If I were manager: Picking the Brewers starting rotation

Let’s play a game. You like games, right? Good, because we’re going to pretend I’m the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and I get to pick the starting rotation. Game on.

The Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation posted a combined 4.40 ERA and 8.5 WAR in 2016, ranking 17th and 20th, respectively. A good portion of the rotation’s WAR came from Zach Davies (2.8) and Junior Guerra (2.5), but overall it was just slightly below league average, despite you probably thinking otherwise. With no big-name free agent starters added to the pool, Milwaukee’s pitching staff doesn’t figure to be too much better in 2017, especially if the team rolls out the same lot it did a year ago. But is that really going to happen?

The Brewers have arguably seven pitchers who could start. Only four of them probably should, but manager Craig Counsell needs five. And so do I since I’m taking over as manager for this post. Here are the seven candidates according to Milwaukee’s depth chart:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Wily Peralta
  5. Chase Anderson
  6. Matt Garza
  7. Tommy Milone

Guerra and Davies are my top two pitchers and are definite locks to make the rotation. RW23 believes Guerra and Davies will see some regression this upcoming season, but not nearly enough to cause alarm. They should still be the best pitchers on the Brewers.

Notice how Garza isn’t listed among the top five. Given how much the Brewers are paying him, that’s a rather big surprise, but his stats back it up. Garza continued to prove he was one of the worst free agent signings in history by accumulating a 4.51 ERA and 4.33 FIP last year, bringing his Brewers total to 4.59 ERA/4.27 FIP across the last three seasons. He’s no longer a viable starting pitcher, and odds are he’ll only be worse this season. As manager, he will not be a part of my rotation. I’m going to stick him in the bullpen where he’ll hopefully eat up some innings as a long reliever. I’d cut him, but he’s owed $12.5 million in 2017, and that’s a lot of money to pay someone to not be on the team.

Like Garza, Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson also struggled mightily. Peralta so much so that he was sent down to the minors to try and get right. Nelson, instead of taking another step forward, fell back and posted the highest FIP (5.12) of his career. Still, there’s upside remaining with both of them, more so with Nelson’s side, though. Walks really hurt him last year, along with the home run ball, and If he gets those things figured out, we should see some improvement. As for Peralta, well, I think we know what we’re going to get from him. He’s at best a No. 4 pitcher, and that’s being generous. He needs another chance to return to his 2014 form, though, so I’m going to give him one. Peralta and Nelson, welcome to my rotation.

Four spots are filled with one to go. Anderson and Milone are the final contestants, and neither of them are exactly endearing. Anderson has become increasingly more defective as his career rolls on, and even though he’s just 29, there’s literally no upside. Milone, on the other hand, has been serviceable but has never been considered a good pitcher. He’ll be 30 on Feb. 16 and owns a career 4.12 ERA in 673.1 innings as a starter. And although that ERA would be useful on many ball clubs, he’s never really been able to stick to a team. He started for the Athletics for parts of three seasons and was then shipped to the Twins in 2014 for another two and a half years. In 12 starts a year ago, he was blasted by everyone, as his 5.71 and 5.54 FIP clearly stated. And yet…

I’m going with Tommy Milone to round out my rotation. He’s been a better pitcher throughout his career than Anderson, and it’d be useful to have a southpaw in the mix. Milone has been underrated throughout his career, and I’d like to see what he can bring.

So here it is, my 2017 starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers:

  1. Junior Guerra
  2. Zach Davies
  3. Jimmy Nelson
  4. Tommy Milone
  5. Wily Peralta

Milone’s in at No. 4 just to break up the string of right-handed pitchers, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he outperformed Peralta. Regardless, that’s a rather uninspiring group, and it honestly might develop into the worst rotation in MLB if it stays that way.

Help is on the way, however, as Josh Hader should be just a few months away from breaking the rotation. I don’t believe he’ll make the roster right out of spring training, but if he does, he should absolutely be in the rotation. I’m not buying him as a reliever. He’s more than that. Taylor Jungmann isn’t on here either, solely because I don’t think the Brewers have any faith in him. They have Milone on their depth chart over him, for crying out loud.

Until the Brewers are ready to compete, they must adapt to an iffy starting rotation, as underwhelming as it may be. It’s forecasted to be another long season in Milwaukee.

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