After looking at starting pitching, where better to go than the bullpen?
After a rough start to the year, the bullpen has pitched pretty well of late. Even with the recent success, the Brewers bullpen has accumulated a 5.25 ERA this season, which is good for 29th baseball. Here is a look at each pitcher and their first half grade.
Carlos Villanueva- B
4.26 ERA, 44.1 IP, 55 K's, 19 BB's, 39 hits, 21 runs (21 earned)
Villanueva has been very good in 2010. His 11.17 K/9 is second on the club. The way he has been able to limit contact has been a very good sign. Where Villanueva has gotten into trouble in when contact is actualy made. He has given up an incredibly high 28.1 line drive percentage. Even with the high amount of liners he has fallen victim to, Villanueva's season is going much better than his stats would suggest. His FIP is currently 3.65, which is 3rd on the team.
Todd Coffey- C+
4.41 ERA, 34.2 IP, 26 K's, 12 BB's, 36 hits, 21 runs (17 earned)
One of the main problems I've had with Ken Macha is his constant overuse of some bullpen pitchers. Last year, there was no one abused more than Coffey. Last seasons usage may be to blame for Coffey's slow start. He was walking more batters and giving up more line drive and flyballs. That has subsided of late. In his last five outings, Coffey hasn't surrendered a walk and struck out eight batters in six innings.
Trevor Hoffman- F
8.33 ERA, 27 IP, 17 K's, 13 BB's, 34 hits, 25 runs (25 earned)
What a difference a year makes. Hoffman has been absolutely terrible in 2010. His K/9 were 8.0 in 2009; 5.67 this year, His BB/9 were 2.33; now 4.33. Hoffman's ability to get groundballs has also vanished. His GB:FB ratio this year is .39, easily the worst in his career. He is also allowing HR's on nearly 1/6 of his flyballs. He's been better of late, but still not that good. I wonder if he will actually reach the 600 save plateau.
John Axford- A
3.12 ERA, 26 IP, 32 K's, 11 BB's, 22 hits, 9 runs (9 earned)
With Hoffman's struggles have come Axford's chance and he has grabbed it. Since taking over Hoffman's closers role, Axford has been incredible. He is striking out 11.07 batters per nine innings. His groundball ratio is exactly 2:1. Axford started the trend of Nashville pitchers coming to Milwaukee and they haven't disappointed. With plenty of service time remaining, Axford should be a mainstay for a long time in Milwaukee.
Kameron Loe- B+
1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 18 K's, 8 BB's, 12 hits, 7 runs (4 earned)
Loe has really come out of nowhere. Throughout his career, there was little to suggest Loe could provide anything for a major league team. After getting his callup, Loe has been very good. I still expect him to regress a bit, but if he continues to keep the ball on the ground and limit walks, he should be alright.
Claudio Vargas- D
7.32 ERA, 19.2 IP, 18 K's, 10 BB's, 28 hits, 16 runs (16 earned)
Vargas was eating a roster spot when he pitched for the Brewers. He wasn't that good and he was very frustrating to watch. It's nice to not see him in Milwaukee anymore.
Zach Braddock- A-
4.08 ERA, 17.2 IP, 22 K's, 6 BB's, 20 hits, 8 runs (8 earned)
Zach Braddock should be a very important arm in the Brewers bullpen for years to come. He has an incredible arm and shows very good life on his pitches. His command is also very good. He has shown the ability to keep his free passes down throughout the minor leagues and his first pro season. In his last nine outings, he has not surrendered a run. He also leads the team in K/9 with 11.21.
LaTroy Hawkins- D+
9.26 ERA, 11.2IP, 15 K's, 6 BB's, 14 hits, 12 runs (12 earned)
The Brewers haven't seen much of a return on their investment thus far. Hawkins has been injured for the majority of 2010, but was very unfortunate when healthy. His opponent BABIP was .421, despite having a LD% of just over 12%. That's unheard of. His current FIP is 3.46. That might be the biggest difference between ERA and FIP in baseball. If he is able to keep his velocity up when he returns, he should be a good option out of the bullpen. That's always a big 'if' though.
David Riske- C
2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, 7 K's, 3 BB's, 7 hits, 3 runs (3 earned)
Despite the Journal Sentinel's reports, David Riske is not 'dealing.' His increasing flyball numbers and career low HR/FB% are examples of how Riske has been okay, but not great. Also, his current BABIP is .188. If I was Doug Melvin, I would try and trade him near the deadline, to at least shed the remaining $2 million on his contract. Riske is just not that good a pitcher. He is a prime example of what paying a hefty price on a bullpen arm can do to a team.
Bullpen Grade- C
That might seem a little high with their current 5.25 ERA, but this bullpen's peripherals would suggest better numbers. Their current FIP sits at 4.00. They are currently 7th in K/9 and 13th in BB/9. Granted those aren't the best numbers, but they aren't that bad either. Add in they cut the majority of the dead weight holding them back earlier this season, the second half should be pretty good.