Pitching was perhaps the Milwaukee Brewers greatest strength during the 2020 season. With many young pitching prospects on the farm there are a lot of arms to be excited about, but one pitcher whom Brewer fans keep hoping will turn the corner is Adrian Houser.
In 2019, Adrian Houser finished the season strong by putting together a good run of performances to end the season. He finished 2019 with a respectable 3.72 ERA in 111 innings pitched that included 18 starts.
In 2020 Houser started 11 games and pitched 56 innings, but his ERA skyrocketed to 5.30. His pitching philosophy also changed drastically.
As a pitcher who is going to throw a combination of his 4 seam fastball and sinker approximately 60-70% of the time, the biggest change from 2019 to 2020 was the variance in these pitches percentages. In 2019 he threw his sinker 36.1% of the time and 4 seamer 31.3%. 2020’s mix was 43.7% sinkers and 20.3% 4 seam fastball.
Houser’s 4 seam fastball is a huge swing and miss pitch for him, so this drastic decrease in it’s usage in 2020 also explains why he struck less batters out per nine innings pitched. His K:9 ratio decreased to 7.1 where as it was 9.5 in 2019.
As a result of striking out fewer batters, the baseball was put in play more often on Houser. Combine this with a poor 2020 Brewers defense and it’s easy to see why his performance was impacted greatly.
When Houser was on the mound in 2020, 10 total errors were committed. The biggest contributors were Orlando Arcia, Eric Sogard, and Keston Hiura each of whom had two errors apiece. Additionally, this resulted in eight unearned runs crossing the plate last year when Houser was on the mound.
Thankfully, the Brewers defense should be much improved in 2021.
They will potentially have three great defenders on the field at once throughout the majority of the season. Arcia and Kolten Wong will make up the middle infield and, after opting out of last season, gold glover Lorenzo Cain will return to roam the outfield.
Wong should provide Arcia with a sense of security in the middle infield. This will be the first season that Arcia has played with a gold glover at second base along side of him and in the end it should benefit Arcia defensively as well. Wong has even stated his plans to help Arcia win a Gold Glove himself.
If Adrian Houser continues to attack hitters with his sinker in 2021 and pitches to more contact, a much improved defense will make Houser better. He likely won’t have to make as many extra pitches each inning, can get off the mound quicker, and should stay in a better groove.
This is obviously great news for fans who are rooting for an Adrian Houser bounce back season. The biggest question to watch as the season progresses is if Adrian Houser goes back towards a more 50/50 mix between his sinker and 4 seam fastball, or if he continues to use the sinker more heavily.
Having an improved infield defense should help all the Brewers pitchers, but it may have a bigger impact on Houser than all the rest.