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December 10, 2010
Warning Track Power
Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Brewers made one of the first major splashes of the Winter Meetings by landing the Blue Jays’ Shaun Marcum for Canadian prospect Brett Lawrie. While losing their top prospect could cause a post-trade hangover in the long run, there is little doubt that the Brewers rotation is getting a swell upgrade for the near-term. The entire Brewers rotation is poised to make major strides in overall performance next year. Today, I will examine the legitimacy of Marcum's 2010 performance, how his pitching can help the Milwaukee rotation, and what Wisconsinites can expect from the Brew Crew’s 2011 rotation.
First, take a gander at the table below for a snapshot of what Marcum's 2010 line looked like:
As we can see, Marcum solidified himself as a legitimate second starter on most staffs. After being chosen to be the first non-Roy Halladay Opening Day starter since 2002, Marcum did not disappoint Toronto fans after he ended the season with 13 wins and the highest strikeout and lowest walk rates of his career. Even more impressive, the right-hander, fresh off of a Tommy John rehab stint that kept him out of the majors in 2009, was able to last 195
Marcum's BABIP does stick out. While some databases disagree on what the exact number is, all sources point to a sub-.300 BABIP, a red flag to some. However, he has posted a career .273 BABIP, so his most recent success has not come solely on the wings of luck and fortune. Marcum was also able to float around his career BABIP with a Blue Jays defense that ranked 20th in the majors in Defensive Efficiency last season. This bodes well for the right-hander's future with the Brewers, a team that sported the second worst DE in the league last year despite the presence of Alcides Escobar at shortstop and 618
In addition to the post-Tommy John resurgence and performance with a poor defense, Marcum's 2010 season was also impressive because he pitched in the AL East. Here is a quick look at the quality of opponents Marcum had to face in terms of on-base percentage, slugging average, and the sum of those two figures and where he ranked among major-league hurlers with 120-plus innings pitched:
Clearly, Marcum was no slouch in terms of the batting talent he faced in 2010. Having ranked in the top 23 in each category amongst the robust class of those who threw 120 innings (and top eight for those with 195 IP) last season, Marcum was able to succeed on the most difficult of stages. Even better, no National League pitcher with at least 120 IP faced tougher opponents than Marcum did in 2010.
To put things into better perspective, let's take a look at the quality of offenses (adhering to the same criterion as above) that Milwaukee's staff faced in 2010:
No Milwaukee starter came close to the talent Marcum faced last season. While it's nice to see that Gallardo was able to test himself against the toughest opponents of this bunch as he continues his path towards acehood, there's really nothing in these numbers that could have inspired jumps of joy from the Brewers before this deal. While the effects of changing leagues could end in a variety of ways, it's hard not to like Marcum's chances of dominance next season.
Still, even with the relatively lackluster quality of opponents, the Brewers staff did show a reasonable amount of highs and lows during 2010. Here is a look at what the staff did last season:
As the table shows, there were a variety of performances from the Brewers' pitching staff in both quality and quantity. Gallardo was a good as advertised, posting the team's best SIERA and strikeouts per inning marks. Wolf and Bush combined for nearly 300 innings of slightly above-average pitching, but their peripherals indicate they may have lucked into their ERA numbers.
However, there is reason for optimism outside of Marcum and Gallardo. Narveson and Parra flashed some of their potential last season. Plagued by inconsistent command and a high home-run rate in 2010, Parra will need to make good on his inflated SIERA if he wants to keep a regular starting job next season. If the poor Brewers' defense could help Parra lower his BABIP, the lefty could end up being an effective starter for Milwaukee next season. Narveson is also poised for an improved performance next season. Though he didn't have the BABIP troubles that Parra had, Narveson was able to post the third-best SIERA on the staff last season, despite his near-tie for the worst ERA. While one cannot fully expect a breakout campaign, Brewers fans can be cautiously optimistic about this lefty as well.
Given Doug Melvin does not add another starter to his rotation, here is a look at what the Milwaukee staff will be: Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf, Narveson, and Parra.
If things break right in 2011, the Brewers could have the best non-St. Louis Cardinals rotation in the NL Central. Regression is expected in Wolf's performance, but his ability to give non-dreadful innings will be very important to support this young staff. Don't be surprised if the Brewers at least entertain the idea of bringing in a back-end starter to reduce the uncertainty surrounding a fourth- and fifth-starter combination of Parra and Narveson. While Gallardo will surely get the Opening Day nod, both he and Marcum should be competing for the "Staff Ace" title over the next couple of years.
At this point, the Brewers may not be a playoff team, but they have made significant improvements for the immediate future. While their offense, defense, and bullpen all have plenty of question marks, the Milwaukee rotation could be a finished product. It seems that the team brewing at Miller Park is becoming much more intriguing as 2011 draws nigh.