Well, that didn't take too long...good old fashioned writers block is upon me already. That's not entirely true, as I have some more column subjects ready to be written, but I thought you guys might be worried that my column was some sort of audition for a job at Baseball Prospectus, so I wanted to write about something else this week. Well, what do the professionals do when writers block strikes? Neyer digs into the mailbag, Sheehan does quick comments. Neither of which work, since I don't have a mailbag and most of my quick comments go on the brewerfan.net fan forum. That leaves mulling through old articles for ideas, and it just so happens that I've got a couple.
When Voros Mcracken put his defense independent pitching stats (DIPS) up for the year, I wrote an article ( link ) focusing on the Brewers and what these numbers told us about what to expect for this year. I thought here, near the halfway point, we'd drag those out and see how they were working out.
For most complete understanding it may be best to reread the article, but the column should be understandable by itself. I broke the players I mentioned by name into 3 groups: those who were much better than appeared, those who were worse than appeared, and those who might be worth acquiring cheaply.
The players I mentioned whom were under valued: Will Cunnane, Jimmy Haynes, Allen Levrault, Kyle Peterson, and Mac Suzuki. Where are they now? Jimmy Haynes is posting a respectable 4.45 ERA in 85 innings as a starter in Cincy. At the time, I wrote "Jimmy Haynes should have posted a 4.42 screwed with a 4.85. Conclusion: probably just his career year, but he out-pitched Wright by a lot." Perhaps it wasn't his career year, but instead it was his peak value and he'll continue to do this for a couple of years. On a pure performance basis we probably should have kept Haynes and ditched Wright, but Jimmy would have been making at least 3 million for us, and without that Cincy offense and those 7 wins who would want Jimmy Haynes at the deadline? For whatever reason, Wright's potential will continue to have him overvalued if he can string together just a few good starts. Mac Suzuki had put up an 8.83 ERA in 17 innings with KC, before he was demoted. With that small of a sample, and KC's general ineptness with pitching, I'm not convinced Mac is done yet, but I can't say that I was right either. I'm not sure where Cunnane ended up, other than the minors, but I'm still confident he's no different than Mike Buddie and Jayson Durocher. Allen has been similarly disappointing with a lackluster 5.52 ERA at Sacramento. Other than Haynes the rest were all guys with limited opportunities this year.
The next group of guys were my get rid of quick specials. In that group was Jamey Wright, about which I said "Wright's lackluster season was understated as his ERA should have been a 5.13 last year." I also singled out the bullpen as a place to be cleared out, due to their ERAs as a group being much lower than predicted. Clearly Leskanic's injury would have prevented him from being dealt in the offseason, so I deserve little credit there, while Fox on the other hand clearly should have been dealt both because of his history and the degree to which his ERA was an overstatement of his ability. I commented on Stormy also as a player who had done better than expected, even including a park adjustment he has continued with his stellar performance and a 2.13 ERA, though I think his DIPS stats for this year would come close to that ERA. DeJean is perhaps the best prediction to date. While his value has clearly been enhanced by adding the mythical closer label, his ERA has gone from the 2's to close to what he was predicted to have had last year 3.68 vs. 3.38.
Finishing up, it's time to talk about the guys mentioned who didn't play for the Crew last year. First off, Rusch. At the time of the deal I argued that his DIPS numbers indicated he'd be a durable start who'd post very good innings for us at about a 4.00 ERA. Having a bit more knowledge now, I wonder if Glendon isn't fairly judged by a truly defense independent metric. Having listened to a lot of games it seems like he borders on being a historically poor defender as a pitcher. How many times has he been unable to cover 1st base? Under normal conditions it would seem a bit absurd to say a pitcher had been worth more than a couple of hits in half a season, but I feel way too comfortable saying Rusch has cost himself at least 4 hits. This still wouldn't totally account for such a large previous gap between his DIPS and normal numbers, but it may explain some of it. Whereas I previously thought Rusch was a 3.75-4.00 ERA pitcher, I'm changing that to 4.25-4.50 as long as he gets his K rate back up. Next up is Omar Daal, whom last year did an OK job, good enough for a 4.85 DIPS ERA. This year he's doing great with a 3.34 ERA. The problem is that he's been getting awesome defense, and he's playing in LA. His peripheral stats haven't changed much, so I'd resist the urge to say we should have picked him up cheap, because LA's defense has been that good with great OF improvement and SS too. Third, we go to a guy I campaigned hard for as a cheap solution - Ron Villone. His DIPS numbers suggested a 4.28 ERA. This year he's been rather unspectacular, posting an ERA over 6.00, which overstates his badness a bit since he's a reliever looking at BP's reliever evaluation tools a 5.00 ERA suits him better. His K rate has dropped off a fair bit, accounting for the difference even though Pittsburgh has also had a good defense (as a side note Kip Wells, and Josh Fogg's BB/K numbers this year are more suggestive of Ben Sheets this year, and Jimmy Haynes last year than the stellar numbers they've posted thank you Pokey). Finally everybody's favorite why not him? Bruce Chen: The man with the career ERA at about 4.50 and younger than Rusch. Well his DIPS numbers were uninspiring due to walking a few too many people despite a good K-rate for a lefty, and giving up a lot of HRs. This year it's been pretty ugly with a further loss of control despite a jump in his Ks, and an even greater HR rate, mixed with a little bit of poor luck on defense gives him and ERA over 6. Is he the pitching equivalent of Ronnie? Flashing young greatness then struggling and being labeled with bad character and toilet bowling? I don't know, but Cincy's a pretty good place for him to turn it around with Dan "the real scrap iron" Gullet as his pitching coach.
Player of the Week
It was tough this week with a lot of guys having one pretty good game, but none really sustaining a hot streak. I thought about Thompson who came close probably one more extra base hit and I'd have been convinced. I don't like to honor pitchers if they only had 1 game, though Jamey almost made it with the shutout. Seeing Matt Stairs big day in person gave him an early edge, but Royster's insistence of sitting him all the time derailed my hopes of a big week from him. And then I remembered the other guy who had a great day last Saturday, Paul Bako. Paul didn't do enough for the week to earn it outright, but Machado did turning in a number of multi-hit games with walks and power. So the Player of the week is the Catcher for providing a consistent push at the bottom of the line-up.