If the season began today, the Milwaukee Brewers‘ starting rotation may be better than you think. Although not featuring any of the elite names in baseball, this rotation is capable of efficiently producing the quality starts needed to allow the almighty offense to finish the job. The Brewers have been quiet in free agency, not just because of their limited budget and small market, but also because they feel this rotation is balanced and can indeed keep them competitive.
Yovani Gallardo is the longest tenured arm in the rotation and will be just 28 years old come Opening Day. He carries his 3.72 career ERA into the 2014 season and looks to re-establish his consistency he displayed earlier in his career. Gallardo, a strikeout pitcher who saw his velocity dip and his pitch count rise en route to his worst year of his career, still carried a very respectable 4.18 ERA last season. Although Gallardo has had his inconsistency, he’s still as durable as they come as he has transcended 30 starts for five straight seasons. If he can limit the damage in the big innings and find ways to work deeper into games, he’s in line for a bounce back season. By the way, Gallardo is no automatic out at the plate for opposing pitchers as he’s established himself as one of the game’s best hitting pitchers which brings great value to this ball club.
Kyle Lohse is the ultimate definition of consistency finishing with 20 quality starts last season. The Cy Young winner two out of the last three years, Clayton Kershaw, led all of baseball with 27 quality starts, so it goes to show just how solid Lohse has been. Not a power arm, but he is one of the smartest pitchers in all of baseball who continues to give his team a chance to win every start and has been a great mentor to the young arms.
Arguably one of the most underrated starters in all of baseball is Marco Estrada who has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season. Much like Lohse, Estrada was a late bloomer in his career and seems to keep getting better. Many overlook Estrada not just because of his 5-foot-11 stature, but also because he doesn’t present a flashy repertoire, with a fastball that struggles to exceed 92 mph. Don’t let that fool you. Estrada has exceptional command with a devastating change-up. Over the last two seasons, he has an impressive 261 strikeouts in 266 innings pitched. What’s even more admirable? He’s only allowed a total of 58 walks the past two seasons which is good for an astounding 4.50 K:BB ratio. If Estrada can stay 0n the field, he brings an extremely dynamic value to this rotation.
The remaining two spots in the rotation will be given to the Brewers’ most highly touted arms in their system in recent years, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. Peralta, at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, brings a presence to the mound along with his mid-90s heavy sinker and a filthy slider. Over the final two months of last season, Peralta boasted a 3.88 ERA and found himself consistently pitching deep into games. If he can harness his natural power and repeat his mechanics on a consistent basis he will find himself atop the rotation in a heartbeat, where the Brewers have always envisioned him.
Thornburg, a former No. 1 prospect and third round pick for the Brewers, is an emerging arm in their rotation. Although not a big-bodied individual, a mirror image of former two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Thornburg can light up the radar gun with his low-to-mid 90s fastball. He’s capable of repeating his over the top delivery on a consistent basis which allows him to have great deception. Thornburg also has a great power curveball that generates a lot of swing and misses, but he can also get it over for a called strike when need be, often buckling the knees of the hitter. Look for Peralta and Thornburg to surface and anchor themselves in the heart of the Brewers’ rotation.
The Brewers have always been known as a slugging team that can score runs, but don’t overlook this pitching staff. Granted, everything has to play out just right, but this rotation is fully capable of keeping this team in a pennant race, especially if top prospect power arm Jimmy Nelson arrives for a late-season push. If this team can stay healthy and perform to their potential, the Brewers will open some eyes this year.