As the new year rings in, the offseason gradually starts to come to a close with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 12. If you haven’t been living under a rock this off-season then you would know the Brewers did quite a significant flip in their rotation. After trading away Zach Davies and Chase Anderson the Brewers replace them with three guys who could be considered “under the radar”. First off with Eric Lauer who was acquired in a trade with the Padres. Then you have Brett Anderson acquired in free agency as well as Josh Linblom who is trying to restart his career after a few seasons in Korea. I don’t know about you, but these are the moves that I expected coming out of the Brewers this season when it came to acquiring pitchers. However I really didn’t see the departures of Anderson and Davies. It all makes sense though when you break down these pitchers and see how Stearns has changed the look.
(Just a preface there was no advanced stats/pitch breakdowns for Josh Linblom that I could find due to his years in Korea)
Let’s start with the departures of the staff this offseason (so far at least). When you begin to break down Anderson and Davies careers you can easily see one thing they have in common is inconsistency.
You can see in the tables especially with Chase where there is so much fluctuation between each season. Sure they both have had great years, but you never know what you are going to get the next season. You can also see a lot of inconsistency when it comes to both of their pitcher profiles.
With Anderson over the last two years the four seamer has been the most used pitch. However the wOBA had over a .040 increase from 2018 to 2019. There is also an increase in his wOBA in every pitch he throws except for his cutter which had a significant decrease.
Lastly with Zach Davies you can really see why the Brewers mindset was possibly trading him a year early, rather than a year too late. The last two years the sinker was still the main pitch, however the it effectiveness seemed to have faltered with it’s wOBA going up nearly .050. In 2019 his changeup was the second used pitch, where in 2018 it was towards the bottom of his arsonal which is a good sign. The cutter slightly improved, however the real issue came with his curveball. In 2018 it was very effective with a .277 wOBA and was the second used pitch. However in 2019 the wOBA raised to .506 and the usage went to the second last on his list. This all may seem jiberish, but what it shows it that from year to year his arsonal changed so much. That can show that hitters are adapting quickly to his pitches and he will eventually become ineffective.
After all this explanation it is visible that there has been so much inconsistency between each season. Every time you gave one of them the ball at the beginning of the season you never knew what pitcher you were going to get. For Chase it could have been the 2017 pitcher who was so incredibly dependable, or the 2018 version who couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark. Then with Davies you could have gotten the 2017 version who was so efficient or the 2018 version who couldn’t seem to find the strike zone upon being buried with injuries. With as much fluctuation there has been in the rotation the last couple of years the Brewers didn’t want to gamble which player they were going to get.
This is where you can really see the importance in the Eric Lauer and Brett Anderson accusations. Beginning with Lauer his two seasons so far have been extremely consistent as well as trending in the right direction.
It’s important to begin this with the idea that I am aware these aren’t fantastic numbers. However these are numbers that are of similar value, so when you give him the ball on his first start you have a good idea on what you are going to get. Not only that but they are all trending upwards, especially in his pitch arsenal. Every pitch had a significant improvement except for his slider which he only threw 201 of them last year. Needless to say he is only two years into his major league career and Lauer seems to be a steady force the Brewers have been craving the last couple of years.
Moving onto Brett Anderson you again don’t see number that jump out above the rest.
What you do see however is an overwhelming amount of consistency for a player of his caliber. If you take out his 2016 completely he has been very consistent and most importantly for the Brewers inexpensive. Also his pitch profiles are fairly similar over his career and most importantly over the last two years. With his top two pitches being a sinker slider combo it is telling that he has been able to be this consistent over the years.
It’s safe to say the new additions to the rotation aren’t ones who jump off the page. This offseason however, I think Stearns might have begun to value consistency over a couple great seasons. If you think about it with Lauer and Anderson, their stats are “worse” making it seem as a downgrade. Withal, consistency may be proving more valuable meaning that this offseason could have very well been more of an improvement than what it looks like to the naked eye.