Probably the most crucial part of this season, whether the rotation will be able to perform well enough for the offense to win games. Looking at the prospects of the 2018 season, its questionable whether that will be the case. The following is what I predict to be the pitching staff come April 1st:
Having Anderson as the ace of a staff isn’t the best route to a championship. However, he pitched well last year, to the tune of a 2.74 ERA and 3.58 FIP. His ground ball rate is worrisome in Miller, and he benefited from a generous left-on-base percentage.
Anderson is due for some regression this upcoming year based on his peripherals. His ERA may sit more between his FIP and xFIP, 3.58 and 4.33, respectively. That’s not great for the top starter, but it should be serviceable with this offense.
I’m less bullish on Zach Davies than most. Just please ignore the wins category for him, and just in general, for any pitcher. It is the most misleading statistic ever created. Once we get past that, his resume is that of a back end of the rotation guy. Not a number two.
While his ground ball rate of 50% was very solid, well above league average, he doesn’t have much else. His strikeouts-per-nine (K/9) of 5.83 doesn’t scare anyone and that’s why his FIP is at 4.22 and not equal to his 3.90 ERA. If Davies hits the 15-win mark again, it’s going to be because of the offense and insane durability, not his talent.
After escaping two notorious hitters’ parks, Chacin didn’t look awful last year. He settled into a more neutral site in San Diego, where he recorded a 3.89 ERA. Similar to Davies, he outpitched his FIP and xFIP, the latter significantly. Yet there is hope.
He keeps the ball on the ground while striking out a fine amount of batters. If the former Padres starter can hone in the walk rate, like in his breakout 2013 season, then the Brewers have something to work with. However, that’s a big if considering the last few seasons, and Milwaukee may be looking at another ERA in the fours.
Critics will point to his numbers on the third time through the order as a reason to doubt his ability to start. Rather than having him throw the first pitch, many would rather use him as a long reliever. But Suter might be perfect in this rotation.
Inflated thanks to his work on the third time through, the 28-year-old still finished with a 3.42 ERA and 3.75 FIP. He had an above league average strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) rate and he handled lefty-righty splits amazingly for an inexperienced starter. With a ridiculously talented and deep bullpen, having Suter be a fourth starter that can give you a solid five innings each time out is valuable. While people leap off the bandwagon for dear life, I’ll kick my feet up and make myself comfortable.
Say it with me: Don’t overreact to Spring Training numbers. Alright, while you’re doing that, I’ll happily buy all the Wade Miley stock possible. The former Oriole looked awful last year. His ERA of 5.61 was very much real while he walked around five batters per nine innings. Anytime a pitcher is putting guys on for free that often, he won’t have success. However, this offseason Miley is on a mission to get back to his career walks per nine (BB/9), which sits around three.
Looking at his spring training thus far, Miley seems to be serious about the changes. He has walked one batter while striking out 11 in eight total innings. If he can keep up this walk rate, though such a short sample I must admit, then the Milwaukee Brewers may have found a bargain. He’s had solid seasons in the past while coming up in the extreme hitters’ environment that is Arizona. And when he went to Baltimore things got even worse. His home run-to-fly ball rate was completely inflated. That, coupled with an uncharacteristically high walk rate, spelled doom.
Don’t pay too much attention to the ERA this spring. Instead, keep an eye on his strikeout-to-walk ratio to see if the Brewers buying low on Wade Miley will pay dividends.
Keep an Eye On
Brandon Woodruff could be the spark that this Milwaukee rotation needs. The 25-year-old pitching prospect ranks 93rd in Keith Law’s top 100 prospects. However, he has struggled so far in spring, but once again, take spring training results with a grain of salt.
A hard throwing lefty, Woodruff could very well be the fourth or fifth guy in the rotation. According to scouting reports, he relies on a hard fastball and offers a solid slider and decent changeup. His fastball is the most advanced of his stuff, with the slider and changeup trailing but still possessing potential.
In his first appearance in the majors last year, Woodruff struggled in eight starts. He pitched to the tune of a 4.81 ERA and his K/9 fell from around ten in the minors to 6.7. However, his BB/9 stayed right in line with career numbers, offering some hope. If Woodruff can advance his slider-changeup combo, he has the potential to be a valuable contributor to a desperate rotation this season.