Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #38 Chris Narveson
Today is February 28th. Opening Day is April 6th. In 75 percent of years, this would make Opening Day 37 days hence. That would mean that I would be profiling Mark Rogers today.
But this year, we are in the 25 percent. This year is a leap year which, of course, means that an extra day is added to the calendar because of the earth’s trip around the sun actually being 365¼ days. This year, February 29th exists as a thing.
To summarize, today is 38 days away from Opening Day 2012 and we therefore profile the third member of the projected pitching rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers:
Christopher Gregg Narveson is a 30-year-old southpaw originally from Englewood, Colorado. He bats and throws left-handed and stands atop the pitching mound with a 6’3”, 205 pound frame casting a shadow onto the dirt beneath his feet.
Originally drafted in 2000 out of T.C. Robertson High School by the St. Louis Cardinals, Narveson was coming off of back-to-back undefeated seasons as a junior and senior when he went 22-0.
In the offseason following the 2001 season, Narveson had Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm. He pitched well following his return but was traded to the Colorado Rockies organization in 2004 as a “Player To Be Named Later” in the deal which sent Larry Walker to the Gateway City.
2005 led to Narveson being traded from Colorado’s organization to Boston’s, and a later waiving by the Red Sox resulted in Narveson being claimed by his original team, the Cardinals.
Narveson made his Major League debut as a September call up in 2006. After the 2007 season, Narveson became a minor-league free agent and, after pitching in the Mexican Pacific League, signed as a free agent with the Brewers on December 4th.
Normally I don’t spend as much time on a player’s entire path to Milwaukee, but many people seem to think that Narveson spent his entire career in the Cardinals system before coming to the Brewers, and being as that isn’t the case, I wanted to highlight it for you for educational purposes.
Narveson spent 2008 in Triple-A with the Nashville Sounds and made his Brewers debut in 2009. He made the Opening Day roster in 2010 and after starting in the bullpen ended up making 28 starts. In 2011 he was a starting pitcher for nearly the entire season, except a short stretch in September when the team was trying to ready themselves for a playoff rotation.
Last season saw an 11-8 record in 28 starts from Ron Roenicke’s 5th starter. He spent one abbreviated stint on the DL after accidentally lacerating the thumb on his pitching hand while attempting to repair his glove with a pair of scissors.
In all, Narveson threw 161.2 innings, allowing 160 hits, 65 walks (1.39 WHIP), 82 runs (80 of them earned), 17 home runs, and held opponents to a .258 batting average while striking out 126 batters. Not bad numbers at all from a fifth starter, one whom many cite among the best 5-men in the game.
Not one to rest on any laurels, Narveson is looking to improve his game this spring by working on a new pitch. After seeing how fellow lefty Randy Wolf had success implementing a cut fastball in 2011, Narveson hopes to add the weapon to his arsenal for 2012.
That would potentially add a fifth pitch to the Narv-Dog’s collection, assuming he would continue to throw a slider. (Many pitchers that throw one don’t bother with the other.) Then again, Narveson’s percentage of sliders to his overall pitch total was only 5.9 in 2011 anyway.
Regardless, Narveson does take the bump armed with a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup as well. His fastball averages 87.8 MPH in 2011, the curve 73.2 MPH with fair break, and his straight changeup clocked an average of 80.4 MPH. Sliders thrown by Narveson last year were delivered on average at 82.7 MPH.
(Possibly adding a new pitch isn’t the only thing that Narveson is toying with this Spring. He also recently joined the Brewers Twitterverse under the handle @sleep_trick. Give him a follow and interact.)
The best thing that can be said about the outlook of the rotation in 2012 is that it is the same rotation that started in 92 of the team-record 96 wins in 2011. Narveson was a key part of that group and looks like a good bet to improve on some of his supporting numbers.
As for the win total and ERA (4.45, for the record)? A better bullpen and better defense backing him up tend to positively influence both of those somewhat uncontrollable markers.
Step one would be to improve on his average of 5.2 innings pitched per start. Getting through the sixth inning will be one major factor in increasing his rate of return.
Bottom line: While the Brewers fortunes as a ballclub hardly rest on the arm of Chris Narveson, any positive contribution isn’t simply gravy because he’s the fifth starter. His role is important, his starts are important, and his results are important.
Nobody is expecting nor asking him to be Yovani Gallardo or Zack Greinke. Being Chris Narveson is all that’s required.
It is fortunate for the Brewers, though, that right now Chris Narveson is good enough.