Thursday, August 22, 2013

Predicting the Brewers 2014 Pitching Staff

Since I can no longer bear to think about the sad state of affairs that the Brewers are in this season, looking ahead to 2014 sounded like a better option. I feel a little bit better about the Brewers pitching options for next season than I did before the 2013 season started, but the pitching in the farm system is still weak (especially compared to some of the farm systems that the rest of the teams in our division have). Here is how I think the pitching staff will look like to start the 2014 MLB season.

Starting rotation

Kyle Lohse – Lohse has easily been the Brewers best and most consistent starting pitcher this season. He has a 9-8 record with a 3.22 ERA in 159.1 innings pitched. He has walked 32 batters while striking out 105, and has a WHIP of 1.15. He has been worth his salary this season, but hasn’t been enough to push the Brewers into playoff contention like Brewers personnel thought he would be able to do when signing Lohse in March. It’s possible that the Brewers could trade him at or before the 2014 trade deadline if he is able to keep performing like he has this year. But, as it stands right now, he’s probably going to be the club’s 2014 opening day starter.

Yovani Gallardo – Gallardo struggled early this season, then strung together a couple of good starts, and then went back to struggling before landing on the disabled list with a hamstring injury while pitching against the Cubs (he must hate Wrigley Field). If the Brewers are going to have any chance at competing in the near future, they are going to need Gallardo to pitch like he did in 2011 and 2012. Like Lohse, there is a possibility that the Brewers could end up trading Gallardo, but I think a Yovani trade is far less likely than a Lohse trade. But who knows, the Brewers have surprised me before.

Wily Peralta – I’m going to be completely honest here; I have absolutely no idea what to expect out of Peralta next year. He’s been such a hit or miss pitcher this season that I am never quite sure what to think about him. It seems like he either has the ability to lose it early in a game and not be able to recover, or he stays out there for 8 innings and is virtually unhittable; there’s not much in-between with him. For the most part, he’s been great the second half of the season, having thrown 2 complete games for the Brewers this year (although one was against the Mariners, so does that really count?). Hopefully we can see some more consistency out of him next season, and he’ll be able to pitch well right away instead of waiting until the summer months to get on a roll.

Marco Estrada – I don’t think Estrada will last in the starting rotation much past mid-May or early-June, simply because I think we’ll see the Brewers give Jimmy Nelson or perhaps Ariel Pena a shot at the rotation (or maybe even Thornburg. Maybe). I like Estrada a lot more as a long reliever, but the Brewers seem to want to keep him in the starting rotation (he WAS our 2-starter going into spring training this season), so it will be interesting to see what happens with him next year.

Johnny Hellweg – I predict that the Brewers will give Hellweg a shot over the other young starting pitchers that they have mainly because he already has some major league experience. It probably depends on who gets called up this September and how they are able to perform, but I still think Hellweg is the frontrunner. He did struggle in his short time in the majors this year, and that’s putting it nicely. However, some of his struggles can be attributed to his defense forgetting what it means to field a ball or throw it to first base. This season in Triple-A Nashville, he’s been doing very well, he just needs to be able to get his walks under control. He has the ability to throw in the upper 90s and at the very least could probably do well out of the bullpen, so he’s a good option for the Brewers to have.


Tyler Thornburg – Thornburg thrived in the bullpen the first time he came up this season, but was almost equally as effective as a starter. However, now that the Brewers have elected to keep Tom Gorzelanny in the starting rotation, it almost seems like they are giving up on him as a starter and think that he might be more useful in the bullpen. He may get a few more chances to start in September, but I get the feeling that the Brewers have already decided his fate (in the bullpen).

Jim Henderson – Aside from the few appearances right after he came back from a hamstring injury, he’s been completely lights out. Barring an injury or a total and complete colossal collapse (like the Cubs in the month of October), I think he already has the 2014 closer’s role locked up.

Brandon Kintzler – Kintzler has been the most consistent Brewers reliever this season, and has been the best option to bring in during the late innings in close ballgames. He’s a solid 8th inning option, but has shown that he can be used at just about any time in any situation and get the job done.

Rob Wooten – Wooten made his major league debut on July 27th against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. He pitched a scoreless inning, and has outstanding numbers during his short time in the major leagues. So far, he has a 1-0 record with a 0.69 ERA, surrendering only eight hits and one run in 14 innings pitched. He has 9 strikeouts and has issued just 2 walks, giving him a WHIP of 0.77. It’s a small sample size, but if he can continue to pitch well, there’s no doubt that he will be back next year.

Tom Gorzelanny – Unless the Brewers decide to sign a left handed reliever this off-season (hopefully they don’t waste the money), Gorzelanny is probably going to be the only left handed pitcher that the Brewers will have next season. Chris Narveson is really the only other lefty option that they have, but he has been struggling in Nashville as of late, and I don’t think he’s going to end up making the ballclub next year – at least not right away. I don’t think the Brewers would go with a bullpen comprised of all right handed pitchers, so Gorzelanny is a good fit for the pen. He’s done a decent job while starting this season (except against the Cardinals, but that seems to be a trend amongst all of the Brewers players), but ultimately he’s probably more useful out of the bullpen.

Burke Badenhop
– Badenhop’s 2013 season started out kind of rough, but he’s been much better since the month of May. He can be used in multiple situations throughout a game, and Roenicke often brings Badenhop into a game when the team could use a double play. 2014 is his last year for arbitration eligibility, and the Brewers could probably get him back at a reasonable price for the season.

John Axford – I really think that it’s in the club’s best interests to just part ways with Axford, but I don’t think they are going to do it. He still has arbitration years through the 2016 season, so they will probably bring him back hoping that he can once again “figure it out.” If he does pitch well, they can always trade him if they aren’t contending. He’s making $5MM this season, so that’s probably about what he could get in arbitration again this off-season.

All of these roster spots are pure guesses on my part, and obviously a lot of things could happen during the rest of this season and the off-season that can factor into who the Brewers decide to put on their roster. I can only hope that they don’t go out and throw another 3 year contract at another veteran starting pitcher (we don’t want you, Bronson Arroyo) because they think they’re “one player away” from making a playoff run again. Also, please, please, please don’t bring back Mike Gonzalez. I’m begging you.

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Kristin Zenz (@10iskristin)

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