Starting pitching is the paramount concern for any baseball team in any season, but even allowing that the Milwaukee Brewers need starters Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke to step it up a notch if a return to the postseason is going to be possible.
It’s not that Gallardo and Greinke haven’t been credible starters. Gallardo, at age 26, has settled into a pattern when you can expect him to go to the post thirty times, win around fifteen games and have an ERA in 3s. Greinke’s followed a different pattern. After winning the Cy Young Award with the Kansas City Royals in 2009, he slipped to a 4.17 ERA the following year. After Milwaukee emptied the farm system out to acquire him, Greinke had a 3.83 ERA last year—when you factor in that he didn’t have to face a designated hitter, it’s probable that his ’11 season was worse than ’10.
With Prince Fielder gone and Ryan Braun under a cloud, the Brewers are going to need find alternative ways of winning games. The surest way there is would be through dominant starting pitching and Gallardo and Greinke are the two arms on the staff that can deliver that.
Therefore, while it’s certainly acceptable for Gallardo to pitch at his current level, if he were ever to take his excellent stuff up to Cy Young-caliber level, this would be the year to make it happen. Not only would it be for good for the team, but Gallardo’s age suggests it’s time for peak performance. In the case of Greinke, we know he can reach elite levels. It’s time for him to show that 2009 wasn’t a one-year wonder.
Even if just one of Milwaukee’s 1-2 punch steps up, the Brewers will have the pitching they need to get back into the postseason, even if it’s the one-game wild-card playoff showdown. And if they’re in that game, the importance of an ace will be on display for the entire country. Gallardo and/or Greinke are the only ones who can make it happen for their team.