Zack Grienke trade: Brewers get 2 mediocre pitchers and a decent shortstop

Tonight the Milwaukee Brewers traded star pitcher Zack Grienke to the LA Angels in exchange for two pitching prospects (Ariel Pena and John Hellweg) and a shortstop (Jean Segura).  The shortstop could be okay, depending on his defense, but the pitchers look mediocre or worse.


When evaluating pitchers, my theory — and its not a novel one — is that the only “bases allowed” to the opponent that they truly have control over are bases allowed on walks, hit-by-pitch, and home runs, and that the only outs they can be credited with producing are strikeouts.  Everything else is dependent, to a large extent, on the fielding behind them and dumb luck.  So I judge pitchers according to the bases THEY allow and the outs THEY produce.


The NL average Pitcher Bases/Pitcher Outs this season is 0.884 (I’m not counting HBP, because the Baseball Cube does not provide minor league HBP).  This season Zack Grienke’s PB/PO for the Brewers was an outstanding 0.442.  As a minor leaguer, Grienke posted a 0.621, and for his whole Major League career he has posted an above average 0.721.  He’s a very good pitcher.  I’m not as keen on either Hellweg or Pena.

Both pitchers performed at the AA level this season, and neither has advanced past that level.  For his minor league career, Hellweg has so far posted a PB/PO of 0.830.  That portends trouble because it is not far enough below the NL average to project Hellweg as an above average or even average ML pitcher.  More troubling still is Hellweg’s PB/PO at his highest level (AA): 1.045.  That’s awful.  Hellweg’s problem is that he lacks control and walks far too many batters.

Pena is a little more promising.  His minor league PB/PO so far is 0.794.  However, his AA level PB/PO is too high at 0.882.  Again, that would project him below average as a major leaguer.

Why are these numbers important?  Because pitchers are going to allow base hits that are not their fault.  The occasional dribbler, the seeing eye single, the double in the corner that the power hitting left fielder isn’t good enough to catch.  He can’t do anything about that.  But, the fewer bases he allows on his own accord, the less painful are those bases he cannot control.  And the same applies for strikeouts.  The more strikeouts, the fewer balls that are put in play, the lesser chance that said balls become bases which then could become runs.   In other words, pitchers like Grienke who give up fewer pitcher bases for every strikeout make the defense’s job easier and make the occasional basehit less painful.


As for Jean Segura, the shortstop prospect, I cannot speak very much on him because the most important task for a shortstop is to make outs in the field.  I don’t know how well he does that.  But, I do know that his bat has been okay.  The NL average Hitter Bases/Hitter Outs this season is 0.681.  Segura’s minor league average was 0.858, well above the major league average.  Now, we can expect that to decline when he gets to the majors, but its hard to predict how far.  I do note that Segura’s average at his highest substantive level of competition (AA) was only 0.747, which is troubling.  But, if he can provide a strong glove, the Brewers can live with him being merely a decent bat.


Overall, the Brewers didn’t get much for Zack Grienke.  But, that’s to be expected.  Nobody wants to give up much for a short term rental player like Grienke.  The days of the Doyle Alexander trades are long over.  The Brewers probably did as well as could be expected.


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