Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson is already at a 4.0 WAR for the 2017 season. His previous high water mark was a 2.1 WAR in 2015. Is this his peak WAR season, or can the Brewers count on Nelson for the next few years?
Jimmy Nelson has been starting for the Milwaukee Brewers since his first cup of coffee in 2013. He’s been a full-time member of the rotation since 2015. He’s been close to having a true breakout season, but it appears that it’s really happening this season. He may not have the sub-3.00 ERA of Chase Anderson, but Nelson has developed into a top of the rotation starter for the Brewers this year.
What Do The Numbers Say?
They say that Nelson has been fantastic this season. His 10.04 K/9 is a career high, and his 2.16 BB.9 is a career low. He’s striking out more and walking fewer. Both of those are clear signs of a true breakout. What’s unique about Nelson is that he’s essentially the same guy that he’s always been. There isn’t a noticeable jump in velocity and Nelson hasn’t added a new pitch to his mix.
What he is doing is pounding the strike zone. He’s throwing more strikes, generating more swinging strikes, and getting ahead of hitters.
Nelson has thrown 49.1% of his pitches for strikes this year. That’s above his 47.1% career average. His 63.2% first strike percentage is a career high, as is his 11.6% swinging strike rate. Throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters translates directly to his increase in strikeouts and decrease in walks.
Is there a more tangible indication of change in Nelson? Actually, there is. FanGraphs dug deep on the changes in Nelson’s mechanics, complete with his focus on kinesiology as well as the mental aspects of pitching. He’s actually made adjustments to his delivery and mentality that are making him more effective.
Nelson’s newly discovered control and emphasis on throwing strikes certainly sounds sustainable. Pitchers can make adjustments to their delivery that has results that show up in box scores. He may not maintain a 4.65 K:BB ratio, but he can continue to have positive results at the top of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation.