Brewers starter Adrian Houser has struggled for a majority of the 2020 season. In his final starts, he needs to be pulled at the first sign of trouble.
Though it didn’t have as many big names added to it as some fans would have preferred, the Brewers starting rotation has held up well for the most part in 2020. In fact, Milwaukee starters go into the final week with a 6.0 fWAR which is 4th best in all of Major League Baseball.
Leading that staff are Opening Day starter Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, who has a real shot at challenging for the NL Cy Young award. But it’s easy to forget that some believed that it was Adrian Houser who would create the 1-2 punch with Woodruff.
After an impressive end to last season and a 2020 Spring Training where he gave up just two earned runs over 11 innings, Houser was one of the first pitchers who manager Craig Counsell stated was locked into the rotation. Early results justified that decision.
In his first start, Houser gave up just a hit, a run, and three walks in five innings of an eventual win over the Pirates. His next start was even more impressive: seven scoreless innings, five hits, and two walks in a win over the White Sox. The two starts gave him a 0.75 ERA to begin 2020.
Unfortunately, things have gone downhill ever since. Houser would give up at least four runs in seven of the following eight games, compiling a 6.75 ERA and allowing batters to hit .313 over that time frame. The Brewers have gone just 3-5 over that span.
Not everything has entirely been Houser’s fault lately – of the 11 runs given up in his two most recent starts, only four of them were earned. A 4.60 FIP compared to his 5.33 season ERA also insinuates that Houser may be pitching a bit better than the numbers would lead one to believe.
Regardless, the results haven’t been there when Houser has taken the mound to start a game lately. And with the Brewers just a game out of a playoff spot and some positive momentum finally on their side, there may be some difficult decisions in Counsell’s future during Houser’s apperances.
If Adrian Houser is to remain in the Brewers rotation, Counsell should be prepared to bring in a reliever early to limit any potential damage.
In a normal season, there is a chance that Houser would have been moved to the bullpen during the final playoff push. But according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Counsell doesn’t plan on making any such move with Houser.
"“I think we have to stay on schedule,” Counsell said. “In every game, we have to see what happens. You’re going to make quicker decisions during games at this point, but the lack of off days, you have to factor that in. You can’t just burn through guys every single day because you’re going to run out.”"
Combine this with the fact that Counsell won’t get the normally expanded rosters that he’s used to taking advantage of in September and you can see where his options are limited. So, the Brewer skipper has little choice but to ride with Houser and hope he can return to form in the final week of 2020.
But in the event that things don’t look any different than they have lately for Houser, Counsell should be prepared to pull Houser early in a way that he has with starters in past Septembers. Luckily, he also has two relievers who would be perfect to follow Houser and eat innings should the need arise.
Brent Suter (3.58 ERA) and Freddy Peralta (3.29 ERA) have filled in admirably when the Brewers have needed middle to long relief. Both just pitched on Sunday and would be plenty rested for Houser’s next start on Wednesday.
Of course this would require one of Woodruff and Burnes to go deep into their starts on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, so that Suter and/or Peralta are even available. That is something, though, of which Milwaukee’s two best starters are entirely capable.
The Brewers will have an extremely small margin for error while fighting against divisional foes for a playoff spot in the final week. If Milwaukee’s best chance at victory is to pull Houser from his start early, so be it.