Brewers: How Does The Crew’s Rotation Stack Up In The NL Central?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: Brandon Woodruff #53 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after closing out the third inning against the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 01, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01: Brandon Woodruff #53 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after closing out the third inning against the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild Card game at Nationals Park on October 01, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers would be comfortable heading into 2020 with their current rotation picture. How do they rank against fellow NL Central teams?

For several years now, the Milwaukee Brewers have had a starting rotation that’s been… lackluster to say the least. There’s been a variety of different guys that were really good but for a short amount of time.

Junior Guerra came out of nowhere in 2016 to have a 2.81 ERA in 20 starts, earning the Opening Day nod in 2017. Then he got hurt. To pick up the slack that season, Chase Anderson became the frontman for the staff. Then he got hurt. Jimmy Nelson was trending upward and reaching for bona fide ace status when he got hurt. Neither pitcher has reached that level of play since that 2017 season.

In 2018, Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin put up good seasons. Then Miley left in free agency and Chacin struggled in 2019 and was eventually released. In 2019, Brandon Woodruff emerged from the crowd as literally everyone else around him in the rotation struggled or got hurt. Jordan Lyles made for a solid pickup, but left in free agency this offseason.

Behind those guys leading the rotation over the past few years was a cast of back-end starters with limited potential. Zach Davies had some good days, but had a small margin for error and needed a great catcher to be a good pitcher. Brent Suter was normally solid for five innings each outing, but tore his UCL and missed a year. Gio Gonzalez was a nice veteran to have, but couldn’t dominate like he used to.

Now, a number of those guys are gone, and the Brewers have made several additions to their rotation group this offseason, but the big question is if they’ll make this rotation overall better than it was.

The Rotation Group

These pitchers figure to get starts during the 2020 season: Woodruff, Suter, Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, Corbin BurnesEric Lauer, and Freddy Peralta. That’s eight different pitchers, and three of them are new to the organization. Anderson, Lindblom, and Lauer all figure to be in the rotation to start the season, with Suter, Burnes, and Peralta on the outside looking in. Things can change in spring training, however.

Woodruff is clearly the best of the group and he has established himself as one of the best young pitchers in baseball and the clear ace of the staff based on his 2019 performance. Houser showed some potential as a starter last year and has earned more opportunities. He’s currently pegged as the No. 2 starter behind Woodruff, but I’m not sure his talent level is that of a legit No. 2 guy, but we’ll get a larger sample in 2020.

Anderson, Lindblom, and Lauer are mid-back end type starters who should eat up innings, but won’t dominate and give the Brewers a virtually guaranteed win every fifth day. Essentially, this is a similar rotation to ones in previous seasons. One guy at the front who’s very good, and a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 type starters filling out the rest of the spots.

Young guys like Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta have the potential to change that. With the talent and stuff that they have, if they put it all together, they are frontline pitchers that could give Milwaukee three really good young pitchers leading the rotation that can give them a virtual guaranteed win three out of every five days. But with down seasons in 2019, it’s far from a guarantee that will happen.

Stacking Up Against The NL Central

So how does this rotation rank compared to the rest of the NL Central? At this point, they look like the fourth-best rotation in the division, with the potential to be the third-best rotation.

The Cardinals have a dominant rotation led by Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, followed by Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright. Cincinnati has built a solid rotation led by Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo, followed by Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafini. The Cubs have big names like Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana.

The Cubs, while full of big names, have seen those names underperform lately. Darvish has been hurt and not as effective, Quintana has started to see his magic against Milwaukee dwindle, and Tyler Chatwood is, well, he’s Tyler Chatwood.

If guys like Peralta and Burnes reach their potential and take over spots in the rotation, while Woodruff and the new additions continue to have a positive impact, then this rotation could jump the Cubs, especially if those Cubs starters can’t rebound in 2020.

While the Brewers have continued to blur the line between starters and relievers, it’s hard to argue that a dominant starting pitcher wouldn’t have a great impact on improving this group’s chances of not only making the postseason, but winning in the postseason.

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The rotation is middle of the pack, if everything goes right. As we saw in 2019, sometimes not everything goes right.