Brewers are missing good defense and pitching, not Prince Fielder

Like a lot of people, I assumed the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers would be a good team if the players they added could combine to replace the offense of the departed Prince Fielder.  I also assumed the pitching would be just as good as last year and the defense would be better without the defensively challenged Fielder at first base.  That has not been the case at all.

So far, the offense is about where it was with Fielder, but the pitching has been terrible, and the defense has been the worst in the National League. 

I judge these matters by simply comparing bases to outs.  On offense the higher the average number of bases earned per out made, the more runs the team produces.  On defense, the fewer bases yielded per out made, the fewer runs the opposition can be expected to score.  But the defense has two components: “isolated pitching” and “isolated defense”. 

Isolated pitching is the bases given up solely by the pitcher (home runs, walks, and hit batsmen) compared with the outs made solely by the pitcher (strikeouts).  Isolated defense is the bases yielded mostly by the defense (bases earned on balls in play, plus steals) compared with the outs made in the field.

The National League offensive Bases Earned to Outs Made average is 0.642.  The Brewers offense is above average with a BEOM or “Cricket Average” of 0.691, which ranks fifth in the NL.  The National League Isolated Pitching BEOM average is 0.933.  The Brewers Isolated Pitching is well below average at 1.134 “pitcher bases” per “pitcher outs”.  That ranks 14th in the 16 team NL.  The National League Isolated Defense BEOM average is 0.538.  The Brewers are well below average in this category as well, as their defense gives up 0.671 bases for every out it records.  That ranks 16th in the NL, or rock bottom.

The 2011 Brewers were better in all three categories.  Here is the comparison chart:

BREWERS Offense Is Pitching Is Defense
2012 0.691 1.134 0.669
2011 0.704 0.844 0.549

As you can see, the Brewers were only a little better on offense, but substantially better in both defensive categories.  I cannot explain why the Brewers have declined.  It could actually be a reason for optimism.  The Brewers almost HAVE to be better on defense over the long haul.  A team cannot do much worse than the infield combination of Casey McGahee, Yuni Bettencourt and Prince Fielder.  That said, however, the aging replacments at 3rd (Aramis Ramirez) and Short (Alex Gonzalez) have not been impressive, and Mat Gamel is still feeling his way around at First.

But, watching the Brewers, it seems to me the biggest problems have been at the corner outfield spots.  Corey Hart is generally an above average fielder, but he is hampered by a leg problem and while he has been tremendous at the plate, he cannot cut a ball off in the alley to save his life.  On the other side you have Ryan Braun, a player who has never been confused with Willie Mays in the outfield.  But, last season Braun’s defense seemed to improve.  This season, so far, it has gone back to mediocre.  The poor play on the corners is causing the team to yield too many extra bases.

But what about the pitching?  Why has it declined.  Three big reasons: Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo, and Frankie Rodriquez.  Gallardo was beyond brutal in the home opener, giving up an astounding 21 pitcher bases (4 home runs and 5 walks).  His numbers have yet to recover, though his performance has improved.  It could hardly have gotten worse.   Gallardo is a good pitcher, and I am not worried about him.   At the moment he is sporting a gargantuan Isolated Pitching average of 2.555, but for his career he is an above average 0.712 and he should return to that norm.

Randy Wolf, on the other hand, is not a good pitcher.  He had one outstanding outing in last season’s NL Championship Series, and I think it has brought him more respect than he deserves.  He is a +1.0 Isolated Pitcher, and will always be.

Frankie Rodriguez has had one problem this season: he cannot locate the strike zone.  As soon as he does, he will be okay.

One pitcher who has been particularly impressive, but extremely unlucky, has been Zack Grienke.  Grienke has given up one solitary Pitcher Base for 12 Pitcher Outs recorded, for an outstanding Isolated Pitching average of 0.083.  Yes, he gave up 8 runs or whatever it was against the Cubs, but that was either bad fortune or bad defense.  The inning that killed him featured something like seven singles in a row, and most of them were what baseball people call “bleeders” (softly hit balls).  Most of the time those will be outs.

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