Just How Good Is Shaun Marcum?

There’s been a ton of talk about the Brewers’ addition of Zack Greinke this offseason, and that is warranted. Greinke is a special talent, and I cannot wait to see him on the mound – especially when the games start to count.

That right arm is good for something other than throwing a baseball.

However, it seems like Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee’s other big offseason acquisition, isn’t getting the credit he deserves. After all, Marcum had a better season than Greinke last year – he even had a better season, by most measures, than Yovani Gallardo, yet almost everyone pencils him into the rotation as the third best pitcher on the staff. So, I started wondering how Shaun Marcum compares to some of the other pitchers around the league, and whether or not we should be expecting more of him than just being a very good third starter.

We’ll start with Marcum’s statistics. In 2010, in the brutal AL East, Marcum went 13-8 in 31 starts with a 3.64 ERA, 114 ERA+, 1.147 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 as a 28 year old coming off of Tommy John surgery. The season before he had Tommy John, 2008, saw him go 9-7 in 25 starts with a 3.39 ERA, 125 ERA+, 1.163 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9. So, combined, in 2008 and 2010, Marcum is 22-15 with a 3.53 ERA, 119 ERA+, 1.154 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

Interestingly enough, baseball-reference.com lists Yovani Gallardo as Marcum’s top comparable. In Gallardo’s last two seasons, he is 27-19 with a 3.79 ERA, 107 ERA+, 1.341 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. Gallardo’s K/9 and BB/9 are both a bit higher than Marcum’s, so we’ll look at K/BB ratio: Marcum is at 3.10 in his last two seasons, Gallardo is at 2.39.

Statistically speaking, it seems pretty clear that Marcum’s last two years have been better than Yovani Gallardo’s. Yes, Gallardo gets more strikeouts, but he is not nearly as good at keeping men off base and therefore gives up more runs.

I got a little curious so I looked up stats for a few other big name pitchers throughout MLB and made a little table, with the stats from last two years as starters: Continue reading

Five (or four) more years of Rickie Weeks

On Wednesday, Rickie Weeks signed a contract keeping him in Milwaukee through at least the 2014 season. The details of the deal: $38.5 million guaranteed through 2014, and if he gets 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1200 in 2013 and 2014 combined, and is healthy at the end of 2014, then he gets an additional $11.5 million in 2015. There is a bit of disagreement on whether 2015 is a vesting option or not, but the Brewers may void Weeks’ contract if he doesn’t reach those numbers.

Rickie Darnell Weeks.

For a frame of reference on those last two seasons, Weeks led the NL last season with 754 plate appearances in 160 games. In 2008, when Weeks played in 129 games, he had 560 plate appearances. Judging by these numbers, it looks like Weeks would need to play in about 140-145 games to pick up 600 plate appearances. Of course, those numbers could be affected by a number of changes. It is possible, though unlikely, that Weeks could fall off in the last couple years of the deal, and Milwaukee could bench him more often to prevent him from attaining the required number of at bats. Additionally, by 2014, Weeks could very well be batting third or fourth in the lineup. This wouldn’t make a radical difference, but for comparison: in 2010, Weeks, batting almost exclusively as the leadoff man, had 754 plate appearance. Ryan Braun, who played in 157 games – three less than Weeks – batting primarily third, had 684 plate appearances, 70 less than Weeks. If Weeks is batting third or fourth, he could possibly need to play in more like 150 games than 140 to reach 600. Not a huge difference, but it could mean one less trip to the fifteen day DL.

I personally feel that the money in this deal is great for the Brewers. I mentioned back in December that a five year deal worth $50-60 million seemed reasonable. Getting him for five and $50 million, where $11.5 million of that can be voided if Weeks can’t stay healthy? To me, it seems like a bargain. Weeks has a tremendous upside. He proved last year that, if healthy, he can be one of the best power-hitting leadoff men of all time. He could have another season like that this year, and then, once Fielder leaves after 2011, he could move down to third or fourth. In the third or fourth spot in the order, I can easily imagine Weeks hitting 35 homers and knocking in 120 runs.

Of course, health has always been an issue with Weeks. In his six seasons in the major leagues, he never played more than 130 games until last season. He has had problems with his wrists and hands, not exactly injuries that you can count on not recurring. But let’s go back to the money for a moment – for free agent players, teams typically pay about 4.5 million per WAR. In 2010, Rickie Weeks was worth 3.7 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), which – at 4.5 million per WAR – adds up to $16.65 million. In Weeks’ new contract, he isn’t set to make more than $11.5 million dollars in a season, even including the non-guaranteed fifth year. That is about 2.5 WAR. If you look at Weeks’ oWAR number from 2010, a hefty 4.9, it’s easy to imagine Weeks easily playing above that level, provided he stays healthy.

I love Rickie Weeks. I have said this before. He is my favorite Brewer – he plays hard, he is intense, and he gets the team going. I am extremely excited to have him for the next several seasons, particularly at a price that is good for both the player and the team. Good work, Gord Ash, Doug Melvin, and Greg Genske.

Brewers sign Rickie Weeks to 4 year extension

In the move that I have been hoping for for several weeks, Milwaukee has apparently locked up Rickie Weeks for 4 years and 38.5 million dollars, with an option for a fifth year (that becomes guaranteed if Weeks stays healthy) for 11.5 million.  More to come later.

It’s about that time again

The Maryvale Racing Sausage Circuit

Baseball fans, rejoice. Pitchers and catchers are finally reporting, and spring training games are just around the corner. As we inch closer to the season, here are some things I will be keeping my eyes on throughout spring training:

-The Bullpen

The Milwaukee bullpen could be a real strength this year. We have to remember, however, that they are kind of counting on a lot of things to go right. Takashi Saito was effective last year but he is 41, and even though 2010 was good for him he posted the lowest ERA+ of his career by 30. LaTroy Hawkins is coming off major surgery and is 38. John Axford and Zach Braddock are both coming off good rookie years, and we’ll have to hope that they both avoid a sophomore slump (I’ve already detailed my concerns about Axford here). Kameron Loe was great last year but he has struggled to maintain consistent major league success. Manny Parra will be in the bullpen barring an injury to one of the starters, and he was good there last year, but you just never know with Parra. Beyond those six Sean Green, Mitch Stetter, Mike McClendon, and Rule 5 pick Pat Egan will have a shot. It will be interesting to see how Milwaukee fills the holes left by Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey and Trevor Hoffman, and perhaps more importantly, to make sure none of last years holdovers has regressed.

-Gomez and Betancourt, everyone’s least favorite starters

The main problem that everyone has with Gomez and Betancourt (apart from the latter’s defense, of course) is plate discipline. I’m no baseball player, but it seems like plate discipline is something that can be coached – Corey Hart has shown improvement over the last couple years, and Prince Fielder is better now than he used to be, to name a couple. If Gomez and Betancourt could each get to the point where they are getting on base more than 30 percent of the time, they could erase their titles as “offensive liability,” and maybe even prove to be worth something – Gomez with his speed and Betancourt with his pop. Continue reading

The 10 Brewers Critical to 2011 Success: #1, Zack Greinke

In the time leading up to the start of spring training, I’ve decided to make a countdown of the 10 Brewers that I believe are most critical to their success in the 2011 season. It concludes today with number 1.

I guess you probably saw this one coming.Greinke

Zack Greinke did not have a great year last year. He had a fine year, but not a great year – and you would think that the number one most valuable player for the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers, who hope to contend, would have been worth more than 2.4 WAR last season. In 2010, Shaun Marcum was worth significantly more WAR, at 3.8. Five of Milwaukee’s hitters (Braun, Fielder, Weeks, Hart and McGehee) were worth 3.5 WAR or more.

To understand why Greinke is the most important Brewer in 2011, we need to skip 2010 and go back to 2009. In 2009, using Baseball Reference’s WAR numbers, you could double the 2010 WAR total of any Brewer, and only Ryan Braun and his 4.8 WAR would exceed Greinke’s 2009 number – and just barely. Greinke was worth 9.0 WAR in 2009. To find another pitcher who was worth more than eight WAR, we need to go all the way back to Randy Johnson in 2001 and his 8.8 total. To find a pitcher who did better than Greinke, we must go even further, to Pedro Martinez and his 10.1 WAR in 2000 – a season often regarded as perhaps the greatest single season pitching performance in the history of baseball.

Let that sink in a little bit. Zack Greinke is one year removed from the best pitching performance in ten years. The numbers from that year? Incredible. 16-8 (for a team that went 65-97), 2.16 ERA, 6 complete games, 9.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.073 WHIP, and a 205 ERA+. Continue reading

10 Most Critical Brewers: Recap

I meant to publish the last of the top 10 list today, but I got a little behind in my other work.  So, it will come tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is a quick recap of the top 10:

 

10.  Chris Narveson

9.  Carlos Gomez

8.  Jonathon Lucroy

7.  John Axford

6.  Shaun Marcum

5.  Prince Fielder

4.  Rickie Weeks

3.  Ryan Braun

2.  Yovani Gallardo

 

I bet you’ll never guess who number 1 is.

The 10 Brewers Critical to 2011 Success: #2, Yovani Gallardo

In the time leading up to the start of spring training, I’ve decided to make a countdown of the 10 Brewers that I believe are most critical to their success in the 2011 season. It continues today with number 2.

If there is one thing that the Milwaukee Brewers know after their unsuccessful campaigns of 2009 and 2010, it is that without great pitching, you will never win a championship. On a night when a championship celebration is happening throughout Wisconsin, the Brewers are quietly hoping that their retooled pitching staff, combined with their high powered offense, can bring championship glory to another Wisconsin team come November. Yovani Gallardo has been a very good pitcher for Milwaukee over the last four years, and many people think he is on the cusp of being a dominant pitcher. If he can do that in 2011, then the Brewers will have a legitimate shot at bringing home a second Wisconsin championship.

In 2010, the Brewers finished fourth out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. They were second in home runs, and finished in the top five in hits, doubles, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. In 2009, they were third in runs and home runs, and again finished in the top 5 in hits, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging. Over those two seasons, Milwaukee finished with a record of 157-167, finishing third in the central both years and well out of the wild card race. Compare that to the 2010 San Francisco Giants, who finished outside of the top 5 in the NL in every one of the offensive categories mentioned above.

The difference is obvious – Milwaukee finished 14th out of 16 in team ERA in 2010 and 15th in 2009. The Giants were first. It’s been a thought for awhile that if the Brewers could field even an average pitching staff, they could contend for a title. This offseason, Doug Melvin went after a new pitching staff with shocking aggressiveness, acquiring two top-of-the-rotation starters in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum (while losing essentially all of his top prospects). Continue reading