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The Calendar Versus The Rotation

Two weeks ago, I investigated the state of the Brewers rotation in order to price out the benefits of acquiring an ace such as Sonny Gray. With rumors saying Milwaukee is finished with the Gray talks on account of Oakland’s high asking price, Brewers fans and analysts may expect a true regression from the rotation. However, it appears that there is another weapon in the Brewers’ favor should the club fail to bolster the rotation via trade market: the calendar.

Beginning with the July 31 off day, the Brewers have eight off days on the schedule. These off days provide a tactical advantage to a club that is rehabbing injured starters (Chase Anderson, potentially Matt Garza), potentially easing prospects into starting roles (probably Brandon Woodruff, maybe Josh Hader), giving other starters time to get mechanics right in the minors (Junior Guerra), and relying on a fantastic swingman (Brent Suter). How might these off days help the Brewers construct their rotation?

Two weeks ago, this was the scenario that promoted my comment about the Brewers regressing to 85 wins, assuming Junior Guerra and Zach Davies remaining in the rotation alongside Brent Suter:

RunsPrevented (RP) RemainingRP DRA_RP cFIP_RP Regression
S. Gray 0 (Perfectly Average) 15 9 11
J. Guerra -6 -29 -11 -9
B. Woodruff -2 -2 -2 -
Z. Davies -5 -11 -6 -3

Since this point in time, Davies is stabilized, Guerra is demoted, and Suter has continued to serve as a fantastic replacement starter / swingman. Given the reported return for Chase Anderson (mid-August), and the (hopeful) statement that Matt Garza might return quickly from his 10-day Disabled List stint, there are several different scenarios for stacking the end of season rotation. Let’s have a look:

Brewers Scenario1 Scenario2 Scenario3
8/1/2017 5th Starter J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/2/2017 J. Nelson B. Suter B. Suter
8/3/2017 B. Suter 5th Starter 5th Starter
8/4/2017 M. Garza Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/5/2017 Z. Davies J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/6/2017 5th Starter B. Suter B. Suter
8/7/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
8/8/2017 B. Suter 5th Starter 5th Starter
8/9/2017 M. Garza Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/10/2017 Z. Davies J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/11/2017 5th Starter B. Suter B. Suter
8/12/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
8/13/2017 B. Suter 5th Starter 5th Starter
8/14/2017 - - -
8/15/2017 M. Garza Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/16/2017 Z. Davies J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/17/2017 - - -
8/18/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
8/19/2017 B. Suter B. Suter B. Suter
8/20/2017 M. Garza Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/21/2017 Z. Davies J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/22/2017 5th Starter C. Anderson C. Anderson
8/23/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
8/24/2017 - - -
8/25/2017 B. Suter Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/26/2017 M. Garza J. Nelson J. Nelson
8/27/2017 Z. Davies C. Anderson C. Anderson
8/28/2017 - - -
8/29/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
8/30/2017 B. Suter Z. Davies Z. Davies
8/31/2017 M. Garza J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/1/2017 Z. Davies C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/2/2017 5th Starter B. Suter J. Guerra
9/3/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
9/4/2017 B. Suter Z. Davies Z. Davies
9/5/2017 M. Garza J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/6/2017 Z. Davies C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/7/2017 - - -
9/8/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
9/9/2017 B. Suter Z. Davies Z. Davies
9/10/2017 M. Garza J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/11/2017 Z. Davies C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/12/2017 5th Starter B. Suter J. Guerra
9/13/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
9/14/2017 - - -
9/15/2017 6th Starter Z. Davies Z. Davies
9/16/2017 B. Suter J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/17/2017 M. Garza C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/18/2017 Z. Davies B. Suter J. Guerra
9/19/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
9/20/2017 5th Starter Z. Davies Z. Davies
9/21/2017 B. Suter J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/22/2017 M. Garza C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/23/2017 Z. Davies B. Suter J. Guerra
9/24/2017 J. Nelson M. Garza M. Garza
9/25/2017 - - -
9/26/2017 5th Starter J. Nelson J. Nelson
9/27/2017 6th Starter Z. Davies Z. Davies
9/28/2017 B. Suter C. Anderson C. Anderson
9/29/2017 M. Garza M. Garza M. Garza
9/30/2017 Z. Davies B. Suter J. Guerra
10/1/2017 J. Nelson J. Nelson J. Nelson

Given that the overall picture for the rotation through Deserved Runs Average (DRA) and contextual Fielding Independent Pitching (cFIP) suggest that the rotation will not keep their current runs prevented pace, using the days off in the calendar to diminish the back end of the rotation will indeed save the Brewers runs. Using assumptions based on the 2017 Brewers’ replacement starters, the “anonymous” 5th and 6th starter model could improve the Brewers’ projected win total by at least one full win (compared to a standard rotation).

This chart includes Runs Prevented, which assesses pitching performance by judging actual runs allowed against the expected runs allowed based on 2017 National League / Miller Park environment, and DRA Runs Prevented, which uses the same process but scales pitching performance to DRA rather than actual runs allowed. The following innings pitched estimates are based on season-to-date statistics through Saturday, July 29, 2017:

Remaining1 GS ExpectedIP DRA_RnsPrv RnsPrv
J. Nelson 12 73.0 13.06 8.44
B. Suter 11 38.3 -4.81 8.17
M. Garza 11 60.3 2.21 2.98
Z. Davies 11 61.7 -2.67 0.22
5th Starter 8 27.3 -3.87 -5.67
6th Starter 2 7.0 -0.99 -1.45
Total 55 267.7 2.92 12.69

However, if one is more particular about the 5th starter by expecting Chase Anderson to return, the Brewers rotation could improve even further during this season closing stretch. In this case, Milwaukee can win at least two additional games than previously expected with a standard rotation:

Remaining1 GS ExpectedIP DRA_RnsPrv RnsPrv
J. Nelson 13 79.0 14.13 9.14
B. Suter 9 31.3 -3.93 6.68
M. Garza 11 60.3 2.21 2.98
Z. Davies 11 61.7 -2.67 0.22
C. Anderson 8 45.3 2.77 8.17
6th Starter 3 10.7 -1.52 -2.22
Total 55 288.3 10.99 24.96

With Zach Davies’s improved performance, which included a substantial quality start to close the Cubs series at Miller Park, the demotion of Guerra, and eight off days built into the schedule, Milwaukee can improve their rotation without acquiring an additional arm. The remaining question is whether such an improvement is enough at this point; while the club continues to average approximately 85 wins based on their daily park-adjusted runs scored and runs allowed W-L in 2017, the recent road trip and Cubs series are diminishing the Brewers’ actual expected W-L to approximately 84 wins (+3 RS / +32 RA). Ironically, this full exercise is for a part of the team (pitching staff) that remains the best area of the club as the bats plummet. At this point, two additional wins may help the Brewers reach 86 or 87 wins, which should keep the club deadlocked to the frontrunning Cubs without providing the ammunition to surpass them in the standings.


Photo Credit: Benny Sieu, USAToday Sports Images

 

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