Well, we have finally worked our way around the entire diamond. Today’s installment ends the Nine Positions in Nine Days and I had a blast writing it for all of you. Okay, now let’s stop with the sentimental crap and get back to what’s important.
The Brewers have a young pitching staff, with the one outlier being Matt Garza. However, with youth, struggles also tend to accompany the flashes in the pan that talent at that age brings forth. Last season was one of those examples, especially with Wily Peralta, who has been hailed by some as the ace of the rotation in the future.
Coming into the 2015 season, Peralta was coming off a very impressive year in which he posted a 17-11 record with an ERA of 3.53 and a BB/9 of just 2.76. Unfortunately for Peralta and the Brewers, similar success failed to make itself known this past season, as Peralta posted a disappointing 5-10 record with an ERA that ballooned to 4.72.
Peralta’s was interrupted mid-season with a oblique injury that caused him to miss two months. It then later came back and struck him again in late September, ending his season. Perhaps it may have impacted him a little bit throughout the latter part of the year, but Peralta’s numbers prior to the injury were nothing too special (3.90 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 15% strikeout rate).
A crucial component to Peralta’s approach on the mound is his fastball. Constantly reaching speeds of 95+ MPH, he relies on it to blow past batters late in the count. The mixture of his off speed, mainly his slider, allows him to produce a high number of ground balls. In his four seasons under his belt as a Brewer, Peralta has a ground ball rate of at least 51 percent or higher.
Lefties continue to be a cause of concern for Peralta. As was the case in 2014, they had a higher average against him than righties (.305 to .289), higher slugging percentage (.534 to .430) and eight more total hits (69 to 61). His HR/9 among lefties is also higher than righties (1.48 to 0.83).
One thing that Peralta should emphasize a workload towards this season is his changeup. Coming in at just below six percent, it was his least-used pitch in his arsenal last season. We saw the implementation of a new off speed pitch and the success it can have with Jimmy Nelson last season when he began utilizing his curveball. The same goes for Nelson. With a grouping of a turbulent fastball, a slider that makes batters chase and a changeup that switches up the pace, Peralta may find similar success that garnered him success in 2014.
Another candidate for Opening Day starter is Jimmy Nelson, who led Milwaukee across the board in the three major pitching categories last season in wins (11), ERA (4.11) and strikeouts (148). He struck out batters at a 19.7 percent rate, good enough to rank 49th in the league.
One shining aspect to Nelson’s game is the development of his curveball. Replacing his changeup, Nelson’s curveball finished with a .533 OPS in 53 plate appearances. As he begins to get more experience with that under his belt, he may extrapolate his ceiling of just being a middle-of-the-rotation starter into something beyond.
Like Peralta, Nelson faces similar issues regarding left-handed batters. Lefties bat a whole 100 points higher than righties against Nelson (.298 compared to .198). They also boast a slugging percentage of .495. Part of the problem is due in part to his command, as 42.1 percent of pitches on lefties enter the middle-to-higher part of the strike zone. A refurbished command and approach to areas lower in the zone will alleviate those high numbers.
Moving on through the pitching rotation, it’s impossible not to mention Matt Garza without discussing his putrid 2015 season. In a year that saw him produce his lowest number of wins since 2012, highest ERA of his career and his highest percentage of walks since 2009, it was definitely a year for Garza to forget.
Frustrations began immediately for Garza. The months of March and April saw his ERA quickly balloon to 4.60, with batters hitting .277/.353/.454. Unfortunately for Garza and the Brewers, the ensuing months ensured that those inflated numbers were not a fluke, as his ERA catapulted even further once May came around, going up to 6.34.
In a year in which Milwaukee was wheeling and dealing come deadline week, it was unfortunate that a veteran pitcher like Garza was having such a poor season. As is the case every year, contending teams are always searching for an arm that will bolster their rotation in the final stanza of the season and aid in a playoff push. Due to Garza’s unattractive numbers, the Brewers would have been lucky to receive a dozen bats in exchange for him.
However, to every catastrophic event, there always is a silver lining and Garza is no exception. Speaking optimistically, there seems to be no fathomable way in which Garza could experience a worse year than last season. There’s always a bump in the road for many veteran pitchers and hopefully Garza has served his time. With the Brewers owing him at least $25 million over the next two years, it will be important for both sides to go into 2016 with an open mind.
What could an open mind mean regarding the Brewers and Matt Garza? Here’s a shocker – it may possibly mean him starting on Opening Day. Now, before you spit out your drink and stand up in disagreement, here me out. Garza is at the point of his career where, crazily enough, confidence is key. With as bad as a season he had last year, a large chunk of his confidence was lost, especially when the Brewers asked him to move to the bullpen. As a starting pitcher in this league for ten years, that has to take a toll in the self-esteem department.
Despite coming off the trails of a horrid 2015 season, Garza enters 2016 with something that the other pitchers on the staff cannot offer – experience. With the youth of Nelson and Peralta, Garza may be situated better for the Opening Day role, especially on the mental side of things.
The other crucial piece to the Garza for Opening Day starter argument is that giving him that job will resurrect some of that lost confidence. If Garza regains that self-control and mental drive, he may rediscover his success on the mound, which will serve important for both himself and the Brewers. With the current situation Milwaukee is in, it is imperative for them to flip as many players that do not resemble pieces of the future and get prospects that do in exchange. Garza fits that role perfectly. If he is shown belief by the Brewers even after that problem-ridden 2015 season, maybe, just maybe Garza will boost his trade value.
Likely the man carved out for the fourth spot in the rotation, Taylor Jungmann looks to show fans that he was worth the 12th overall pick in the 2011 Draft. There is not much to gauge him on, as he made his first career start just last season. He did come out on top in wins by posting a 9-8 record with a 3.77 ERA, but there are still some concerns regarding Jungmann.
The big blemish on Jungmann’s 2015 season was his final months of September and October. He had things rolling in August, posting a 3.12 ERA (and a 1.77 ERA in July), 30 strikeouts, an opponent batting average of .242 and a strikeout percentage of 27.3 percent. Then, enter September. Jungmann saw his ERA skyrocket to 7.85, as well as opponents seeing the ball better by averaging offensive clips of .278/.374/.588. His strikeout percentage also fell to 18.2 percent, with his K/BB falling to 1.60 when it was 2.73 the month prior.
The thing to remember with Jungmann is that he still has not had much experience at the Major League level. With that being said, he fits the perfect role of being the fourth man in the rotation. He will have many opportunities throughout the year to prove that he deserves a higher role on this pitching staff.
The fifth spot in the rotation was a bit of a mystery a few months ago, but due to recent events it seems as if the spot has been filled. Prior to the Jean Segura trade, it seemed likely that Zach Davies, whom the Brewers acquired in the Gerardo Parra to Baltimore trade, would receive the duties. However, with Jean Segura being dealt to Arizona, it seems as if Chase Anderson will fulfill the final spot.
Like so many others on the pitching staff, Anderson is a young guy. He has only been in the Majors for two seasons with mediocre wins and losses. However, those two years seem to be enough to leapfrog Davies in the running for the final piece of the rotation.
Outside of his fastball, Anderson’s changeup is his go-to pitch. It has proven in his two years in The Show that it is the dual threat of both striking batters out while also causing ground ball, posting a career 1.18 ground ball to fly ball ratio. Overall, Anderson boasts a 41.1 percent ground ball percentage. His curveball is also reason for his success in the positive whiffs and ground balls, causing batters to be off balance and modest at the plate.
Anderson will be able to provide some aid to the Brewers in this rebuilding process. After coming returning from injury in the second half of last season, Anderson’s fastball seemed to increase in velocity. Still, his velocity could use some work, as it averages out around the low 90’s. An addition of a sinker will also likely create more ground ball situations for Anderson, something he has already implemented well with his changeup and curveball. All in all, Anderson is not likely going to make fans drop their mouths in disbelief, but should do a productive job as a fifth starter.
When it’s all said and done, one word defines the majority of the Brewers pitching staff – development. Four out of the five projected starters are viewed as young guys who have not hit their prime yet, and with the proper guidance and tools, they can work on expanding their potential. Rebuilding years are often the key spans in which development occurs and that is not only the motto of the pitchers but in reality, the entire team. It may be a long year ahead for the Brewers, but at least their future does not look as bleak as it once did.