Things certainly weren’t perfect for a 2020 Milwaukee Brewers team that did make the playoffs, but did so by backing their way in with a 29-31 record. It was hard to fault most of the team’s pitching staff for that, though.
While the offense struggled for most of last season, which is easy to do when your former MVP has the worst season of his career, the pitching was very solid. By the end of the year, the Brewers ended up, by the numbers, with one of the better groups in the league.
As a total staff, the Brewers were 2nd in the National League and 4th in MLB with a 9.1 fWAR. Solid metrics across the board backed that up with Milwaukee pitchers putting up the 4th best FIP (3.80), the 4th lowest home runs per nine (1.17), and the 2nd best strikeouts per nine (10.68) in the majors.
That success wasn’t relegated to one area of the Brewers pitching staff, either. Both units finished in the top 10 in MLB in fWAR with the starters tying for 4th best fWAR at 6.3 and the relievers finishing 7th among MLB bullpens at a 2.8 fWAR.
For the Brewers to be competitive in 2021, it won’t just take a bounceback season by the offense, it will also take another strong effort by the pitching staff this season. Luckily, there’s a good chance of that happening when you consider how many of their successful pitchers from last season are back in the saddle this year.
With the offseason complete, the Brewers have most of the top contributors from their 2020 pitching staff still on the roster.
Heading into 2021, the Brewers were already set to return a significant portion of their pitching staff from the previous year intact. That carry forward only increased with the recent signing of 2020 starter Brett Anderson to another one-year contract.
With Anderson in the fold, Milwaukee returns 11 of the 14 pitchers who played in 10 games or more in 2020. The only three who aren’t returning are David Phelps, who was traded midseason, Alex Claudio, who was non-tendered, and Corey Knebel, who likely would have suffered the same fate before he was traded to the Dodgers just before the non-tender deadline.
Those 11 remaining pitchers include all five of the pitchers who put up the most starts for that rotation that finished 4th in fWAR in 2020. It also includes a Rookie of the Year and NL Reliever of the Year in Devin Williams, a previous two-time NL Reliever of the Year in Josh Hader, and the Brewer reliever who pitched in the most games in 2020 in Eric Yardley.
That group of 11 returning Brewer hurlers brings with them a combined 9.6 fWAR from the 2020 season. They also accounted for 27 of the team’s 29 wins from last year (Phelps was responsible for the other two).
And that list doesn’t even include carryovers from 2020 who pitched in less games who could come back to contribute such as reliever Justin Topa, who gave up no earned runs in five of six appearances last year, as well as J.P. Feyereisen, Ray Black, and Eric Lauer.
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Knowing that the team can rely on a proven pitching staff should take the weight off the team’s offense as it looks to return to normal after a dismal 2020 showing. That’s much easier to do when nearly all of your pitchers are around to run it back for another year.