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5 Reasons Why 2014 Milwaukee Brewers Rotation Is As Good As 2011′s

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The 2014 Milwaukee Brewers' Rotation is Of Playoff Caliber

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Though the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers had Zack Greinke at the top of the rotation, and strong years from Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum, real evidence suggests this year's top five are just as good as a collective unit. There are, however, two caveats.

The 2014 version needs to be healthy and they need to pitch as well as their three-year averages have shown.

Among the rate stats, this year's rotation has an edge on the NL Central Division champions. However, that crew from a few years ago racked up a ton of innings. The quintet of Greinke, Gallardo, Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson combined to throw 950.2 frames on the year. Three of those guys tossed at least 200 innings, with Wolf leading the club at 212.1 frames.

Therein lies the potential problem for the 2014 squad. Gallardo, Estrada, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Wily Peralta average a total of 848 frames per season over the last three years.

This is why you can't go a minute talking about this year's starters without uttering the phrase, "If they're healthy." It's a required statement because of their injury history, but also because when they're on the mound, they are all good enough to be considered the deepest rotation in the league.

This year's group could even be considered one of the best overall staffs if Peralta takes a step forward. He has the best pure stuff of the five, but his numbers are the worst. Estrada is another wild card as he has yet to pitch close to a full season. If he does, will his stats remain the same or will we see regression?

Either way, the following are five reasons why the 2014 rotation is as good as the 2011 division-winning group. The averages for the 2014 rotation are based off of the last three seasons, and they're presented to you without names to avoid bias.

Tim Muma is a Milwaukee Brewers writer for Follow him on Twitter @brewersblend, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Walks per Nine Innings (BB/9)

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Avoiding the free pass is vitally important as it limits the effects of hits and home runs that will inevitably follow. The 2011 rotation had an average BB/9 of 2.78 that season. The three-year average for this year's starting five is an identical 2.78 BB/9. The Brewers' top two guys in this category average a better rate than the top two pitchers from 2011.

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4. Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP)

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A pitcher's WHIP indicates how often batters are earning their way on base each frame. The average for this year's crew is 1.25, one-hundredth of a point better than the 2011 rotation. Again, 2014's best two pitchers are better in WHIP than their counterparts in 2011, each with a 1.14 three-year average.

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3. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

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Fielding independent pitching measures what a pitcher's ERA should be if performance on balls in play and timing were average. The 2014 group has a 3.69 FIP, compared to the 3.73 FIP for the 2014 gang. This time, 2011 has the better one-two punch at the top. However, the fourth and fifth pitchers this year (3.78 FIP) rate far better than the 2011 bottom two (4.19 FIP).

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2. Earned Run Average (ERA)

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Though factors outside of a pitcher's control affect ERA, it's still a good tool to use. The 2014 average ERA from the past three seasons is 3.77, a shade better than the 2011 ERA of 3.82 overall. The middle three pitchers were all close, but the 2014 crew owns a 0.22 edge at the top and a 0.20 advantage at the bottom.

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1. Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio (K/BB)

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The K/BB ratio makes a quick comparison of a pitcher's ability to command the zone, make batters miss and potentially dominate at-bats. The 2011 rotation had the better top two hurlers in this category, but 2014 has the better overall rate, 3.00 to 2.94 K/BB. The 2014 pitchers have greater depth with the third and fourth-best K/BB rates, far surpassing their 2011 counterparts.

Admittedly, there are what-ifs to be played out on top of the health concern. However, the 2014 rotation stacks up favorably to the club that won the NL Central a few years ago, with this year's rotation boasting depth over the top-heavy quintet of 2011.