Brewers: Could 2021 Be Eric Yardley’s Breakout Year?

Eric Yardley, Milwaukee Brewers Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Yardley, Milwaukee Brewers Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports /

Eric Yardley has only played in 24 games with the Milwaukee Brewers. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the 2021 season he is the pitcher that sets up the one-two punch of Devin Williams and Josh Hader.

Yardley’s rookie season and the Milwaukee bullpen was one of the many bright spots on the pitching side of things for the 2020 Brewers season. The Washington native should be able to continue his momentum going into 2021.

Before coming to Milwaukee, Yardley came up through the San Diego Padres farm system. By the time he got the majors, it was August of 2019. Over 10 games, he less than 12 innings, had an ERA of 2.31 and a record of 0-1.

Yardley was designated for assignment by the Padres November 4th, 2019. He was claimed on waivers by the Brewers shortly after.

Eight and-a-half months later, the relief pitcher made his Brewers debut. He pitched against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, July 25th. A strikeout and no hits later, Eric finished his first complete inning for the Crew. He was a part of the team’s first 2020 victory.

Yardley made 24 appearances during the 60 game season last year. He had 19 strikeouts, gave up 19 hits, and had six earned runs. Averaging a strikeout an inning is pretty solid.

Devin Williams’ 2020 season was beyond phenomenal and deserved all the attention and awards. He wasn’t the only impressive bullpen rookie, though. Yardley only had 10 walks, finished with a 1.54 ERA and a 1.243 WHIP.

Fangraphs also have him logged with a perfect inning of relief against the Cincinnati Reds on September 24th, 2020.

24 games doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was more than most people expected going into the season. Alex Claudio, Justin Topa, and Yardley all did great in their roles. The starting pitching for the Brewers was sort of a revolving door in 2020, including multiple bullpen day games. They played a huge role in helping the Brewers make the playoffs for a third year in a row.

What makes Yardley stand out from the other Brewers bullpen pieces is his delivery and pitch types.

Yardley is a sidearm pitcher, and having an effective one on your roster has big upside. Yardley currently uses three pitches with his throwing style. His main pitch is a sinker. He used it 65 percent of the time, and it averages around 88 MPH. He also has a 73 MPH curveball and was used 34 percent of the time last season.

That means his sinker and curveball combo makes up 99 percent of his throws. His third pitch is a changeup, but so far has only been used it 0.7% of the time. That clocks in usually around 80 MPH. Could that pitch make more of an appearance in 2021? Yardley did throw a few 4-Seam Fastballs in 2019, but none were seen in 2020. That could return in 2021 as well with a full season and lot more possible appearances.

Yardley being a seventh inning bullpen pitcher is a great combination with what comes after him. You use a sidearm sinker/curveball pitcher in the seventh. Williams comes in with a deadly changeup and fastball combo for the eighth. Then Josh Hader closes the door in the ninth.

We only got a glimpse of Yardley in 2020, and he could end up really breaking out as a reliever over the full 162 game schedule in 2021 if the results from last year are any indication of what’s to come.

There is no question that the Milwaukee Brewers have one of, if not, the best bullpen in Major League Baseball. If their starting rotation can get to the fifth or sixth innings constantly, their bullpen will seal a lot of wins. Yardley could be a huge part of that.

The Brewers also have lots of control with Yardley. He won’t be arbitration eligible until 2023, and have control until 2026. That is a lot of time for a talented arm.

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Keep an eye on Eric Yardley this 2021 season. And keep an eye out for that sweet, sweet sidearm.