That's What Cheesehead: 37.11 - The Weakness. Pitching Preview

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That's What Cheesehead: 37.11 - The Weakness. Pitching Preview

Post by 7teen » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:20 pm

It isn't a big secret. The Wolves pitching has been very problematic in recent seasons. Not even a shiny new ballpark designed to fix some of that has been a huge help to the group of aging veteran or low movement pitchers the Wolves have consistently trotted out to the mound the last two seasons. A year ago, the Wolves allowed 5.3 runs per game, the third most in the entire Frick League. This off-season, the Wolves signed, well, no one to really help. Instead they only saw veteran pitcher Jody Nunez walk in free agency and traded for an aging southpaw so it appears the Wolves will hold with the status quo when it comes to pitching and arms in 2037. Let's see how that could look.

Possible Starters
Mario Gonzalez (6/7/8 Ratings) enters the 2037 season as the most likely "ace" candidate for the rotation. He was solid a year ago, going 13-13 overall with a 3.0 overall WAR. He had a discounted team option that the Wolves picked up this off-season. While his ERA and WHIP were at higher than average levels, the Wolves would gladly take a similar season from Mario in 2037. At the age of 38, Gonzalez is still showing he has a little left in the tank. Another lefty bidding for a shot in the rotation is the recently traded for Noonien Soong (6/6/10 Ratings). The Wolves acquired Soong from Calgary in a trade. Soong has exceptional control that the Wolves hope can be a benefit in Shotz Stadium that is base hit friendly but less likely to yield homeruns. Soong had his worst season a year ago with the Pioneers but was coming off four consecutive seasons of posting at least a 2.0 WAR. The Wolves took a chance in hoping Soong could produce a WAR similar to those seasons and last year was just a bump in a road as Calgary disappointed last year.

James Robinson (9/6/6 Ratings) exceeded some expectations last year when he won 13 games, matching the win total of Gonzalez. He also led the team with a 3.1 WAR which allowed him to capture the team's top starting pitcher award last year. There were many who questioned the honor going to Robinson considering he 5.26 ERA but advanced stats indicated that wasn't necessarily all his fault. Another lefty looking for a return and a bounce back year is Jose Cavazos (7/7/7 Ratings). After winning 16 games in 2035 with Jacksonville, Cavazos fell on hard times last year in Madison as he finished with a 5.85 ERA and just 7 victories. He was able to win his 200th game last season so it wasn't necessarily all bad for the 37 year old.

A couple of younger guys looking to crack the rotation this season include Axel DeGiusti (9/3/8 Ratings) and Cisco Chavez (8/6/5 Ratings). DeGiusti is a hard throwing righty that has put together back to back solid years in the minor leagues coming into 2037. He's a low movement guy which does send up a few red flags as to whether he can maintain a solid career as a starter but in 2 of his 3 spring starts so far he's had some solid success. Chavez will likely return to AAA to start the season though he did get some team scouts excited a few weeks back when he showed some odd ratings bumps. But the following sim they returned to where they are now and excitement was put on hold. He still lacks the stuff right now to be an effective starter so the club will most likely stay patient with Chavez barring a bump before the season.

Bullpen
The Wolves have a lot of arms in the mix for bullpen spots but none of them exactly over excite the common fan. Sean Spits (10/6/5 Ratings) has recorded 79 saves over the last two seasons and will likely assume the closers role for the Wolves for the third straight season. He's a hard throwing, high strikeout guy that is very devastating against right handed hitters. Hector Diaz (8/3/10 Ratings) saw a ratings lump in stuff this off-season but he's been the resident work horse and likely ace of the bullpen for several seasons. His outstanding control and high stuff has made him a valuable reliever despite the low movement. His success has given the Wolves the impression that others similar to him can also be successful in Madison. Guys like Habib Mahsud Khel (10/2/8 Ratings) who the Wolves converted into a full-time reliever this off-season. The jury remains out on Khel and there are early indications that if he struggles early and during the first half of the season, this could be Khel's last shot.

Harold Lane (9/5/8 Ratings), Ken Vazquez (7/6/7 Ratings), Angel Guerrero (8/7/5 Ratings), and when he returns from the DL,
Andy Cantrell (6/7/7 Ratings) are all LOOGY type relievers the Wolves will look to utilize this season in the bullpen. With Cantrell on the DL, it is likely that one of Vazquez or Guerrero still doesn't make the staff out of spring training as it would put the Wolves in a roster crunch heading into opening day. Lane has a pretty solid track record as a setup man for the Wolves so his spot is likely secure.

Chris Grant (10/6/5 Ratings), Mauricio Graete (10/7/6 Ratings), and Barry Ronan (10/5/6 Ratings) are 3 hard throwing righties that will likely make the bullpen as well. Grant showed the ability last year to be a solid ROOGY reliever while Graete emerged as a rookie to be an effective young arm. Ronan spent last season on the staff since he was out of options. He struggled due to a lack of development but slowly showed some boost in ratings that'll hopefully make him a little better this year. Chet Barrett (9/2/9 Ratings) is also someone to look at down the road if any one gets injured. Barrett looks a lot like Khel and keeping both on the staff to start the season could be a risk if those 2 movement ratings are as bad as many expect they'll be.

Overall Assessment
Yeah it's not a solid group. The Wolves banked a lot last year in hoping that stockpiling a bunch of decent lefties would be a ticket to building a competitve staff. It didn't work despite showing it could be effective in 2035. The Wolves showed they weren't quite ready to pull the plug on the idea just yet as the staff could have several lefty arms again in 2037. Overall though, it's not hard to see that this may be one of the weakest pitching units in the Frick this season which may indicate why the club is looking to add offense to be competitive.

Keys to the Pitching
1. Can a heavy staff of left handers keep the Wolves at least competitive?
2. How will these low movement guys like Khel and DeGiusti perform this year in new roles?
3. Does Madison have any strings they can pull to make the pitching better than it is?
4. Can Madison keep their runs allowed closer to, or under 800 to allow the team to remain competitive?
Chris Wilson

LB Surfers
FL Pac Champs: '95

Madison Wolves
JL MW Champs: '99 to 2009, '17, '20, '21
JL Wildcard: '12
JL Champs: '01, '04, '09, '12
FL Heartland Champs: '32
FL Wildcard: '31, ‘33
MBWBA Champs: '04, '09

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