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BCB Mailbag 51: Bullpen blues

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Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Ugh.

Spaul149 asks:

What is the biggest area of concern down the stretch for you, defense, SP, RP, or offense?

The Brewers were one of the best teams in baseball during the first half of the season thanks in large part to the strength of their relief pitching. But that group has seemingly collapsed in the month of August. Only the Orioles’ bullpen has a worse ERA (8.42) than Milwaukee (7.69) this month, and only the relievers for the O’s and the White Sox are walking more batters than the Brew Crew (4.47 BB/9). No bullpen in baseball has allowed more home runs than Milwaukee’s (13) in August.

Craig Counsell’s boys have played 15 games this month and gone 5-10. Jeremy Jeffress has appeared 5 times, tossing 5.0 scoreless innings; Josh Hader has entered four games, allowing two runs in 4.2 innings. Beyond those two All-Stars, Dan Jennings has allowed two earned runs in 6.1 innings and continues to be a steady presence. But Joakim Soria is hurt, Matt Albers has been intermittently hurt and bad, as has Taylor Williams. Corey Knebel and Corbin Burnes both have ERAs over 7.50 this month. Milwaukee’s bullpen was supposed to be able to bail out an average-on-paper rotation, but they haven’t been up to that task of late and it’s a leading cause for the team’s current swoon.

Dreman50 asks:

New catcher(s) in 2019?

With the acquisition of Schoop, 2B seems set for next year as is the outfield, 1B, SS, and 3B leaving just the bench, rotation, bullpen and catcher as places to add. Naturally the bullpen will change a bit and Sterns will likely keep an eye out for a front of the rotation starter, but catcher seems like the biggest area of need. Which of the pending free agent catchers would you like the Brewers to add this coming off season; Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, Devin Mesoraco, Wilson Ramos, or Matt Wieters?

Of the list you presented, there’s no doubt in my mind that switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal would be the most impactful addition behind the plate. He’s been an excellent offensive catcher since debuting with San Diego in 2012 and according to wRC+, he’s never had a below-average season at the plate in the big leagues. He’s in the middle of a career year right now, batting .245/.346/.484 with 21 homers (127 wRC+) in 399 plate appearances. For his career, he’s a .240/.340/.443 hitter with 110 dingers in 2,541 trips to the plate, which translates to a 117 wRC+.

Besides his skills with the bat, Grandal is also a highly-respected defensive presence behind the dish. He throws out runners at a slightly below-average clip (25% for his career), but he consistently rates as one of the best pitch framers in baseball and typically grades out well in terms of blocking. For his career, Fielding Runs Above Average credits him with +130 runs. Defensive Runs Saved, which doesn’t account for framing, rates him at +58 runs.

Grandal will be 30 next year and figures to be the top catcher available on the open market. If free agency is slow again during the upcoming offseason and he could be had on something like a three-year deal, Grandal could be pretty huge two-way upgrade at catcher for Milwaukee.

Brew Crew Buster asks:

2019 Starting Pitching

Of this year’s relief pitchers is Jeffers the best hope of transitioning someone into a into a top of the rotation starter in 2019? He provides very good stuff, three to four plus pitches, ability to step up in difficult occasions and pitch out of jams, and doesn’t give up many homeruns. Is it crazy for the Brewers to look at such a move? I realize the Brewers will have other options for depth; but I don’t see any others as likely aces in 2019.

On the surface, this thought isn’t as crazy as one might think. In fact, I saw someone (it might’ve been you or someone else) suggest Jeffress as a starter in the comments on a post back in May. He has been a starter in the past in the minor leagues, has good command of four pitches, and is now missing bats like never before. Those are the kind of guys you would want to see in the starting rotation, right?

Well, at least according to his agent, it’s not something that is going to happen.

Uncle Father Oscar asks:

Who do you think will be the September call-ups?

If you’re a healthy player on Milwaukee’s 40 man roster on September 1st, there’s a good chance you’ll be a September call-up. The way this front office uses players, I don’t think they’ll be judicious about who they bring up to the big leagues. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see non-40 man guys like pinch-running specialist Quintin Berry, catchers Jett Bandy or Christian Bethancourt, infielders Dylan Moore or Jake Hager, and outfielder Rymer Liriano get some consideration for spots. Non-40 man pitchers like Quintin Torres-Costa, Aaron Brooks, Nick Ramirez, and Erik Davis could also be in the mix for call-ups based on merit.

stigmo asks:

Has there been an update on the condition of Julio Mendez?

You may remember Julio Mendez as the young man who was hit by a batted ball during an AZL game last summer and had no pulse afterwards. He still hasn’t played any affiliated baseball this season, but is still a member of the organization and as of June, he was at the team’s complex in Arizona.

dsid asks:

Rule 5

It seems some of the recent trades were influenced by service times/40 man roster/Rule 5 implications. What are the rules for how long a player can be retained before they are exposed to Rule 5 Draft? Where can I find the status of all Brewer minor leaguers? Who are the fringe players that might be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft that would most likely be used as trade bait this month or during the off season?

It is true that each of Milwaukee’s most recent transactions had some sort of Rule 5 Draft impact for the upcoming offseason. According to the eligibility rules, a player who was drafted or signed at age 18 years or younger needs to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft after five seasons as a professional, while players signed at age 19 or older have to be protected after four seasons. The only way to protect a player is by adding them to the 40 man roster. Kodi Medeiros (White Sox), Luis Ortiz (Orioles), and Jon Perrin (Royals) all would’ve needed to be added. Jorge Lopez (Royals), Brett Phillips (Royals), and Jonathan Villar (Orioles) are all mostly-functional MLB players that didn’t appear to have long-term roles with Milwaukee, so clearing them out helps make more space to eventually protect prospects. The venerable Jim Goulart puts together a comprehensive list of Rule 5-eligible players every year over at Brewerfan.net, and this year’s list can be found at this link.

Junbug11 asks:

Kyle, your “Cream City Nine” campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why is it so popular?

Because here at BCB we’ve assembled the finest campaign team money can buy. This is exactly the kind of trickery I’m paying them for.


Welp, here’s hoping that our beloved Cream City Nine can climb back into the playoff picture by the next time we get together and do this thing.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs