One common link to the Brewers most recent playoff appearances has been the acquisition of a top-notch ace to the starting rotation. In 2008, CC Sabathia was acquired on July 7th and carried the Brewers on his back to a Wild Card berth and their first playoff appearance in 26 seasons. Sabathia pitched 130 2/3 innings for the Brewers posting a 1.65 ERA, 128 strikeouts/25 walks, 14 team wins in 17 starts, seven complete games and as mentioned one drought ending playoff berth.
Two years later, after having arguably the best offense in the National League in 2010 with rising stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers stumbled to a 77-85 record due to a porous starting rotation consisting of Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Doug Davis. General Manager Doug Melvin immediately revamped the starting rotation in the offseason, trading for Shaun Marcum and then landing the 2009 American League Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke in a trade. While Melvin gave up top prospects in both deals the new combo joined current starters Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson to help immediately jumpstart the starting rotation and lead the Brewers to a franchise record 96-wins and to the NLCS.
The 2018 Brewers don’t have a bonafide ace leading their rotation, but they have been able to string together solid pitching and have been led by Jhoulys Chacin (8-3, 3.68 ERA, 6 Quality Starts (QS)), Chase Anderson (6-7, 3.78 ERA, 8 QS), and Junior Guerra (6-6, 3.23 ERA, 7 QS). Lefthander Brent Suter (8-6, 4.39 ERA, 2 QS) has filled in admirably after starting the season out of the bullpen. 22-year-old Freddy Peralta (4-1, 2.65 ERA) has thrown an impressive 50 strikeouts in his first seven MLB games, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the second half when given the opportunity. Brandon Woodruff (2-0, 4.44 ERA) has been up and down in his four spot starts and will most likely be kept in the bullpen or at AAA Colorado Springs, making an occasional spot start when needed.
Zach Davies (2-5, 5.23 ERA) had some high hopes for 2018 but those hopes, and expectations have been squashed due to various injuries. In the eight games Davies’ has pitched in in 2018 it hasn’t been pretty. Davies, who was acquired for Gerardo Parra from the Baltimore Orioles when the Brewers were sellers on trade deadline day in 2015, has most recently been recovering from a shoulder ailment and had a set back while pitching for the class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in which he exited his rehab start on July 2nd after experiencing lower back tightness. The timetable for his return is still up in the air as manager Craig Counsell was quoted as saying that the team will need to take “more conservative stance” on Davies’ rehabilitation.
Lefthander Wade Miley (1-1, 2.38 ERA) will make the first start for the Brewers in the second half of the season against the Dodgers. After being on the 60-day disabled list Miley came back to pitch five innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing two runs on four hits on July 12th. The Brewers are hoping the 31-year-old can be a steady presence for the pitching staff and maybe re-find the spark he had while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was named an All-Star in his rookie season of 2012. The last few seasons have not been kind to Miley. While with the Orioles last season Miley set career worsts in ERA (5.61), losses (15) and walks (93), so the Brewers are not looking at Miley to be a savior by any means, but more so a cheap roll of the dice on an experienced lefty to find whether he has anything left in the tank and hopefully to eat some quality innings up.
Who can the Brewers add to their starting pitching staff to help get them to October baseball?
The obvious elephant in the room is when Jimmy Nelson will return to the team? Nelson, who has been out with since September 8, 2017 with a right rotator cuff tear and partial anterior labrum tear is still going through rehab and it is very uncertain of where Nelson is in the process as the last reports were that he has not thrown off a mound yet. Nelson would be a great in-house addition, however that would be if he were able to match or at least come close to his 2017 performance of 199 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA while posting a 12-6 record. There are a lot of questions concerning Nelson’s status for 2018 and the trade deadline could reveal what the Brewers’ thoughts are on Nelson not only returning but also being able to positively contribute this season.
From the Minor League System, the Brewers could hope that the early promising display by Freddy Peralta isn’t a flash in the pan and he is given more opportunities to start and earn his keep. Corbin Burnes has been a very exciting call up, but for now the Brewers will keep him in the bullpen even though he came through the system as a starter.
Most likely the Brewers Minor League system will produce the attractive young pitching prospects to help lure seasoned and proven pitching help to get the Brewers to playing in October this year. Such prospects include RHP Luis Ortiz, LHP Kodi Medeiros and RHP Marcos Diplan whom are all on the Brewers’ top 30 prospect list.
The trade deadline is approaching on July 31 and some names that have been brought up include:
J.A. Happ- Toronto Blue Jays- the 35-year-old lefthander is having a career year and made his first All-Star appearance posting a 10-6 record, 4.29 ERA, 121 strikeouts and 8 QS. Happ wouldn’t be the ace but would help solidify a quality rotation for the final two-plus month stretch of the season.
Cole Hamels- Texas Rangers– the 34-year-old, four time all star and 2008 World Series MVP is just 5-8 with a 4.36 ERA but could use a change of scenery as Texas finds themselves in a rebuild and a chance to return to the postseason might just be the trick to rejuvenate Hamel’s down the stretch. Hamel’s contract is set to expire this year and has a history of big game success.
Chris Archer- Tampa Bay Rays– Archer hasn’t shown his previous ace like stuff over the course of 2018 and the stars seem to be aligning in Tampa Bay for a time to make a move. While also dealing with an abdominal strain the 29-year-old, two time All-Star, has posted a 3-4 record with a 4.29 ERA. Archer does have an appealing contract situation which a small market team, like the Brewers, would drool over. If the club options are picked up, Archer would be owed $26.67 million total from 2019-2021. However, Archer would come at a relatively steep price tag, but if he can get on track the move could pay off great dividends immediately and for the next few seasons to come.
Tyson Ross- San Diego Padres- with the Padres looking to unload all of their Major League assets it would seem that the Brewers may have a chance to acquire Ross to eat up innings at a low cost. Ross is set to be a free agent after the season and the 31-year old has 11 quality starts to go along with a 5-8 record on a dreadful Padres ball club and a 4.32 ERA. Ross presents as a quality, lower cost possible acquisition who was an All-Star in 2014 and while he has had questions about his consistency, but has several suitors calling the Padres inquiring about him.
Jacob deGrom- New York Mets– the Mets’ pitcher has been one of the best in all of baseball and while there were rumors connecting him to the Brewers, it is believed that ship has sailed, and deGrom will sign a long-term deal with the Mets or it would take a king’s ransom the Brewers cannot provide to get him.
How will the current rotation work out in the final two months?
With the stellar performance by the bullpen being a key reason to the Brewers’ first half success it will be up to the starters to keep accumulating quality starts and eating up innings to give the bullpen rest and help give the team a boost in the race for October. When the Brewers lost out to the Dodgers for the services to star shortstop Manny Machado it has led many speculations to believe that GM David Stearns will be focusing on adding an arm as the injury bug will likely rear its ugly head at least once more as the season rolls on.
Craig Counsell and pitching coach Derek Johnson will need to count on their staff to get every out they possibly can and start to rake up more quality starts. A quality start is a statistic for a starting pitcher defined as a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. The MLB leaders in the first half are the Astros’ Justin Verlander, Nationals’ Max Scherzer and Indians’ Corey Kluber all whom have 17 quality starts. As shown in the stats of the Brewers’ starters above the team leader thus far is Anderson with eight.
Expect that Stearns shores up the middle infield by acquiring Brian Dozier or a comparable player and then also looks to help solidify the starting rotation adding someone in the form of J.A. Happ or Tyson Ross. However, Stearns has proven to be a very shrewd and successful General Manager in his brief tenure in the position and now with the Brewers knocking on the door the playoffs Stearns needs to play the right cards over the next 11 days to help find the right pieces to kick the door down. While the chance of hitting the jackpot with Machado didn’t happen the Brewers must do all they can to help increase their playoff chances while fighting a tight battle with the Chicago Cubs (and possibly St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates) for the NL Central title and the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, and Washington Nationals for one of the two available Wild Card spots.
One thing all Brewers’ fans can agree on is that it’s very fun to be ahead of the “rebuilding” schedule.