Comparing the rotations of the Rays and Brewers reveals two organizations with drastically different philosophies about pitching mechanics.
I wrote an article last September in which I detailed the surprising pitching of the Oakland Athletics. The piece included a breakdown of four different A's pitchers, and I noted that many of the players shared specific similarities which reflected an organizational trend toward mechanical efficiency. The A's have a long history of successful pitching development, and the team's mechanical points of emphasis were apparent by looking at the tendencies of the players whom they had developed and/or acquired over the years.
I spent much of the offseason poring over pitcher mechanics and preparing over 100 mechanical report cards for the pitchers in the 2013 Starting Pitcher Guide in my first year working with Paul Sporer on his annual project. I had already watched the majority of these pitchers in the past, spread out over months or sometimes years, but the examination of so many pitchers over such a short timeframe revealed a number of other patterns that cropped up with pitchers from certain organizations.
A look at what the Brewers' rotation options offer from a stuff (and beer) perspective.
I like the old cliché, “You go as far as your starting pitching takes you.” It's best to have about seven to nine arms handy to get through the season, because pitchers often get hurt or fail to meet expectations.
Brewers fans may recall a recent season where they barely used six starters. Then, of course, there's last year, when they needed 11. Somewhere in between is normal. For the 2013 Brewers, the question is not if they will go deep into their rotation, but when. And as the summer nears, manager Ron Roenicke will be handing the ball to quite a few young arms.
In a few weeks, we'll deem one organization's minor-league talent the best in baseball. What will that portend for the team?
In three weeks or so, Jason Parks is going to publish his organizational rankings. Rankings like these, prospect writers will remind you, are a snapshot. They capture reality at a particular moment, the publication upon which that reality immediately shifts into something slightly different or significantly different. There’s no permanent truth for prospects.
But there is the snapshot, and snapshots can be powerful. We weren't ranking organizations yet in 2004, but just before that season Baseball America ranked the Brewers the best farm system in baseball. The Brewers were otherwise in a lousy place: They hadn’t had a winning record in 11 seasons, tied for the longest streak in baseball at the time. The team president predicted Milwaukee would snap that streak in 2004, but when ownership instead chose to cut payroll to $28 million—lowest in baseball, and $35 million below the league median—the Brewers fired the team president (and traded Richie Sexson). But at least the Brewers had the snapshot of that farm system. When GM Doug Melvin wrote a letter to Brewers fans that offseason and had it published in Milwaukee newspapers, the farm system was something to feel good about:
The Brewers are riding a hot streak right now, but will it be anywhere near enough for them to sneak into the playoffs?
The Brewers have won 15 of 20 and, after a two-out, two-run home run from Norichika Aoki to tie the game up in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, the club was ever-so-close to sweeping the Cardinals and moving to within four games of the Wild Card spot. As it happened, however, St. Louis came through in the bottom of the tenth inning to win the game and keep the Crew six games back and tied with the Phillies for the final spot. In short, Milwaukee has a very long, if not impossible, road to the playoffs. That isn't going to keep Brewers fans from believing, however, especially after the 2011 Cardinals (and 2007 Rockies before them) showed them that a big September might be all it takes. Are they right to believe?
As of Monday morning, Milwaukee was six games out of the final Wild Card spot with two teams—the Dodgers and Pirates—between them and the holder of that spot, the Cards. That's three teams that must somehow flounder in these last three weeks while the Brewers surge. Considering that some of those teams ahead of the Brewers also play each other, the situation is pretty bleak.