I said I had confidence he would bounce back this year and sure enough he has, his FIP's down from 4.9 to 4, he's struck out more batters and walked fewer. Wolf's a really solid pitcher and should be projected for a borderline 4 to low 4 ERA the rest of the way. That's fantastic for the bottom of the rotation and well above the average major league starter.

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.

Lightning Round

If you had to grade Ron Roenicke's performance to date, what would you give him?

I'll go with a BC or so. He's done some things wrong with the bullpen, which was one actual strength of Ken Macha. Ron's already tied up to the "closer" "eighth inning guy" "seventh inning guy" bullpen garbage, and he doesn't have a great grasp on the platoon advantage when pitching. His love of Kotsay is also infuriating, he has two above-average center fielders on his rosters and he still manages to give Kotsay starts there. I do think his personality is working well with the team though, and they're performing at or above expectations so I can't call it a total failure, I think the biggest thing about a manager is his ability to work with the team and get the team to like to play for him.

Give me one roster move the Brewers should make today.

Call up Mat Gamel and Zach Braddock would've been my choice if you had asked yesterday. Now that those two have joined the team (and both are big upgrades), my next choice would be to DFA Betancourt and trade for a shortstop. If a shortstop is not attainable, just DFA him anyways and play Wilson and Counsell. And to add a more realistic suggestion, I'd probably go with DFAing Kotsay and calling up 3B Taylor Green from Nashville. He's another lefty and could play about half of the games starting at third against righties with McGehee continuing to struggle. He can also play second and could be the backup there while Counsell and Wilson take all the time at short. Carlos Gomez deserves to play center field more than he does, so my proposal would be to just roll with 4 outfielders and play Morgan in right or left when the starters there aren't playing.

Do you think this Brewer team will make the playoffs?

Yes. I'd say it's above 50% and that will qualify my answer as a yes. I hate that question but I'm going to justify saying yes this way.

If so, do you think this Brewer team will make the World Series?

I think it's a Brewers/Phillies NLCS, and I think that matchup is a crapshoot. I'm not going to say yes on this one but I think they have the second-best chance of getting there.


Which Brewer are you most excited to watch in the second half?

Definitely Zack Greinke on the pitching side, because all the factors-- past dominance in the AL, better peripherals already in the NL, potential that he's the type of guy who will thrive pitching in a pennant race for the first time in his career-- make me think he could reel off a Sabathia-like run of 8 and 9 inning starts in August and September and make himself into a legend.