Looking back at a 2011 season that ended in a NLCS run, the Brewers have nothing to be ashamed of, especially in the department of pitching. The acquisition of former Royals’ ace Zack Greinke was a huge move, alongside trading for former Blue Jays’ pitcher Shaun Marcum. In a Brewers’ rotation (namely 2010) that consisted primarily of Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Doug Davis (who is now with the Chicago Cubs), the pitching efforts were a little average. Everything the Brewers’ rotation knew changed heading into 2011.
After having to miss a few starts due to an injury in 2011, Zack Greinke was back on track from when he left off with the Royals. Last year proved to be a very good pitching year for Greinke, as the switch from ALto NL isn’t always the easiest thing to overcome. Overall, Greinke posted a 16-6 record alongside a 3.83 ERA, and 201 strikeouts in 2011. While most pitchers and fan bases would be content with these numbers, the only thing I can say is that it gives Greinke room to improve in the NL. His postseason numbers against Arizona and St. Louis weren’t the best as he went 1-1 with an ERA of 6.48. 2012 is not only a promising year for the Brew Crew after 2011, but also another promising year in the career of Zack Greinke.
When Shaun Marcum came over from the Blue Jays, it was definitely a huge gain on the part of the Brewers. The Blue Jays were left with Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek and Brandon Morrow, where as the Brewers had done nothing but improve their roster. Marcum’s 2011 were decent, as he went 13-7, with an ERA of 3.54, 158 strikeouts and had the lowest WHIP out of the five starters at 1.16. No Brewer fan wants to remember that heartbreaking NLCS Game 6 against the Cardinals, but one person I can guarantee that doesn’t want to remember it is Marcum. However, the past is the past and there is no point dwelling on it. Marcum’s career numbers are really not that bad, especially since he had only become a major force in a rotation during the ending of his tenure with the Blue Jays. The fact that Marcum produced solid results in 2011 means he definitely can do the same in 2012.
Before the arrivals of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the one big pitching name in Milwaukeewas and still is Yovani Gallardo. The thing that impressed me year in, year out about Gallardo is that no matter what the score was, he seemed to always stay in a game very long. That in itself says a lot about a pitcher and their confidence and or stamina. At 25, Gallardo as really established himself as one of the most underrated pitchers in the MLB. His career ERA is 3.63 with a 53-34 record and 732 strikeouts. 2011 was great year in the young career of Gallardo. He went 17-10, had a 3.52 ERA and 207 strikeouts. Getting 200 strikeouts in a season has become somewhat of a goal for most pitchers as many aren’t able to do it anymore, but Gallardo proves them wrong. Gallardo will continue to be the dominant pitcher he is for many years to come.
I suppose one of the most under valued pitchers (not by Brewers’ fans but by baseball fans in general) is that of Randy Wolf. Wolf has been far from the spotlight when pitching is the topic, but not here. Throughout his career, Wolf has pitched for five different teams (the Brewers being his fifth), which funny enough were all NL teams. Since his debut in 1999, Wolf has been one of the pitchers that gets the job done. His numbers may not match up to that of Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander, but Wolf is a great pitcher and fits very well in the Brewers’ rotation. 2011 was a decent year for Wolf as he posted a 13-10 record with a 3.69 ERA and 134 strikeouts. The reality of the situation is that Randy Wolf is not getting any younger. At 35 (36 in August), Wolf still has some gas left in his arm, but how much is uncertain. This may end up paving the way for younger pitchers like Amaury Rivas, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers, but as of now, Wolf is by no means slowing down.
The last of the rotation is probably also the most surprising. Heading in 2011, there was a question as to who was filling the fifth man spot. Well honestly, I don’t think Ron Roenicke could’ve landed on a better pitcher than that of Chris Narveson. Narveson was perhaps the most intriguing pitcher out of the five, because really, prior to 2010, he hadn’t pitched much. While his 2011 ERA was a tad high at 4.45, Narveson still managed an 11-8 alongside 126 strikeouts. Before 2010, Narveson was really only a bullpen pitcher and not many guys adjust well from the pen to starting, but he found a way, and has definitely earned his spot. The greatest thing about him is that he doesn’t throw the biggest variety of pitches, mainly a fastball, changeup and a curveball, but still gets batters out. In 2012, expect more of the same from Narveson.
The one thing that impressed me about Milwaukee’s rotation is that each of the five starters had ten wins or more. What other pitching staffs can attest to that, besides Philly. Honestly, the Brewers have a top five (I have them at fourth) rotation behind Philly, San Francisco, the newly formed Angels and the Rays behind Milwaukee. There’s no doubt in my mind that 2011 showed the true strength of not only the starting pitching, but entire pitching staff in general. Closer John Axford had 46 saves, the most in the NL tied with Atlanta’s rookie sensation Craig Kimbrel. In 2011, the Brewers’ pitching staff was 9th overall in ERA at 3.63, 5th overall in quality starts with 98, 4th overall in WHIP at 1.24 and 8th overall in opponents’ batting average at .246. Obviously, there’s something very special that the Brewers have that not many teams can account for, a solid offense and solid pitching. The rotation of Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo, Wolf and Narveson is truly underrated. I definitely think the Milwaukee Brewers will be the 2012 NL Central champs once again.