Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wait Til Next Year- Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers are another very good team that’s simply run into a stretch of incredibly poor luck in 2010. They’ve been fantastic offensively, putting up 629 runs so far in 2010, good for 9th in baseball and 3rd in the National League. This would obviously suggest that their issues stem from their pitching and defense.

However, it’s also unfair to blame their defense. With a UZR/150 of –2.2, the Brewers have been below league average, but only slightly. Their defense could be better, but it’s safe to say that poor defense is not the reason the Brewers will miss the playoffs in 2010.

That leaves the pitching. And yes, the Brewers’ pitching will prevent them from making the playoffs. They’ve allowed 710 runs, 3rd worst mark in baseball and superior only to cellar-dwellers Arizona and Pittsburgh.

However, this poor run prevention is not due exclusively to a mediocre pitching staff, nor a horrific defense. Instead, the Brewers’ have allowed a multitude of runs due simply to bad luck.

The Brewers have the worst BABIP mark in the league, at .327. The Pirates have been second worst in baseball this year, at .321. That’s a pretty large gap for the sample sizes we’re working with at this point in the season, and a gap that large does suggest that there’s something more than just bad luck afoot.

And there certainly is. 19.8% of balls hit in play against Brewers pitchers have been line drives, partially explaining their high BABIP. However, the high LD% doesn’t completely explain the high BABIP by any stretch. Brewers pitchers have been unlucky, allowing hits at a higher rate than their batted ball rates suggest they should be.

The Brewers rotation has gotten especially unlucky. Milwaukee’s opening day starter was Yovani Gallardo. Brewers fans expected Gallardo to anchor their rotation, a true ace with a shot to take a run at a top-10 Cy Young position. However, Gallardo has spent most of his season having difficulty keeping his ERA under 4. Right now, he’s at 3.86. That’s despite putting up the second highest K rate in baseball, striking out 10 batters per 9 innings. However, Gallardo has pitched much better than his ERA would suggest. Gallardo has put up a 3.05 FIP so far in 2010, with his ERA inflated greatly by his .344 BABIP. Gallardo’s allowing a very high LD%, but he’s been getting some very bad luck as well.

Incredibly, the Brewers have a pitcher who has been effected more by a high BABIP. Manny Parra has suffered from a .352 BABIP against despite having a lower than average line drive rate. Parra’s been doubly unlucky, as he’s also had a far above-average HR/FB rate. Parra burst onto the scene with a strong rookie campaign in 2007 (3.35 FIP) but hasn't repeated his performance since. As Parra's luck normalizes his numbers will begin to make him appear much more effective. His poor season is nearly entirely due to the effects of bad luck.

So wait til next year, Brewers fans, but as you do expect a bounce-back year from Parra and a serious Cy Young challenge from Yovani Gallardo. Check back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at the Florida Marlins and a young core of hitters that could shift the balance in the NL East.

Also, I'd like to thank Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues for the shout-out on MLBTR. It's awesome to see so many people reading, and getting recognized on a site I respect (and use) as much as I do MLBTR is truly an honor.

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