With Opening Day almost here the writers at RtB have come together to do a two-part bold prediction piece for the upcoming season. Today, part two of the series, RtB Bold Predictions-The Pitchers.
Jimmy Nelson figures out lefties, becomes clear front-man of Brewers rotation going forward.
Most pitchers post better stats against hitters of their own handedness, but one pitcher on the Brewers has been bitten the hardest by extreme splits, and that’s Jimmy Nelson. He positively dominates righties, holding them to just a .610 OPS over his Major League career.
That’s an excellent number for a starting pitcher, better than Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright. The problem is his lefty opponents, who have an OPS of .839 against him lifetime. While facing slightly fewer lefties than righties over his career, Nelson has allowed twice as many home runs to left-handed hitters (16 vs. 8) and over 60 percent more doubles (34 to 21).
But Nelson’s splits aren’t hopeless. His new pitch from 2015, a knuckle curveball, was his new primary off-speed option when facing lefties, and those opponents slugged just .232 against the pitch. He used the curve an astounding 43% of the time on first pitches to lefties, likely because they continue to cream his fastball. All Nelson needs is a little more success with his fastball and/or slider against the lefties, and he’ll be golden.
(Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Brooks Baseball)
While the hitting department for the Brewers had so much to predict and make a positive prediction, their pitching department is the opposite and difficult to as it may be the main reason they’ll finish low in the NL Central. But, first off I’ll say Jimmy Nelson will prove he’s the #1 starter this year and at the start of next season Craig Counsell won’t have a decision to make on who to be the Opening Day starter as his numbers will match up well with the Baseball Prospectus prediction (4.05 ERA / 4.04 FIP) and I’d say much closer to his 2015 WARP (2.4) compared to his 1.6 prediction. On the other side of things, I don’t know where questionable pitchers like Wily Peralta or Matt Garza will end up, but somehow I think another positive note will be Zach Davies taking a spot in the rotation this year and possibly much earlier than fans think. While it’s difficult putting any types of numbers on a player not knowing where he’s going to be put in during the season, he’ll impress the Brewers coaching staff well enough, that he’ll earn a spot this year and be in the rotation for years to come.
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Jeremy Jeffress will represent the Brewers as their lone all-star. Now that Will Smith is sidelined for an extended period, Jeffress will assume the closers role full time. The Brewers have gotten good seasons from players like Jeffress in the past, before their eventual flame out (Turnbow, Axford), and I think Jeffress will be a nice surprise this season. His saves will be few and far between, but when he’s called on, he’ll convert.
Prediction: Starting Pitching is better than expected:
Coming into the season, it’s understandable not many people are expecting much from the Brewers Rotation. The rotation was bad last season. If Wily Peralta and Matt Garza pitch like their 2014 versions of themselves and if Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann build on their 2015 seasons and if Chase Anderson did what he did with the Diamondbacks, this rotation will be drastically better than 2015. Yes, there are a lot of “ifs” with this prediction and a lot of things need to go right. However, I am willing to bet that most of these “ifs” happen.
My bold prediction for Brewers pitchers this season is that Corey Knebel will get 15+ saves. Knebel had a strong first full season last year to the tune of a 3.22 ERA over 50.1 innings. He features an above average curveball with a big plus fastball that averages almost 95 MPH, and can reach back for more if he needs it. This power combination is similar to that of Craig Kimbrel, and if he can find anything close to the success that Kimbrel has had over his career, then the Crew will have nice power arm in the pen for years to come. With Will Smith going down early the closer job will belong to Jeremy Jeffress to begin the year, but Knebel will likely be the next man up should Jeffress falter, get traded, or get injured. When he came to us in the Gallardo trade, Knebel was looked at as a possible future closer. I see him taking a step towards that role this season.
Prediction: Garza goes 200+ innings over the season
After a disappointing season last year, I think Garza makes the needed adjustments this year returning to his 2014 form and has 200+ innings of work for the Brewers, before being shipped off somewhere for some contenders. It’s not the kind of thing that the Brewers need, but it’s what they deserve.