Sunday, June 7, 2009

Comparing Brewers Aces

The Brewers were a tougher team to find "aces" for than the Cubs or Cardinals. Obviously, there's Ben Sheets in the aughts, but the 70's, 80's, and 90's initially seemed like a wasteland for Brewers pitchers based on my (admittedly limited) memories of the club during the early days of my youth. Fortunately, a bit of research turned up some specters of baseball card collections past: Teddy Higuera, who I'd always thought was a flash-in-the-pan sort of player but who had several good years beyond his three dominant seasons; Mike Caldwell, who was a flash-in-the-pan but burned brightly for a couple years in the late 70's; and Bill Wegman, a slow-and-steady type who had two strong seasons in the early 90's and was largely average otherwise.

The list isn't chock full of Hall of Famers, but it made for an interesting comparison regardless. First, here's each player's WAR as a Brewer:

The season numbers on the x-axis represent each year of the player's career, so a player with a value at (1, y) began his career as a Brewer, while players further along the axis began their careers elsewhere and joined the team in year x of their careers (in this case, only Caldwell was a rookie outside of Milwaukee).

Here's the same data, but sorted in descending order from highest-WAR season as a Brewer to lowest:

As it turns out, Higeura was better than I'd remembered. Aside from his three big seasons, he also posted a WAR over 2.0 three more times, giving him a career WAR as a Brewer of 28.3, easily beating Sheets' second place total of 23.9. Bill Wegman, meanwhile, played tortoise to Mike Caldwell's hare, as the two came in third and fourth with WAR totals of 16.2 and 15.9, respectively.

It's worth noting, however, that Sheets put up his WAR totals in three fewer seasons than Higuera, and that although he is rehabbing from elbow surgery, he's still probably the best arm on the market right now (seriously, if nobody signs him to an incentive-laden contract after the draft, I'll be beyond baffled—Sheets is an ace when healthy, and he's bounced back from injury before). If the Brewers resign him, he could easily pass up Higuera with a good season or two. Plus, as Caleb would probably be quick to remind me if I failed to mention this, we may well be talking about Yovani Gallardo in a few years. But for now, Teddy Higuera is king of the mountain amongst Brewers aces in career WAR [edit: dammit, Caleb was right].


  1. I know you wouldn't expect me to say this but the Gallardo tag was really unnecessary.

  2. Consider it removed. Also, consider me baffled.

  3. Also that last sentence should have ended six words sooner.

  4. You're absolutely right. I wrote it six words shorter to begin with, but calling Teddy Higuera "king of the mountain" without any sort of qualifiers struck me as absurd. So I went overboard. Damnation.

    Of course, since I am a petty man, I'll be sure to edit all of your future posts such that every sentence of yours ends six words sooner than you wrote it. Sentences of fewer than six words will have additional words deducted from the previous sentence. Godspeed, brave soldier.

  5. Addendum: "purple monkey dishwasher" is three words, not four, for the purposes of editing.