Milwaukee Brewers: Tough Decisions Lie Ahead

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 19: Yasmani Grandal #10 of the Milwaukee Brewers can't make the catch on a single hit by Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres during the second inning of a baseball game at Petco Park June 19, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 19: Yasmani Grandal #10 of the Milwaukee Brewers can't make the catch on a single hit by Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres during the second inning of a baseball game at Petco Park June 19, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation is becoming a major concern as the season progresses.

The Milwaukee Brewers have been burned by their starting rotation during this recent stretch of games. Though it’s not the first time this has happened this season, this most recent run has been another of level of awful.

Milwaukee have gotten just one quality start over their past ten games. That start came in the second game of their west coast road-trip in Houston, when Brandon Woodruff went seven innings while giving up three earned runs.

Woodruff has been the only starter during this ten game run who’s been able to complete at least six innings in either of his starts. Every other Brewers starter over the past two weeks has failed to go more than five innings.

Of those beyond Woodruff who’ve made it through five innings, they’ve given up a ton of runs while doing so. Chase Anderson gave up six earned runs in five innings on Friday night. The night before that, Jimmy Nelson gave up five runs, all earned, in five innings. Both gave up three runs in the opening inning of those games.

Zach Davies went five innings last Friday night against the San Francisco Giants while giving up three earned runs. That was the only start out of three five inning non-Woodruff starts where a Brewers starter kept them in the game.

Every other start during this stretch, five out of ten, saw a Milwaukee Brewers starter go less than five innings in their start. Because of that, the Brewers have had to lean on an already taxed and scuffling bullpen on a nightly basis. The results have been predictably bad.

Why there’s cause for concern

Milwaukee’s starting rotation is becoming a real concern as the season unfolds. Shortly after the signing of Gio Gonzalez, it looked like the Brewers had three serviceable starters in their rotation in Davies, Gonzalez, and Woodruff, with at least passable options and depth in their other two rotation spots, especially with Jimmy Nelson coming back from injury.

Things, however, have not worked out as planned. Jhoulys Chacin continues to scuffle in a major way, and has shown no signs of breaking out his funk anytime soon. The Brewers are quickly approaching the point where he’ll either need to be moved to the bullpen, or designated for assignment if he doesn’t begin to show improvement.

Nelson’s three starts in his return to the rotation did not go well either. Control issues, stemming from his struggles with his mechanics, saw his starts go poorly. It appears his chance to hold down a spot in the rotation has passed for the foreseeable future.

Anderson has been okay since returning to the rotation earlier this year, but he’s nothing more than a fifth starter, at best. He continues to have way too many volatile starts where high pitch counts are taking him out games after four or five innings. This is a major liability, especially in a rotation where several of the guys around him aren’t going deep in games too.

Even Davies, who’s arguably been their best starter, is a worry. His advanced stats suggest that he’s due for some major regression in the coming weeks. This may be something that’s already starting to happen, and will only continue to add to the volatility in their starting rotation.

The Milwaukee Brewers lack the depth they expected to have entering the season too. Corbin Burnes was an unmitigated disaster in the rotation, and his tenure in the pen wasn’t much better. He was just sent down to Triple A because of this.

Freddy Peralta has been okay between the rotation and the pen, but his inability to go deep into starts most of the time is why he sits on the outside of the rotation as well. This makes the prospect of moving him back into the rotation full-time unappealing, especially when he’s been more consistent out of the pen as a long-reliever.

Aaron Wilkerson is their only in-house option that they have remaining. He’s been excellent in Triple A this season, but he’s still a long-shot to pan out given that he’s basically been a career minor-leaguer. This leaves Milwaukee in a dangerous position.

What can help

Gonzalez returning from the IL soon will help to stabilize their rotation, at least a little bit. He was excellent before arm fatigue saw him miss several starts.

Woodruff and Davies should continue to give the Milwaukee Brewers serviceable starts too, even if the latter is due for regression after his hot start. This gives the team three decent options to work around.

It’s still likely, however, that the Brewers will have to explore the trade market. According to rumors this week, this is something they’ve already begun to do with Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers being a possible target.

Any move like this, though, would require trading top prospects from an already shallow farm system. The Brewers lack the assets to win a bidding war if other contending teams like the Atlanta Braves or the Reds get involved too. This makes the possibility of acquiring an impact talent very difficult, if not impossible to pull off.

Regardless, the Milwaukee Brewers are going to need to improve their rotation somehow if they want reach consecutive post-seasons for the first time since 1981-82. This stretch of games has been a jolting reminder of how just how fragile their starting rotation is.