Even the most casual Milwaukee Brewers fan might have noticed that, recently, the starting pitchers have only lasted four or five innings. These early departures from the rotation have forced manager Craig Counsell to use his bullpen early and often, but why?
Dating back to the 2016 season, Milwaukee Brewers starters Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Zach Davies, and Junior Guerra have started 184 games. They went less than six innings in 104 of their starts. The current starting rotation has been unable to finish the sixth inning in over half of their games pitched. Davies has yet to make it through the sixth inning this season.
The Brewers have a league-worst nine quality starts in 2017. The big question is: Why?
One of the problems this pitching staff has faced is throwing too many pitches early in games. The starters are getting pulled after five innings with 95-100 pitches. They leave Counsell no choice but to take them out of the game with high pitch counts.
Part of this stems from getting into deep counts against batters. Brewers pitching averages 3.95 pitches per plate appearance, which is second-highest in the National League.
Another part of this problem stems from a allowing a lot of opposing hitters to reach base. This pitching staff is worst in the league in on-base percentage against. Opponents’ OBP against the Brewers is .348. The staff is also worst in the league in opponents’ batting average, slugging percentage, doubles, and total bases.
But the team’s ERA of 4.22 is middle of the pack throughout the league, so what does all this mean?
It means that Brewers pitching is allowing lots of runners on base but not necessarily allowing them to score. However, allowing base runners extends the inning and that combined with throwing about four pitches per plate appearance, leads to higher pitch counts and quicker hooks.
Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson needs to find a way to remedy this problem that has plagued the rotation for a long time. The offense is rolling right now and a competent pitching staff could put the Brewers in a playoff spot earlier than expected.
When the Brewers work their way back into playoff contention, the starting rotation is going to need to vastly improve. Although, reinforcements may soon be on the way.