Saturday, May 15, 2010

Solving the Problem that is the 'Pen

Milwaukee Brewers Bullpen Statistics through Saturday morning:

117.1 IP, 4-7 5.68 ERA, 79 Runs, 74 ER, 50 BB, 105 K, .292 BAA

To put it lightly, that's not very good.

Here are the Brewers ranks in each category in MLB out of 30 teams:

IP: (7th most)
ERA: (29th)
Runs Allowed: (28th)
ER Allowed: (28th)
Walks Allowed: (20th)
Strikeouts: (8th)
Batting Average Against: (30th)

It's been well documented; the bullpen is really struggling right now.

So what can be done to fix this?

Obviously, moves need to be made. Currently the Milwaukee Brewers are wasting very valuable spots on their roster. Players like Adam Stern and Jeff Suppan serve no purpose. Why waste roster space with players that don’t benefit your team? Jeff Suppan is in the last year of his deal. The Brewers are not fooling anybody. He is not going to garner any trade value, so why not release him?

Obviously Stern will be sent out of Milwaukee went Carlos Gomez returns, so where else can the Brewers find other space?

Look not further than Claudio Vargas.

Vargas is now exclusively a reliever. FSN has given him the nickname "Magic Man" due to the large amount of jams he gets into and somehow has escaped thus far. Even with the fortunate luck, Vargas is still allowing too many walks and has shown a propensity to the gopher ball. He could serve some use as a long reliever, but not at the back end of the bullpen.

My solution is to release Suppan and Vargas (possibly could land a low level prospect in a trade). By doing this, the Brewers would free up two roster spots to help out the drained bullpen.

Two players who would fill in perfectly are Zach Braddock and Chris Smith.

Braddock has been incredible in the Brewers system the past couple of years. Combined between A and AA ball last season, Braddock was lights out. In 40.1 innings, he struck out 62 batters. That's good enough for a 13.83 K/9. Even more impressive was his control. He walked only seven batters in that same span for a BB/9 rate of 1.56. He has only continued his amazing work at AAA Nashville this season. He has pitched 15 innings and struck out 27 with eight walks. He could be the lockdown lefty the Brewers are lacking in their bullpen. He would also give Ken Macha another lefty option other than Mitch Stetter.

Chris Smith pitched alright in Milwaukee last season. He has been able to avoid bats and shown very good control. He is by no means the best reliever in baseball, but has done the best he can with his lack of velocity. In AAA Nashville this season, Smith has been the closer. He has saved 12 games and thrown 13.2 innings. He has fanned 19 batters and walked only four batters.

With Smith and Braddock, the Brewers have to capable pitchers. The Brewers need any arm they can find to help the current crop of relievers. They need to stop wasting spots on players who won't help anything and use them on useful options. There is no reason not to give both pitchers and Ken Macha that chance to get back to some sense of assurance. It's tough to feel safe with any lead right now.

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