Grading the Brewers: Tyler Thornburg


One of the biggest mysteries the Milwaukee Brewers will face going into 2014 revolves around the starting rotation. In particular, Tyler Thornburg may be a part of that rotation for his work done this season.

Did Thornburg’s outings this year earn him a positive or negative grade?

Tyler Thornburg’s stature has been considered a flaw, but it certainly hasn’t played out that way. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the shape the Brewers’ rotation found themselves in this season, Thornburg’s starts were almost a blessing in disguise. Even though Thornburg only made seven starts this year (18 games overall), he still was able to expand successfully on a part of this team that had a constant deer in the head lights look. Going down the road, I don’t know that Thornburg is a starter, but after a few outings this season he said that he feels confident out on the mound, so he may be someone to roll with.

Perhaps the best way to describe Thornburg’s 2013 isn’t necessarily based on luck, but his ability to manage a situation. Thornburg did have a significantly low ERA of 2.03 (66.2 innings) and opponents had a hard time hitting against him, only managing a .220 average and a BABIP of .271. Whatever it was for Thornburg, it worked and maybe some of that effort can be contributed to his strikeouts.

This season, Thornburg posted a K/9 of 6.38 which isn’t extremely impressive in itself, but he also saw an uptick in batters swinging out of the zone at his pitches. Batters this season swung at 27.1 percent of Thornburg’s pitches outside of the strike zone, which is 1.5 percent higher than last year’s total. What’s odd is Thornburg saw drop in his fastball’s velocity (92.5 to 92 mph), but a rise in his curveball and change-up, so maybe his off-speed stuff works better.

One of the most impressive things about Thornburg was how he kept his composure during the course of the season. Only once did Thornburg allow four runs in an outing this year and the rest he either allowed two or less. He’s also a guy that given the chance, can go seven innings and maybe even more, and that’s exactly what this team needs going forward.

A lot of people compare Thornburg to the San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum as they are around the same build and that they have a very similar delivery. Some scouts said that Thornburg’s frame wouldn’t be ideal for a starter, but hey it worked out for Lincecum quite nicely, especially since he just received that two-year / $35 million deal.

That said, I like Thornburg and I think for this season, he was a great fit for the short time he was a part of the rotation. As a long reliever, Thornburg could still do well, but I feel at some point you’re limiting his ceiling. Of course with guys like Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and eventually Jed Bradley on the way, it’ll be a competitive field for Thornburg to do battle in. Of course with a guy like Thornburg, you take it on a year-by-year basis and this year, he wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty darn good.

Thornburg’s final grade: B+