The Milwaukee Brewers have dealt with a slew of injuries to their pitching staff. Four starting pitchers are currently on the injured list: Brandon Woodruff, Eric Lauer, Wade Miley and Aaron Ashby, as well as relievers Matt Bush and J.B. Bukauskas.
The Brewers currently sit 13th in Major League Baseball in ERA, not a terrible place to be considering the number of players making starts for the Brewers that were not on the radar to start the season, including Colin Rea, and Julio Teheran, who was recently signed. Teheran gave up just one run in five innings pitched in his Brewers debut.
Despite injuries to the pitching staff, the Brewers sit tied for third in all of baseball and tied for the National League lead with the Pittsburgh Pirates with six shutouts. This is in part due to some impressive starts from unexpected pitchers, like the aforementioned Rea, but also Adrian Houser who has turned the ball over to the bullpen his last two appearances with their opponents score still reading zero.
If Houser continues the way he's pitched recently, he will certainly be deserving to challenge for the most underrated pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. However, that title is currently held by a relief pitcher: Joel Payamps.
Joel Payamps is the Milwaukee Brewers most underrated pitcher.
Joel Payamps is having the best year of his major league career so far in 2023 with the Milwaukee Brewers. What may be the most impressive part about Payamps' performance is that he was essentially a throw-in from the A's in the William Contreras trade the Brewers made with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Athletics. Matt Arnold did a great job with this trade to acquire two big impact players in this deal.
Joel Payamps currently has a career low 2.22 ERA and has become the Brewers' second best relief pitcher only to closer Devin Williams. Payamps has inherited 13 runners to this point of the season and stranded 12 of them, as noted by Brewers Senior Director of Media Relations, Mike Vassallo.
Payamps is sporting an impressive 7:1 strikeout to walk ratio which is nearly triple his previous best seasons. Joel Payamps is also striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings, also by far a career high. Payamps holds a slight edge over Bryse Wilson, 28 to 24, for most strikeouts by a relief pitcher for the Brewers so far this season. Wilson is another worthy candidate for the underrated title going to Payamps.
There may be credit due to the Brewers pitching lab, but Joel Payamps has been very successful in 2023 due in large part to his nasty slider, which is by far his most used pitch this season. Payamps has turned down the use of his four seam fastball and continued the increase of the number of sinkers.
Looking at the charts on Joel Payamps' page on Baseball Savant, it's quite easy to see why the Brewers want Payamps throwing lots of sliders, based on vertical and horizontal movement, Joel Payamps has one of the best sliders, not just on the team, but in MLB. He also sits in the 93rd percentile in both average exit velocity and walk percentage.
What may be most impressive is the fact that Joel Payamps is in the 79th percentile for strikeout percentage while being in just the 37th percentile for whiff percentage and only 33rd percentile in chase rate. Those percentiles suggest that Payamps is freezing batters with the location of his pitches. He has a 41.2 percent strikeout rate on his slider and 38.5 percent strikeout rate on his four seam fastball, both are massively by far career highs
Joel Payamps career year through the first two months of the 2023 season may be due in large part to more effectively mixing his slider with his cutter and four seam fastball.
Payamps' effectiveness increase so far in 2023 may also be in part to being more efficient getting ahead in counts, He currently sits just over 60 percent at throwing first pitch strikes, his previous career high mark was 57.6 back in 2021.
Joel Payamps may be starting to get some of the respect he deserves for how good he's been so far this season, but Payamps isn't getting enough credit for how impressive he has pitched this season. Joel Payamps is the most underrated Milwaukee Brewers pitcher.