Should the Brewers look at James McDonald?


As the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2013 season comes to a close in the coming weeks, there’s one particular piece of the team that’s stuck out, the starting pitching. Recently, the Pittsburgh Pirates parted ways with starting pitcher James McDonald, who is now looking for a home.

Could the Brewers and McDonald unite as one come 2014?

James McDonald could provide a solid presence as a three or four in the rotation. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even though general manager Doug Melvin has said in the past that he’s “confident” in the Brewers’ starters for 2014, he may be a bit of an optimist. The Brewers only have a couple starters they can call legitimate, those starters being Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo, who both could be on the move sometime next season.

Beyond these two, the rotation is still a bit of a mystery. Sure we can make a case for Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada, but they’re inconsistent and Tyler Thornburg seems to get snubbed out of the rotation, though he’s been a part of it as of late. There is no solid fifth starter in the rotation and everyone knows this, which is why the Brewers should take a gander at McDonald.

Now I’m not saying McDonald is going to be the answer to all the problems facing the Brewers, but he certainly couldn’t hurt to try out. He’s had multiple years of experience of not only the major leagues, but inside the National League Central as well.

Looking at his numbers, McDonald is a career 32-30 pitcher with an ERA of 4.20 and has 512.1 innings under his belt. McDonald’s numbers aren’t the flashiest out there, but it’s something the team can work with and something he can improve at. At 28, McDonald is in the prime of his career so his value could tremendously skyrocket if the Brewers were to take a chance on him and it were to be successful.

In 2012, McDonald started off the season incredibly strong with an ERA of 2.44 within the first three months. Yes, the bottom sort of fell out beneath him after July, but amid some rough starts, McDonald had a few nice outings, including a complete game and a seven inning shutout. Not only that, but a lot of the damage done to McDonald was against Milwaukee, so he wouldn’t have to worry about facing that line-up again.

2013 was a bit of a disappointment for McDonald as he only made six starts while battling injuries and pitching in the minors before being desginated for assignment. However, six starts is hardly a sample size, so looking at 2011 compared to 2012, we’ll see had the exact same ERA of 4.21 and innings pitched of 171 in both seasons, but there’s a few things about 2012 that stand out for the right hander.

Could McDonald work in a starting rotation crafted by manager Ron Roenicke? Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

2012 was probably McDonald’s best season of his career, though on a broad-scale of pitchers, it was very average. McDonald saw the rise and fall of a lot of stats from 2011, in which he pitched the same amount of innings. First off, the biggest and most positive change for McDonald was his drop in FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) from 2011’s 4.68 to 2012’s 4.21. FIP helps determine where a pitcher actually stands as it looks at the outcomes a pitcher can control like walks, home runs, hit batsmen and so on.

The next great decrease was in his BABIP of .302 to .269, which displayed a tremendous jump in his ability to control the ball and not get tagged quite as much. McDonald saw an increase in K/9 (7.47 to 7.95), a decrease in walks (4.11 to 3.63) and an uptick even in WAR (0.2 to 1.3), which all are positive signs.

It’s true that McDonald hasn’t exactly thrown lights out stuff in the majors, but he’s only started two seasons in which he went above 100 innings pitched. If I’m the Brewers, I have to at least consider what he could bring to the table as he has been effective against teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds in the past.

Whether or not the Brewers look in McDonald’s way will remain to be seen, but it’s someone that should be at least in their minds. McDonald isn’t going to cost much and he can fill a spot in the revolving door that is the starting rotation. In the end, McDonald could be a win-win for the Brewers and if not, no hard feelings, at least they would have tried him out instead of passing on him.