Milwaukee Milkmen Pitching Staff Rises to the Top
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at how the Milwaukee Milkmen pitching staff has established themselves as the top group in the American Association.
Laying the Ground Rules
One of the most challenging things about writing an article about something that is the “best” is that “best” is really in the eyes of the beholder. What may be the best for one does not mean that it is the best to another. However, those types of arguments can be refuted, especially when there are some objective stats to back it up. This is why it is easy to claim that the Milwaukee Milkmen have the best pitching staff in the American Association.
Let’s Dive into the Numbers
A quick look at the numbers proves that Milwaukee is the top group. Not only are they first in team ERA (3.97), but have a sizable lead over the Sioux City Explorers and the Kansas City Monarchs, both of whom come in at 4.36. The Kane County Cougars are right behind at 4.37, and there are only six teams who have team ERAs below 5.00.
The evidence does not end there, however. The Milkmen have the lowest WHIP in the league (1.25), which has largely occurred because of the impressive job that the team has done in throwing strikes. The Milkmen are third in hits allowed this season (379), but Milwaukee has issued the least amount of walks (137), and by a huge margin. Cleburne is second at 181, as the Milkmen are allowing fewer than three walks per game.
The Milkmen are fourth in opponent slugging percentage (.371) and third in opponent batting average (.240). Plus, they are first in most shutouts this season (4) and have thrown the fewest wild pitches (10), 15 fewer than the next team.
What Milwaukee does right is that they do not hurt themselves. They don’t walk batters, they don’t throw wild pitches, they don’t give up a lot of hits, and they also don’t allow errors to turn into big innings. The Milkmen have allowed 199 total runs, with only 17 being unearned. That is also the fewest number of unearned runs allowed this season, and proves that Milwaukee is not boasting the lowest ERA based upon the fact that they have given up a huge number of runs that did not count against their earned run average.
Rebounding from a Tough Start
What makes the numbers even more impressive is that the Milkmen pitching staff got off to a very tough start, posting a 5.36 ERA through May. However, they posted the best ERA in the American Association in June (3.10), more than half a run lower than the next team. This month they have the fourth best ERA (3.86).
It has been the starting staff leading the way for this team. Three of the top six ERAs in the American Association come from Milwaukee and four of the top 10 are Milkmen starters. The Kane County Cougars can claim that they have the top rotation, as three of the top five ERAs are on the Cougars staff, but there is not a better top four in the league than what the Milkmen have to offer.
Gregori Vasquez has been nothing short of spectacular since the beginning of the season, coming out of the bullpen to join the starting rotation where he has now allowed seven earned runs in 28.1 innings pitched. Vasquez holds the top ERA in the American Association (2.08), walking only seven batters in 43.1 innings.
As impressive as Vasquez has been, it is Christian Young who has risen to become the ace of the staff. The right-hander had a string of 23 scoreless innings this season and is 5-3 with a 2.34 ERA, second best. Young has struck out 60 batters in 50.0 innings, second best in the league.
Frankie Bartow moved into the starting rotation this season and has been an incredible force. The right-hander is 3-3 and holds the sixth best ERA in the league at 2.92. Bartow has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his nine starts and has walked only nine batters in 52.1 innings. That means that Vasquez and Bartow have combined to walk just 16 batters in 95.2 innings pitched.
The 10th best ERA in the league belongs to Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA, and has long established himself as a solid right-hander in the league. This year may be his best season of all, as he is on pace to win a single season-high 12 games.
Closing out the starting rotation is right-hander Kyle Mora, who is 3-1 with a 5.43 ERA. Mora got off to a tough start, giving up 12 earned runs to his first 17.2 innings, then had a stretch of three straight starts where he yielded a single run. Since then, however, he has given up 13 runs in his last 16 innings, meaning that the right-hander is just looking to gain some consistency.
As mentioned, the Cougars can claim that they have the top rotation as they have three starters with ERAs under three, but the bullpen clearly cannot match what Milwaukee has to offer. The Milkmen have five relievers with ERAs under four, including Peyton Gray, who has a 1.80 ERA in 15 appearances, allowing just four hits and two walks in 15.0 innings. The starting rotation had no room for Juan Echevarria, so he moved to the bullpen where he has a 3.16 ERA in nine appearances.
This is an incredibly impressive group and closer Nate Hadley has not even been mentioned yet. Hadley is second in saves this season (11), but has a 5.03 ERA. That has come courtesy of three bad outings where he allowed three earned runs in each outing. Take away those three outings and he has allowed just two earned runs in 16.2 innings.
They Say That Pitching and Defense…
There is an old adage in baseball that pitching and defense win championships. If that is true, the Milwaukee Milkmen are in line to earn their second title in four seasons. The Milkmen are first in ERA, and have the best starting rotation and bullpen in the league. In addition, the team is second in fielding percentage (.983) and in errors committed (28).
This is a team that is not hurting themselves. They are not allowing an error to open the floodgates to a big inning for opponents and are not giving up wild pitches or passed balls at inopportune times. This is a fundamentally sound team, and it is not surprising that the staff has helped Milwaukee to the top record in the East Division.
By Robert Pannier