Brewers: Starting rotation’s end of the year report card

Dillon Graff
Oct 9, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning during game two of the 2021 NLDS at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning during game two of the 2021 NLDS at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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I get it, if you don’t win the last game of the year, nobody cares. But that shouldn’t diminish the remarkable amount of success the club had in 2021. The Milwaukee Brewers finished the regular season with the club’s 2nd highest win total in club history (95), while also being named NL Central champions for just the 3rd time.

Let’s not forget the Brewers also made the post-season for the fourth consecutive season, which is something that’s never been done in franchise history. So, to call the entire season a failure just seems disrespectful and flat out incorrect.

A large part of the team’s success can be attributed to Brewers dominant starting rotation that proved to be the backbone of the ball club – which is something I never thought I’d have the luxury of uttering.

The rotation featured three starting pitchers that all made an All-Star game appearance, and also had sub 3 ERA’s: (Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta). Not to mention, Corbin Burnes could very well be your NL Cy Young – and in my opinion he should be.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Brewers also had breakout campaigns from both Adrian Houser (3.22 ERA), and Eric Lauer (3.19 ERA) who filled out the bottom of the rotation nicely.

Had it not been for the starting rotation, this Brewers team likely wouldn’t have made the post-season if we’re being honest. The lack of offensive production was alarming at times, ranking 27th in batting average and just 12th in run’s scored – making run prevention all the more important.

The Brewers struck out a league leading 1,618 batters in 2021 and had the third best ERA in baseball (3.50). More specifically, the starting rotation had a 3.13 ERA and just a .213 opponent batting average (that’s really good). They would also allow just 77 home runs which was the fewest in the major leagues. The starting rotation also finished fifth in baseball with 847.2 innings pitched – which is a vast improvement over season’s past.

In short, the starting rotation was the backbone of this ball club, and should continue to be for years to come. Woodruff, Burnes, Peralta, Houser, and Lauer are all either under team control or under contract through the 2024 season.

Was the Brewers rotation’s success a result of Craig Counsell’s deployment?

It’s also fair to wonder if the success had anything to do with Craig Counsell’s decision to deploy six starters when applicable. He did this in effort to provide the starters with an extra day of rest, rest that’s hard to come by otherwise.

It’ll be interesting to see if Milwaukee will continue to deploy six starters next season due to all the returning talent they have under contract, as well as the players pushing for a spot in the rotation (Ashby, Small). The results of the six man rotation were hard to argue with, and for a team that struggled to produce on offense, keeping your pitchers healthy is of the utmost importance.

Milwaukee Brewers individual pitching grades

Brandon Woodruff: 179.1 IP, 2.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 211 SO.

  • Ranked top 10 in 10 different statistical pitching categories, but received the lowest amount of run support among qualifying pitchers (2.9 runs on average). Don’t let Corbin Burnes great season distract you from the fact that Brandon Woodruff is a front-line workhorse for Milwaukee.
  • Grade: A

Corbin Burnes: 167 IP, 2.43 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 234 SO.

  • Cy young candidate who was among the league leaders in almost all relevant statistical categories.
  • Grade: A+

Freddy Peralta: 144.1 IP, 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 195 SO.

  • It was a breakout campaign for Freddy Fastball. Had he not gone on the IL he almost assuredly would have joined Woodruff and Burnes in the 200 K’s club.
  • Grade: A

Adrian Houser: 142.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 105 SO.

  • Houser took a huge step forward in 2021 and became a dependable starter for Milwaukee.
  • Grade: B

Eric Lauer: 118.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 117 SO.

  • Lauer may have been late to the party, but after becoming a full-time member of the rotation he turned in a fantastic season. Lauer became the rotational lefty all teams are looking for and registered a top 15 ERA in baseball among starters.
  • Grade: B

Brett Anderson96 innings pitched, 4.22 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 55 SO.

  • Anderson had 3 IL stints and struggled to stay healthy. He also only averaged 4 innings pitched in his 24 starts.
  • Grade: C-

Next. Brewers 2021-2022 Complete Offseason Preview. dark

Overall Season Grade: A

Anything other than an “A” would feel like a slight to what was one of the most dominant rotations in all of baseball. Milwaukee has a strong group of pitchers to build around and this season showed just how special they can be. Scoring runs against the Milwaukee Brewers wasn’t easy in 2021, and won’t be for years to come.

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