Player Profile: Jeff Suppan

10 03 2008

Jeff Suppan came into Milwaukee with big expectations after signing a franchise-record contract an off-season ago. He will enter this season with more scrutiny, as Brewers fans want to see the team’s money well spent. The Brewers front office never expected Cy Young numbers from Suppan though, so it is difficult to expect that to change for this season. With that said, let’s take a closer look at Soup.

’07 Stat Line

12-12 W-L, 4.62 ERA, 206.7 IP, 68 BB, 114 K

Strengths

Jeff is a very solid, middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the major leagues. He is a workhorse that will eat a lot of innings for the Crew. Melvin signed Soup because they knew that they would get over 200 innings and a veteran leader in the clubhouse. While, he is sometimes unimpressive on the mound, he still gets through innings and saves the bullpen when they’ve been overworked. I distinctly remember a game against the Minnesota Twins last year, in which Soup got shelled early in the game, but Yost kept trotting him out to the mound because the bullpen needed a rest. That’s what Suppan brings to Milwaukee. It may not be pretty all the time, but he can save the bullpen and will post 200+ innings in a season.

Besides the intangibles Suppan can bring the Crew because of his experience in the post-season, Jeff also has a very heavy fastball/sinker that induces a lot of ground balls. This is normally a very good situation for a team, but Milwaukee’s defense was so bad last year, that these ground balls put a lot of pressure on the infield. Soup mixes his speeds with his fastball and mixes in his above-average curveball very well, and he is able to keep hitters off-balance most of the time. He also throws a lot of junk in the low-80s along with those other two pitches. He is a savvy, veteran pitcher who knows how to play to a batter’s weaknesses and not just trying to overpower him.

Weaknesses

Jeff obviously does not have the ideal velocity for a starting pitcher, so he needs to rely on his defense and inducing ground balls. Last season, his fly ball rate was the highest it has been since 2002 with the Kansas City Royals. In Miller Park, this can get very dangerous, as the balls can fly out of the park with relative ease when the panels are open in the summer. He was not able to get his sinker down in the strike zone as often as he would’ve liked, so he started to rely more on his fastball at the end of the season. After making this switch, he was able to record 6 quality starts in the final 8 games he started. The Brewers hope to see that trend continue this season.

The other main issue with Jeff Suppan is his tendency to start nibbling at the strike zone after getting down in the count. He would much rather walk a batter than give up a home run, but this puts a lot of strain on the defense. His 68 walks need to be reduced a bit next season if he is going to be successful. If he can get his inducement of ground balls working again, these walks may not be too bad. He did seem to walk a lot of batters last year though, and that needs to be remedied.

Finally, Jeff is not a strike out pitcher. This is normally not too large of an issue, but with a below-average defense, there can be situations where a strike out is necessary. Jeff cannot always produce in that situation, as he’s not always able to get to his curveball. Hitters usually sit on his sinkers or fastballs, so if Soup could mix in his curveball a little more than just an out-pitch, it could be beneficial. The fact remains that Jeff will not strike too many batters out, so he needs a reliable defense to get outs behind him. Unfortunately, the Brewers do not provide him with that.

Arsenal

Suppan throws a high-80s to low-90s fastball, mixed with a mid-to-high 80s sinker to get ahead in the count. His out-pitch is a curveball that can be anywhere from 68-73 mph. He also changes his speeds on his pitches to throw a bunch of off-speed junk that can be anywhere from 79-84 mph range. It may not be pretty all the time, but Suppan pitches to contact and to induce ground balls.

Projections

ZiPS – 10-12 W-L, 4.76 ERA, 187 IP, 66 BB, 111 K
The Hardball Times – 10-11 W-L, 4.68 ERA, 187 IP, 68 BB, 103 K

These projections see Suppan’s ERA rising from last year’s total, and I disagree.  Milwaukee’s porous defense attributed to much of Suppan’s struggles throughout the season, and with the acquisition of Mike Cameron and the position changes of both Bill Hall and Ryan Braun, the defense should improve this season.  Defensive improvement should equal a lower ERA for Suppan.  At the same time, his increased fly ball rate and the high walk rate is something to be worried about.  He still should regress towards his career averages for the season.  These projections see Soup getting away from them.  Expect Jeff Suppan to improve this season, but not to improve too much to get excited about.  He still is not worth the $35M that he’ll be paid in the next few seasons.

Projected Stat Line: 11-11 W-L, 4.60 ERA, 198 IP, 67 BB, 113 K
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 7.0

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8 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News (3/10)

[…] – BrewersNation profiles Jeff Suppan. […]

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