Throughout the regular season, the Brewers’ strength was their pitching staff. With an offense that more times than not failed to put runs up consistently, Brewers pitchers kept them in games.
Solid pitching is going to be even more important in the Wild Card Round versus the Dodgers, one might even say that the Brewers need to outpitch the Dodgers in order to win the series.
Let’s see how these two teams stacked up this year from a pitching perspective.
The Brewers Pitching Staff
After 60 games the Brewers finished the 2020 regular season with the 11th-lowest ERA in the MLB (4.16), third in team strikeouts (614), and tied for the third lowest in home runs allowed (67).
They subsequently tied for the eighth lowest WHIP (1.23) and and sixth lowest batting average against (.229). Along with the Cubs, the Brewers lead the league in team shutouts (8).
Aside from Corbin Burnes, who is currently on the 10-day injured list with an oblique injury and will be unavailable for the opening round, Brandon Woodruff was the Brewers most consistent starter. Woodruff finished 2020 with a 3.05 ERA and will look to build momentum after a very dominant eight inning shutout performance in his last start against the Cardinals.
In the bullpen, the Brewers may have the league’s most dominant duo to close games out in Josh Hader and Devin Williams. Hader finished the 2020 campaign with 13 saves, which is good enough for third most in MLB and tops in the NL. In 19 innings, he recorded 31 strikeouts and did so by mixing in a slider a lot more consistently than in years previous.
Devin Williams perhaps was the biggest surprise of all. As a rookie, he covered 27 innings and allowed only one earned run all season. This resulted in 0.33 ERA! Williams currently finds himself in running for Rookie of the Year and the Reliever of the Year awards as well.
Other key pitchers for the Brewers includes guys like Brent Suter, Freddy Peralta, and Eric Yardley. Suter showed versatility by starting four games for the Brewers in 2020 while also working out of the bullpen. Freddy Peralta set a new career high in strikeouts per nine (14.4) and strikeout percentage (37.6%). Yardley, another Brewers rookie, finished with a 1.54 ERA in 23 innings pitched, but did so primarily in lower stress situations.
As winners of 43 games in 2020, the Dodgers did so with an excellent pitching staff. They were the league’s best in terms of team ERA (3.02). They finished allowing the least amount of walks than any other team and the third-least amount of hits.
Despite being in his age-32 season, Clayton Kershaw led the Dodgers in innings pitched and had the lowest ERA among his fellow starters at 2.16. Joining Kershaw as a starting pitcher in the Wild Card Series is Walker Buehler. In eight starts he posted a 3.44 ERA and opposing batters hit just .178 against him.
Starters Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin all had great 2020 campaigns as well. May, another pitcher in the running for Rookie of the Year and was the Dodgers Opening Day starter, made 10 starts, pitched 56 innings, and recorded a 2.57 ERA. As a breakout player, we may see his 98 MPH fastball, 94MPH cutter, and 87 MPH curveball at some point in the series.
In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen was their guy. He recorded 11 saves in 13 attempts during the regular season, but pitchers Pedro Baez, Adam Kolarek, and Blake Treinen all recorded saves as well. The Dodgers also received solid contributions from key bullpen arms Victor Gonzalez, Dylan Floro, Jake McGee, and Caleb Ferguson as all of these bullpen pitchers finished with ERAs under 3.00.
Putting this all into context
When comparing the Brewers and Dodgers pitching staffs, it’s clear the the Dodgers have more weapons from a starting pitching standpoint and a deep bullpen. After Burnes went down, the Brewers only have one really good starter in Brandon Woodruff and arguably two of the best relievers in baseball with Josh Hader and Devin Williams.
The Dodgers pitching staff is predicated on limited baserunners and they do a very good job of not allowing free passes or hits in general. The Brewers pitching staff possesses a ton of swing and miss stuff and they do a very good job at limiting the home run ball.
I would expect the Brewers to mix and match a bunch of different pitchers in this series. The Brewers have used this strategy all year in which they have the depth to consistently change from a left handed pitcher to a right handed pitcher or from a hard throwing pitcher to a soft throwing pitcher. This can really disrupt the timing of opposing hitters.
This sets up to be a very fun and exciting pitching matchup. The Brewers have relied heavily on their pitching staff to keep them in games and this Dodgers series is going to be no different. Game 1 of the series will be played on Wednesday September 30th at 9:00pm CT.