Milwaukee Brewers: Lack Of Left Handed Pitching A Concern

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4: Josh Hader
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4: Josh Hader /
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The Milwaukee Brewers have a serious lack of lefty pitching throughout the entire organization. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed quickly.

Last off-season, Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns made a point of adding some left handed hitters to balance the right handed heavy lineup. He accomplished that in adding Eric Thames and Travis Shaw. The lineup is also rounded out with lefty additions Eric Sogard, Stephen Vogt, and Brett Phillips. Now that the lineup is balanced it’s time to do the same with the pitching staff.

The Brewers have been short of lefty pitching for seemingly forever. The last regular member of the starting rotation that was left handed was Tom Gorzelanny in 2013. The last time Milwaukee had two lefties in the rotation was 2011 with Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson.

Brent Suter filled in admirably for injured members of the starting rotation but he is not a rotation piece going forward. If he is in the starting five coming out of Spring Training, the Brewers are in trouble. Getting five innings out of a starter should be thought of as a failure not a success. Suter is a long reliever that occasionally will get spot starts.

Josh Hader is the only other lefty on the active roster and he could potentially be a starter but the Brewers don’t know what they’ll have him do in 2018. With Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson, Brandon Woodruff, and Player X that they will likely sign or trade for to fill out the rotation, there isn’t a spot for Hader. So he’ll go back to the bullpen. Unless the player Milwaukee acquires is lefty, there won’t be any southpaws in the starting five for the fifth straight season.

If Hader stays in the pen, lefty reinforcements won’t be coming soon. You can count on one hand the amount of southpaw starters in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. There’s Kodi Medeiros, Nathan Kirby, and Brendan Murphy, all in the lower levels. That’s it, that’s all the lefty starters the Brewers have. Medeiros hasn’t pitched above High-A and posted a 4.98 ERA this year. Kirby is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Murphy is a recent June draftee.

There are no southpaws in Double-A or Triple-A. And this raises an important question.

Why don’t the Brewers add left handed pitching?

It’s really a mystery as to why the Milwaukee Brewers are against to southpaws. They just don’t place an emphasis on drafting it. MLB teams don’t draft for need but go for best player available. Kodi Medeiros was a first round pick in 2014 but he had questions about his ability to start long term back then as well. Before that, the last left handed starter the Brewers drafted and developed all the way through was Manny Parra and he put up ERAs above 5.00 two of his three years starting.

There isn’t an emphasis on drafting southpaws and there hasn’t been an emphasis on trading for it either. The Milwaukee Brewers have made numerous trades during their rebuilding process and have acquired 17 pitchers in that time. Two have been lefties. One is Josh Hader, the other is Tyler Webb, who gave up a grand slam on his first pitch with Milwaukee.

Josh Hader wasn’t even acquired by David Stearns, so really he’s only acquired one lefty since taking over for Doug Melvin in September 2015. But thankfully, we have nine outfielders for three major league spots.

Why do they need left handed pitching?

For the same reason you need left handed hitting, to give the opponents a different look. An all right handed lineup is easy to game plan against the same way an all right handed pitching staff is easy to game plan against. Hitters get comfortable looking for the ball coming out of the right hand. With lefties, it changes where the eyes are looking and can make left handed hitters uncomfortable. Everyone saw how Josh Hader made lefties uncomfortable in the box. That’s something the Brewers need more of.

Given the Brewers love of analytics, the should realize that lefties create better match-ups against opponents. Lefty hitters don’t like facing lefty pitchers and those match-ups tend to work in the pitchers’ favor. A variety of arms is necessary for a healthy pitching staff. A good left handed starter can force an opposing manager to go with an all right handed lineup, which could mean some of his better hitters sit the bench that game.

What should Milwaukee do about it?

Last winter, David Stearns placed an emphasis on adding lefty hitters to balance the lineup. This winter, he needs to place an emphasis on balancing the pitching staff. There are very few lefty free agent options for the rotation. But there should be some decent relievers on the market. In any trade acquisitions, lefty pitching should be the priority in any return package.

In the draft, it’s difficult to convince anyone to draft for organizational need because that’s just not how baseball works. But perhaps scouting should put a larger emphasis on finding southpaws to draft because it’s such a rare commodity.

Left handed pitching is in short supply all throughout baseball but teams still manage to get one or two for their rotation and for the bullpen. The Milwaukee Brewers have a stunning lack of southpaws throughout their entire organization and it’s a major concern. Will they have to overspend for lefty free agents? Could they trade for established lefties? Will they trade for left handed prospects? How can they fix it?

Because of the overall shortage of southpaws, these players make a lot more money in free agency than their right handed counterparts. Teams with established lefties will want more in return because of the hand they pitch with. So what’s the best long term? The Brewers have to draft it and develop it. It’s the cheapest way to do it.

In the short term, Milwaukee may have to overpay a little to balance the staff. Whether it be for a starter or reliever, the Brewers need some southpaws to plug into the pitching staff. It’s a problem that Stearns can’t ignore any longer.

Next: The case to keep Ryan Braun

The Milwaukee Brewers limited options on the market this winter. Left handed hitting is easier to find than lefty pitching but somehow, David Stearns has to emphasize finding southpaws for this pitching staff. Another unbalanced staff could dampen the Crew’s playoff hopes.

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