The 2014 season has been a nice surprise all around. The lineup was expected to hit for power, but the pitching has been key. So far the starters have been outstanding, one of the best rotations for Milwaukee in a long time. How good is this rotation? A fun comparison is to take the Brewers benchmark (1982) and see how they compare.
Like this season, in 1982 the Brewers went into the season as a known commodity at the plate. They weren’t given the nickname “Harvey’s Wallbangers” due to one-run games. If possible for a World Series pitching rotation to be underrated, the 192 staff may qualify. In 1982 the most used group was Pete Vuckovich, Mike Caldwell, Moose Haas, Bob McClure and Randy Lerch. Let’s compare to the 2014 rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada.
GO TO ACE
In 1982 there was no doubt who was getting the ball and that was Pete Vuckovich. The handle-barred Cy Young Award winner would win 75 percent of his starts, best in the major leagues. This year, Yovani Gallardo was sent out opening day and despite many great outings and an overall successful first half, he has shown inconsistency. At this point there is enough doubt to wonder whether Gallardo, Kyle Lohse or an improving Matt Garza is really the top pitcher needed for a win-or-go-home game.
Advantage: 1982 Brewers
In 1982, the rotation started most games with Jim Slaton, Jerry Augustine, Doc Medich and Don Sutton as fill-in starters (combined only started 26 games) and this season the Brewers five-man rotation have also taken the bulk of the starts. Having Jim Slaton and Don Sutton available is nice when making a run; however, the current trio of Jimmy Nelson, Will Smith and Tyler Thornburg have proved they are capable and ready should the need arise. It has been a long time (ever!?!) since the Brewers have had this many starting pitching options.
Advantage: 2014 Brewers
STRIKEOUTS (THE HOME RUNS OF PITCHING)
The World Series team seemed more veteran (read: savvy) and relied more on finesse and location than pure power, only Vuckovich and Haas threw over 100 strikeouts. If current trends hold, all five of the 2014 starters will throw over 150 strike outs this season.
Advantage: 2014 Brewers
The 2014 group is no slouch when it comes to facial hair (Gallardo, Lohse, Garza), but c’mon – the 1982 Brewers set the bar. Actually, this deserves a post of its own.
Advantage: Brewer fans of all ages
By default the fifth starter carries this label and that probably applies to both Randy Lerch and Marco Estrada. Lerch finished 8-7 with an ERA of 4.97 while Estrada’s win/loss may look impressive at 7-4 his ERA is over 5.00 and has given up 24 home runs in 96 innings. Note the past two seasons Estrada has improved the second half so…the jury is still out.
Advantage: No Winners Here
I mentioned the veteran style of the 1982 team, but they were not really that old, in fact are you ready to be blown away – the current starting rotation is older than the 1982 team (at the time obviously). No one expected the ’82 team to win any beauty pageants, but wow, that is some rough aging! Regardless that staff was clutch when needed and went deep into games, providing Rollie Fingers and staff a chance for the win or more often, a save. The 2014 rotation is similar in their ability to go deep into games. What I find exciting about the current rotation is that there is definitely room for improvement and they could just as easily self implode. EXCITING! Stay tuned…
Advantage: 1982 Brewers (2014 TBD)
Having a go-to-guy in Pete Vuckovich is a necessity for a pennant race and postseason run. Identifying their “ace” as the 2014 season winds down is essential if this team is planning to continue their underdog path into the postseason. This season has been fun to have a rotation with potential and ready-to-go youth waiting for an opportunity. Will there be a day when we look back on 2014 as the greatest Brewer rotation of all time? Just in case I’ll start to draft “Starting Rotation Showdown: 2014 vs. 2035.”
Advantage: 1982 Brewers (for now – check back after second half)
What do you think, which Brewer starting rotation was the best ever?