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BCB Mailbag 43: Why isn’t Josh Hader starting and closing?

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s the freaking weekend, baby! So let’s get to those questions:

Spaul149 asks:

Does Taylor Williams stay up once Yelich comes back and the brewers need 5 SP?

There’s probably a good chance Williams will stay if/when Yelich is ready to return on Sunday, as hoped. Williams and Jorge Lopez are the two easiest guys to send down as both have already had minor league options used this season, so it will likely come down to one of them getting the boot. I’d give Williams the edge to stay up, but it will probably depend on who gets used this weekend and who is still fresh.

drezdn asks:

If baseball is getting too stressful

What other sports would you suggest following?

The NBA playoffs are about to start, if you’re into that sort of thing. The Bucks even made it (two years in a row for the first time since the turn of the millennium!) and some people think they’ve got a good chance to knock off the #2 seed Celtics, who will be without Kyrie Irving. I’ve started to pay attention to golf a little bit more than I have in several years, too. Tiger Woods has always been my favorite, and now that he’s healthy and playing well again my interest in watching the PGA Tour has perked up.

icelandreliant asks:

How is it possible that we have no players among the top 45 leaders in strikeouts in MLB?

Have we really changed our approach?

It’s a little early to make any definitive statements about what the team will and won’t be, but there has been a noticeable drop in strikeouts early on. The Brewers, who set MLB records for whiffs in 2016 and 2017, aren’t even in the top half of the league in strikeout rate so far this season! Their 22.3% strikeout rate this season is a three percent decrease from 2017, and 17 teams are striking out more often. Unfortunately, it appears that the Brewers may be sacrificing some of their patience for contact - the team has drawn free passes in only 6.8% of their plate appearances, the second-lowest rate in baseball and a two point drop from 2017. If this is a concerted effort to change how the team play’s offensively, it’s not working - they are a bottom-five offense in the National League so far.

Uncle Father Oscar asks:

Is “When is Hader moving to the rotation?” the new “When is Braun moving to first?”

Right? Either to the rotation, or to the closer’s role. In all honestly, Hader is one of the most valuable relievers in baseball right now, because of the role he fills. He’s thrown more than one inning in four of his five appearances and has struck out more than 60% of the batters he has faced. He’s become less dependent on his fastball (at least through his first 7.2 innings) but still doesn’t seem comfortable throwing his changeup regularly - he’s only tossed three of them up there this season. He’s also thrown 141 pitches through his 7.2 innings this season, a rate that obviously wouldn’t allow him to work deeper into games regularly as a starter. Josh is an incredible talent, but the profile that makes him an amazing fireman reliever probably doesn’t translate to more than a #4 or #5 starter right now. There’s also the issue of innings count - he’s never thrown more than 126 innings in an individual season and has been working exclusively as a reliever for almost a year now. If the Brewers wind up falling out of contention this season, then perhaps they’ll give him a look in the rotation. But right now they are competing, have a good amount of starting depth (don’t forget that Burnes and Peralta could factor in here by midseason), and Hader is the best reliever in their bullpen. Why mess with what’s working?

Jack Stern asks:

How long of a leash does Eric Sogard have?

Since the second half of last season, he’s regressed back to his normal self at the plate.

Entering the year with Perez, Sogard, and Villar all on the roster seemed a little redundant to me, certainly. None of the three have yet to really distinguish themselves in the battle for playing time at second base, as each is sporting a wRC+ mark below 75 (with Sogard and Perez below 60). If this keeps up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Milwaukee pursue an upgrade at the keystone as we get closer to the trading deadline this summer. At that hypothetical point the org would have to make a decision about one of the trio - and unlike Perez and Villar, Sogard has no more years of reserve control remaining and will be a free agent at year’s end. But it doesn’t seem likely that the org would move on from him until at least later in the summer.

NVBrewerFan asks:

Is the Han Solo movie gonna suck?

I certainly hope not, but I’m not a harsh critic and think I probably have a pretty low bar for being entertained. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each of the new movies that have come out in the last few years, and I know that isn’t the case for every Star Wars fan. I grew up watching the movies, reading the books, and playing the games (specifically Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and its expansion pack, Mysteries of the Sith, which I both still play today thanks to GOG) and to me, it’s awesome that they are coming out with new films that I can take my kids to see in the theatres. I’m excited for the new Solo film and will continue to throw my money at whatever Star Wars stuff they continue to come out with for the big screen.

Duhawk Steve asks:

Which starting pitcher, currently in Colorado Springs, will help the team the most this season?

What about next season?

For this season I’ll say Brandon Woodruff. He started the year with the big club and only lost his spot because he has minor league options and the team needed a fresh arm. He’s still part of that mix for the #4 and #5 spots along with Suter, Guerra, and probably Wade Miley before too long. I’m sure we will see Woodruff in Milwaukee plenty this season, and he’s still got an exciting profile that should help him become an above-average starting pitcher before things are all said and done. Given his youth and pedigree, it’s certainly possible that he’s the pitcher in Colorado Springs that helps the team most next season, too. But next year is probably getting closer to the time that we could see extended auditions of Peralta and Burnes in the big leagues, and both those guys are plenty exciting, too.

Dreman50 asks:

When is an appropriate time to panic about Jhoulys Chacín?

Sure it’s just three starts, but a 1.9 WHIP and 6.64 FIP are hard to ignore, plus we owe him $15.5 Million over the next two years. I thought it was a good signing at the time but now I’m concerned. Are there any peripheral stats I’m not privy to that can give me some peace of mind?

Chacin hasn’t looked good. He hasn’t been missing bats, he’s issued too many walks, and batters are making a lot of hard contact off of him. But it’s still too early to have major concerns, in my opinion. Chacin is getting ground balls 60% of the time so far, so his overall numbers would probably look a little better if Milwaukee’s infield wasn’t kicking the ball around so much in the first couple weeks of the season. Chacin has historically been a slow starter and has pitched much better in the second half throughout his career (3.39 career ERA after the All-Star break, 3.33 last season) so his slow start to this point may just be par for the course. I wouldn’t worry much about the money, either; $15.5 mil is hardly anything in the MLB these days. He only got a little bit more than Anthony Swarzak, and relievers like Brandon Morrow, Brian Shaw, and Jake McGee all got paid quite a bit more than Chacin did this winter. Regardless of results, Chacin and his contract aren’t going to be what makes or breaks things for the Brewers in 2018-19.


Given Odorizzi’s hot start in Minnesota...

… and the relatively low price the Twins paid for him, do you think Stearns wishes he had made a move for Jake?

Eh, I don’t think so. Odorizzi’s shiny 2.20 ERA masks his poor 13:10 K/BB ratio so far and his fastball velocity is down a mile-per-hour so far in the early going. There is a reason that Stearns and company weren’t willing to meet the modest price for Odorizzi, and Matt Arnold should have as much firsthand knowledge on Jake as anyone. I don’t think the Brewers regret not making a move here, and I think the rotation will be fine (meaning league-average or so) with the current 8-10 guys that they have in the mix right now.

Thanks for all the great questions this time around, everyone! Here’s hoping that Junior Guerra will be the hero this rotation needs and that when we get together to chat again, we’re talking about a team in first place!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs