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Analyzing  the Linebrink-Inman Trade
 
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Analyzing the Linebrink-Inman Trade

By Chris Hawkinson
Published 08/02/2007
 
Featured Player: Scott Linebrink
Bio / Stats: [ link ]
 
 

The recent trade to Milwaukee of San Diego Padre relief pitcher Scott Linebrink for prospects Will Inman, Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison was a shock or surprise to nearly all Brewer fans. While their initial reaction was almost always the same, what those same fans thought about the trade was not nearly so universal. While some fans applauded Doug Melvin for making a move that would make the team better for the stretch run, others disliked the trade because they felt Linebrink wasn't much of an improvement over those already pitching out of the pen.

Given a few days to think about this trade, what one thinks about it seems to largely boils down to a few key points:

- How good is Scott Linebrink?
- How much can he help the Brewers over their last 60 games?
- How good are the prospects Milwaukee traded to the Padres, in particular Will Inman?
- Did the Brewers give up too much to get Linebrink?

This article will offer some thoughts on those four questions.

How good is Scott Linebrink?

Probably the most important question in regard to this trade is the very first. The better Linebrink is, obviously, the better the trade for the Brewers. This may also be the hardest question to answer because it involves trying to project his performance over the next 60 games.

Before we make any sort of attempt to project Linebrink, let's take a look at Linebrink's numbers starting in 2004 when he established himself as one of the better setup men in the game.

Year W L G GS CG SHO GF SV IP H R ER HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 ERA AVG WHIP
2004 7 3 73 0 0 0 7 0 84.0 61 22 20 0.86 2.78 8.99 2.14 .209 1.036
2005 8 1 73 0 0 0 17 1 73.2 55 17 15 0.49 2.81 8.55 1.83 .209 1.059
2006 7 4 73 0 0 0 11 2 75.2 70 31 30 1.07 2.62 8.00 3.57 .243 1.216
2007 3 3 44 0 0 0 7 1 45.0 41 19 19 1.80 2.80 5.00 3.80 .240 1.222
  25 11 263 0 0 0 42 4 278.1 227 89 84 0.97 2.75 7.95 2.72 .224 1.121

Three things stick out to me when looking at the numbers.

The first is that Linebrink was very good in both 2004 and in 2005; he didn't allow many hits, his home run rate was good, his walk rate was good and his strikeout rate was solid.

The second is that Linebrink was less solid in 2006, but his peripherals were still pretty solid. He did allow more home runs and struck out fewer hitters while also allowing more hits. Those are solid numbers, but they aren't as good as they had been the previous two years.

The third, and perhaps most important, is that Linebrink has been even less impressive this season, to the point where he has been pretty average. His home run rate is way up and his strike out rate is way down. When looking at his 2007 numbers, it should be pointed out that Linebrink's wife is due to delivery a baby. His number over his last three outings in San Diego covering 2 2/3 innings, Linebrink has allowed five hits, two home runs, seven earned runs while walking three and striking out two, for an ERA of 27.00. That said, those two poor outings don't explain why he is only striking out 5/9 innings or why his home run rate (excluding those two hit near the end of July) is 1.48/9 innings. Those numbers could well be the sign of a pitcher on the decline or a pitcher just having a rough year.

After the trade was made and I saw those numbers, the first question that popped into my mind is the question we are trying to answer: How good is Linebrink, and how good is he going to be for the Brewers? Will his numbers trend upwards towards those he put up over the recent past, in which case he'd be a great addition to the bullpen? Or do his numbers suggest a bit of a downward turn, in which case he'll be "just another arm" in the pen? How will no longer pitching in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park affect his numbers, in particular his home run rate? How much of an affect with Mike Maddux, who worked with the right-hander in Houston, have on Linebrink?

Obviously time will tell. I tend to believe, long-term, he's seen his best days and that over the course of a full season he isn't likely to revert back to his 2004 and 2005 form, especially away from PETCO. Short-term, it's harder to tell. I think it's entirely possible that he'll improve on his 2007 numbers over the course of the remainder of the season, especially if Maddux or bullpen coach Bill Castro can have an impact, but I think it's just as likely he won't, and what we have seen to date this year is what we'll see during his time in Milwaukee.

While one never knows what to truly expect from a player over the course of 60 games, and the clich

 
The Daily Brew is a near-daily column covering the Milwaukee Brewers baseball organization published exclusively at brewerfan.net.
 

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