The Milwaukee Brewers did not sign Alex Cobb. Many thought that he should have been pursued by the team, but in the end it did happen.
It is the Orioles that will be enjoying Cobb’s services for the next four years. At 30 years old, the veteran righty had arguably the best season of his career in 2017. His mid-three ERA while posting a career high in games started with 29. But where does that leave the Milwaukee Brewers 2018 pitching staff?
If Chase Anderson can repeat his performance from last year, he will be a serviceable ace until Jimmy Nelson can return. Zach Davies poses a fairly solid option. His career 4.42 xFIP from last year is not ideal for the number two pitcher, but he will eat innings. Jhoulys Chacin is hoping to get better against lefties by improving his changeup. And in all likelihood, the Brewers will use Brent Suter as the number four. That adds a lefty to the mix.
After those four, it is looking like Wade Miley will be the fifth option. With Cobb, he would have gotten pushed out. But there is no Cobb for the Crew. The impressive Spring Training from Miley is proving to be more than enough to give him an honest shot. That will be a huge question mark. We will likely see Brandon Woodruff getting his chance to earn the spot fairly early in the year.
Giant Question Mark
If the Milwaukee Brewers need and ace, Nelson could provide that. Fangraphs labels him as a number two, but his swing and miss percentages will allow him to serve as an ace. Even with his injury he posted a 4.9 WAR and his xFIP sat at 3.15. No doubt, it was a breakout season. The good news is that he will likely be back around the All-Star break.
Jimmy Nelson might end up being the biggest question mark of this is season. He threw well in 2017, but shoulder injuries are not something with a clear cut path back to normal. Shoulder injuries do not come with a guarantee that the pitcher will be the same on the other side.
The Secret Weapon
The Milwaukee Brewers unheralded hero is Derek Johnson. The players praise him, and for good reason. He is good at what he does. Example number one is Chase Anderson. Before Johnson began to work with Anderson, the Crew’s 2018 Opening Day starter would walk quite a bit of batters and give up a lot of homers. Those numbers have all improved since the end of 2016 and through 2017.
Looking at Nelson since the arrival of Johnson in 2015, the effect of the coach can be seen. There were some struggles in 2016, but the results showed themselves in 2017. His walk rate was down and his HR/9 was down as well.
It is because of the improvements the pitching staff has seen under Johnson that will allow the Brewers team to win, especially with the offensive improvements made this offseason. But the potent offense will need a competitive pitching staff to stay in the game.
The key to the year is the pitching staff letting the offense win. There is no expectation to shutout every team his season, they just need to give the bats a chance to do their job. And it looks like they will. The Milwaukee Brewers lineup is very strong, but very young.