What we learned: October 23, 2014

Today's lessons include bullpen help, the #3 ranking in the MVBrewers series, and more.

The Brewers need bullpen help to compete in 2015.

It's the same story that we hear every offseason: The team needs help in the bullpen. It's generally a universal truth around baseball, there's very few teams that are completely secure in the performance of their bullpen. The Brewers are no exception to this, and considering how the Royals bullpen is performing, it makes the need more apparent. Yesterday, Noah looked at the bullpen situation entering 2015 and what the Brewers should do this offseason. Finding bullpen help is never easy, and proven help usually costs the most. However, the Brewers have managed to get something out of nothing in the past, so you have to think that there are options out there.

Cram Session

NL Central Update

Postseason Update

Yesterday's Games

  • World Series Game 2
    Royals 7, Giants 2
    Series Tied 1-1

News & Notes

World Series Game 2 Open Thread

Game 2 of the World Series is on tonight. Come discuss it with us here.

Yesterday's Game

World Series Game 1
Giants 7, Royals 1
Giants Lead Series 1-0



Today's Game

World Series Game 2
7:00 pm, FOX
Giants (Jake Peavy) @ Royals (Yordano Ventura)
Giants Lead Series 1-0

Today's Lineups

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Gregor Blanco - CF Alcides Escobar - SS
Joe Panik - 2B Norichika Aoki - RF
Buster Posey - C Lorenzo Cain - CF
Pablo Sandoval - 3B Eric Hosmer - 1B
Hunter Pence - RF Billy Butler - DH
Brandon Belt - 1B Alex Gordon - LF
Mike Morse - DH Salvador Perez - C
Travis Ishikawa - LF Omar Infante - 2B
Brandon Crawford - SS Mike Moustakas - 3B
Jake Peavy - RHP Yordano Ventura - RHP

Brewers need help in bullpen for 2015

The Kansas City Royals have shown what a good bullpen can do this year. The Brewers relief corps isn't looking too great for the 2015 season, though.

In 2014, the Brewers had nine pitchers make at least 20 appearances out of the bullpen. Those were: Tom Gorzelanny, Jeremy Jeffress, Marco Estrada, Rob Wooten, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Duke and Will Smith.

Of those nine, three (Gorzelanny, Rodriguez, Duke) are free agents. Another, Estrada, may join them if the Brewers choose to nontender him rather than go to arbitration and pay him more than the $3.33 million he earned in 2014. Meanwhile, one additional reliever, Jim Henderson, should be returning next year after missing basically all of this past season.

That leaves the Brewers with a weak bullpen moving forward. Duke and Rodriguez were arguably the two best relievers in the bullpen all year. Gorzelanny, after returning from his own injury, posted a 0.86 ERA over 21 innings to help carry the pen in the second half. The remaining players on the roster all had mixed results in 2014 for the Brewers:

Player Innings ERA FIP WHIP K/9
Will Smith 65.2 3.70 3.25 1.41 11.8
Brandon Kintzler 58.1 3.24 4.67 1.34 4.8
Rob Wooten 34.1 4.72 2.61 1.46 7.6
Marco Estrada 150.2 4.36 4.88 1.20 7.6
Jeremy Jeffress 28.2 1.88 2.57 1.19 7.8
Tyler Thornburg 29.2 4.25 3.81 1.52 8.5
Jim Henderson 11.1 7.15 4.63 1.59 13.5
Jonathan Broxton 10.1 4.35 2.65 1.07 10.5

Is there anyone among that crowd that you trust to lead a bullpen? Henderson has been a closer, but is coming off a lost season and is no guarantee at all. Thornburg and Smith both started incredibly well but fell off as the season wore on (and in Thornburg's case, just before he got injured. Estrada was certainly better out of the bullpen than he was as a starter with shorter stints quelling his home run total, but he would start the year as a long reliever if he's with the team. Wooten, Kintzler, Jeffress -- they've shown flashes but nothing sustained yet.

The only player on the roster with a proven major league track record of success is Jonathan Broxton, acquired in August from the Reds. He's the assumed closer heading into 2015 having posted a 2.30 ERA overall in 2014. He appeared in just 11 games with Milwaukee this past season, but will be relied on as the most consistent veteran option among the group.

The Royals are proving this year what a good bullpen can get you as they are currently battling the Giants in the World Series. The story for Kansas City all year has been a shutdown relief corps, great defense and speedy baserunners. Three of their key receivers had ERAs under 1.50 this past year. Overall, Kansas City relievers had a 3.27 ERA, an 8.7 K/9, and allowed opponents to OPS just .648.

First base is obviously where the Brewers should focus this offseason. Third base is also a big decision, though the odds are that Aramis Ramirez comes back one way or another. After that, however, it seems the bullpen may be the most important position to upgrade. The team's 2014 closer is likely gone, though with Francisco Rodriguez seemingly liking Milwaukee we can't rule out a return. A top three of Thornburg-Smith-Broxton is risky.

Should Milwaukee cough up the money to bring back in higher-priced relievers, though? Bullpen arms are notoriously fickle and hard to predict -- the last thing the Brewers would want to do is spend a fair amount of money on a pitcher who ends up being a bust in 2015. Fortunately, the team has also had fair success recently bringing in free agent relievers on fair contracts: Duke, Gorzelanny, and Rodriguez are all examples of guys being signed to reasonable deals and performing well.

The Brewers won't be able to afford players like David Robertson or Koji Uehara. Someone looking for a prove-themselves type year like Andrew Bailey could work, though. Players with former success like Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and Jim Johnson. The good news is there are always plenty of relief options on the market each year. Zach Duke came in on a minor league deal and turned out to be perhaps the Brewers' best reliever in 2014. The Brewers could get lucky again in a similar manner.

One thing seems certain, though: The Brewers will have to look to the free agent or trade market to bolster their bullpen, or at least find players who, like Duke, could turn out to be steals. The current staff can't be depended on without competition and there's little coming through in the upper levels of the minors.

I'm normally against spending money on the bullpen. Again, it can be so hard to predict: You may get Zach Duke, you may get Eric Gagne. But if the Brewers hope to compete in 2015, they'll need to replace key production in the bullpen one way or the other. Jonathan Broxton is alright at the top, but after him there's a mess of players who can't quite be trusted yet.

The bullpen isn't a sexy place to spend money, but the Royals proved in 2014 how valuable a good crew of relievers can be. After figuring out their corner outfield spots, the Brewers may need to find some aid in the form of late-inning pitching this offseason.

MVBrewers: Vote for #4

You chose Wily Peralta for the third spot. Who comes in next at #4?

It was the closest vote so far, but Wily Peralta still took the #3 spot by a decent margin. Here's where we stand after the first three:

#1: Jonathan Lucroy
#2: Carlos Gomez
#3: Wily Peralta

Next up is voting for the #4 spot. Yovani Gallardo joins the list, keeping it at four pitchers and one position player. Who deserves to join the list next? Voting is open now and closes at noon tomorrow.

Poll
Who was the 4th Most Valuable Brewer of 2014?

  80 votes | Results

MVBrewers #3: Wily Peralta was the Brewers’ most valuable pitcher

Peralta outshined many of his veteran counterparts in his second full MLB season.

The 2014 Milwaukee Brewers spent a lot of money on pitching. Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse combined to earn $35 million to fill the top three spots in the starting rotation, and two of those three will receive raises next season.

Much further down this table we find Wily Peralta, who earned just $515,000 while having a season you selected as the best among Brewers pitchers. The payroll flexibility provided by getting a player of this value at a price this low is a textbook example of why developing your own pitching is so critical to winning at the major league level.

Peralta had a pretty good season in 2013, posting a 4.37 ERA over 183.1 innings and finishing as the ninth-most valuable Brewer in that year's rankings. In the year since, however, he's improved nearly every facet of his game. He led the Brewers in innings pitched (198.2) and strikeouts (154) this season, lowered his ERA by over 80 points (from 4.37 to 3.53) and dropped his walk rate from 3.6 per nine innings to 2.8. Wins aren't a reliable measure of pitcher ability, but he was only the ninth pitcher in franchise history to record 17 in a season and the third in the last 22 years.

Peralta still won't turn 26 until May and has another season to play before he's eligible for arbitration for the first time. If he continues to develop at this pace he could be something truly special.

Best Game

Peralta had a pair of remarkable performances in 2014 that stand out above the others, so instead of arbitrarily choosing one I'll tell you about both.

First, on May 2 Peralta beat the Reds almost by himself. He kept the Reds off the board in one of baseball's most homer-friendly parks, holding them to just three hits over eight innings, and hit a double that drove home both Brewers runs in a 2-0 victory. That win improved the Brewers to 21-9 on the season. Here are the highlights from that outing:

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It's hard to top that performance, but Peralta's final appearance of the year on September 27 came close. He allowed one run on five hits over seven innings in that game and set a new career-high by striking out 13 Cubs in a 2-1 win that turned out to be the Brewers' final victory of the season. Let's go to the highlights:

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That game was only the 12th time in franchise history a pitcher had recorded 13 or more strikeouts.

Contract Status

As noted above, Peralta earned just $515,000 in 2014 and likely won't receive a lot more in 2015 for his final pre-arbitration season unless the Brewers make an effort to lock him up long-term this winter. If they continue to go year-to-year with him he'll be eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2016 and would be a free agent before the 2019 season.

Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below, or in their own dedicated section:

  1. Jonathan Lucroy
  2. Carlos Gomez

What we learned: October 22, 2014

Today's lessons include #2 in the MVBrewer voting, some notes on Colorado Springs, and notes from game 1 of the World Series.

Cram Session

Brewers Notes

Other Notes

Former Brewers Update

Postseason Update

Yesterday's Games

  • World Series Game 1
    Giants 7, Royals 1
    Giants Lead Series 1-0

Today's Games

  • World Series Game 2 - 7:00 pm, FOX
    Giants (Jake Peavy) @ Royals (Yordano Ventura)
    Giants Lead Series 1-0

News & Notes

World Series Game 1 Open Thread

The World Series opens tonight in Kansas City. Come discuss the game with us here.

World Series Game 1 - 7:00 pm, FOX
Giants (Madison Bumgarner) @ Royals (James Shields)
Seried Tied 0-0

Today's Lineups

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Gregor Blanco - CF Alcides Escobar - SS
Joe Panik - 2B Norichika Aoki - RF
Buster Posey - C Lorenzo Cain - CF
Pablo Sandoval - 3B Eric Hosmer - 1B
Hunter Pence - RF Billy Butler - DH
Brandon Belt - 1B Alex Gordon - LF
Mike Morse - DH Salvador Perez - C
Travis Ishikawa - LF Omar Infante - 2B
Brandon Crawford - SS Mike Moustakas - 3B
Madison Bumgarner - LHP James Shields - RHP

MVBrewers: Vote for #3

The first two votes for Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez were easy. Now, it gets a bit tougher.

Carlos Gomez took the #2 spot today with a big lead over the competition. After the first two votes, here is what we have so far:

#1: Jonathan Lucroy
#2: Carlos Gomez

Now, we turn to voting for the #3 spot. Francisco Rodriguez rejoins the available choices today, putting four pitchers among your five possible selections. Which of these players deserves the #3 spot? Voting is open, let's see what you have to say.

Poll
Who was the 3rd Most Valuable Brewer in 2014?
13%
Mike Fiers
16 votes
26%
Kyle Lohse
31 votes
51%
Wily Peralta
61 votes
2%
Aramis Ramirez
2 votes
8%
Francisco Rodriguez
9 votes

119 votes | Poll has closed

MVBrewer #2: Carlos Gomez is second most valuable Brewer

Gomez had arguably his best year at the plate yet and will certainly receive some small consideration for the NL MVP award.

Carlos Gomez is the kind of player Major League Baseball should embrace as a face of their organization. He is among the Yasiel Puigs and the Bryce Harpers of the world: They're fast, young, exciting, powerful, exciting, unpredictable, exciting -- brash, sure, but baseball is boring. Albert Pujols, boring. Derek Jeter, boring. Respectful and good at baseball, yeah, but they aren't going to attract younger people to the game.

That's what baseball is trying to do to maintain a strong fanbase. They're looking at ways to shorten games, make them move at a higher pace. They're doing instant replay. More teams in the playoffs. One thing MLB doesn't yet do is market players that might make people want to watch.

Carlos Gomez is the kind of player I want to watch. Carlos Gomez is really, really, really good at baseball. He's going to get MVP votes for his 2014 performance. After years of struggling to hit his weight, Gomez broke out in the second half of 2012, signed a contract extension, then earned his first All Star nod in 2013 while breaking the top-10 of the NL MVP vote.

In 2014, he was even better. He hit .284/.356/.477 with 23 home runs and 34 stolen bases. He's also a top-three defensive center fielder in baseball. All that combined to make him worth 5.9 fWAR this past season.

Everything about Gomez screams exciting. His skillset is speed and power. He's not a singles slap hitter. He's swinging for the fences and, if he happens to get a single, he's going to get the extra base even if he has to steal it. On defense, he's a wonder to watch; he looks like he belongs on the Harlem Globetrotters when he's robbing players (Joey Votto, particularly) of home runs.

And despite his enormous talent and outstanding numbers, you never know what you're going to see from Gomez. He's finally getting on base after a career of hovering around a .300 OBP, but he's managing to do so while seemingly swinging at every pitch. He's not a patient man -- if he sees something, he's going to try to hit it. And not just hit it, but kill it. Gomez contorts his body and twists and turns and misses a ball by a mile on the first pitch, but then on the third he hits a triple.

And, sure, Gomez has had his share of run-ins with other players, but look at the kinds of guys he gets into it with. The Brian McCanns of the world. The guys who make baseball boring with their unwritten rules and their tucked in shirts. Gomez doesn't abide by that. Gomez has fun. Sometimes his fun causes him to make mistakes, but at least he's showing actual passion on the field rather than some sort of compulsory stoicism.

Carlos Gomez has his ups and downs. He'll hit like a superstar for a month, but then fall back into old habits and hit like 2011 Carlos Gomez for a month. That happened this year as his OPS went .921 to 1.045 to .758 to .666 to .767 to .877 month-over-month. He's equal parts frustrating and amazing, but never boring.

He's Carlos Gomez and he's the kind of player people should love to watch.

Best Game

By WPA, Gomez's best game came July 23. That day he went 2-4 with a triple and a strikeout. He drove in one run and scored one run during the Brewers' 5-1 win over the Reds, but he still posted a 0.292 WPA. In the first inning, Gomez reached on an error and advanced to second, but was stranded there. In the third he singled, moved to second, and was stranded. Then, in the fifth, he triple to bring home Kyle Lohse and later scored when Ryan Braun singled.

Statistically, however, Gomez's best game probably came on May 23 during the Brewers' 9-5 win over the Marlins. Hitting clean-up that day, Gomez went 4-5 with three doubles while scoring two runs and driving in two. His WPA that day? -0.024. This is why I'm not big on WPA as determining value.

Contract Status

Gomez signed on for a three-year, $24 million contract that began in 2014. Thus, he is signed for the next two seasons for a total of $17 million. He will make $8 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016. He also gets $50,000 bonuses for All Star elections. Because of his contract running out in two years and his immense value, some feel the Brewers would be better off trading him. Personally, I hope he sticks around long-term.

Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below:

#1: Jonathan Lucroy

What we learned: October 21, 2014

Today's lessons include our #1 in MVBrewer voting, looking back at infield projections, and preparation for Game 1 of the World Series.

Cram Session

NL Central Update

Postseason Update

Today's Games

  • World Series Game 1 - 7:00 pm, FOX
    Giants (Madison Bumgarner) @ Royals (James Shields)
    Seried Tied 0-0

News & Notes

One final note for today. The last time I missed this, there was a bit of a negative reaction, so I'm including it this time. Today is a Woot-Off.