With about a week until the regular season begins, one of the bigger questions within the Brewers organization has to do with how Craig Counsell will navigate his starters.
Luckily, the complications seem to stem from too many choices instead of not enough. One thing we can count on is that there won’t be the same five guys in the rotation all year long.
Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball, we all know this. The uncertainty comes with the rest of the rotation. When asked about whether he thinks the rotation will be five or six deep, he said “I think most times this year, you will see us stick to five”. But for now, the Crew’s skipper is going with Freddy Peralta as the fifth guy in the rotation.
With the increased workload that comes with changing from a 60 regular-season game schedule to a 162 regular-season game schedule, it will take all hands (or arms in this case) on deck. Starting pitchers throughout the MLB could have shorter leashes to start the year as their arms aren’t as primed and ready to go through a full 162 game season. This is where it’s a huge plus for Craig Counsell to have long relief guys available.
Now who will those long relief guys be? Well I’d venture to only pencil Brent Suter in that role as of now. He hasn’t started any games so far in the Cactus League and seems to be comfortable in this emergency-like role where he comes in for a starter due to injury or a poor outing. His stat comparison when looking at him as a starter vs a reliever is night and day.
As a starter, Suter appeared in 38 games and has a 10-11 record, an ERA of 4.08, an opponent batting average of .260 and a 3.73 strikeout to walk ratio. In his relief role, he’s appeared in 43 games and has a squeaky clean record of 9-0, an ERA of 2.14, an opponent batting average of .240 and a 5.73 strikeout to walk ratio. This seems to be the right fit for Suter.
So what about beyond Suter? We’ve touched on Freddy Peralta looking like a dominant starter plenty this spring and a return to the rotation where he once flourished is finally in order.
He started in his last appearance for the Cactus Crew going 4.2 innings giving up five hits and one earned run (the first he’s allowed all Spring). He’s showing more and more shades of his big league debut where he went 5.2 innings, giving up one hit, striking out 13 and not allowing an earned run.
Even Drew Rasmussen has started two games in Arizona and looks to be preparing for a Suter-type role on the major league roster. He’s looked really solid so far in spring and has a history of starting games when he was at Oregon State and in the Brewers minor league system where he started 23 of his 27 games in 2019.
One name that could be a pleasant surprise in the rotation and establish himself as a sure-fire starter is Adrian Houser. Omar Narvaez noted Houser as one guy to keep an eye on and who better to take advice from than his battery mate?
Houser will be in the Opening Day five-man rotation and will start the third game of the season.
MLB.com labeled every team’s starting rotation in different categories and the Brewers fell in the “revolving five-man rotation” category, which means they’ll have five starters but it’ll change throughout the year.
With the struggles of Eric Lauer and a likely start in AAA for the lefty, it seems to be a six-horse race with Woodruff, Burnes, Houser, Anderson and then Peralta and Lindblom. Lindblom has looked a bit shaky in Cactus League play while Freddy has looked quite the opposite so it will be Peralta that gets the first few turns in the rotation.
Josh Lindblom is used to coming out of the bullpen in his MLB career but he hasn’t done so for more than 20 games in a season since 2012 with the Phillies where he appeared in 26 games and started zero.
His numbers are a bit better in that relief role in the MLB but the Brewers originally acquired him as a starter after all 130 games in the Korean Baseball Organization came as starts for him…and he was dominant. Lindblom will not be a starter in the Crew’s first five games, but beyond that, who knows?
“Josh is going to make a lot of starts for us,” Craig Counsell said. “He pitched out of the ‘pen at the end of last year, so he’s game for it. He knows what he has to do. I think Josh is going to pitch a lot of innings for us. I think he’s capable of pitching a lot of innings, and we’re going to lean on him for that.”
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to predicting how this rotation will look throughout 2021. Luckily there are plenty of options to choose from along with a bullpen that ranked 1st in the NL in ERA (4.17), 1st in strikeouts (304), gave up the fewest walks (97) and was 2nd in WHIP at 1.22 in 2020.
But when you compare the 540 innings played last year to the 1,458 to come this year, you’ve got quite the dilemma regardless of who’s on your roster.