The 2021 Major League Baseball season is only now nearing its halfway point. Yet, the campaign, the first one consisting of 162 games since 2019, is not short of any surprising teams or players. After the fruits of 2020 ended up deceiving some teams during the offseason, changes in the standings and the balance of powers were just a matter of time. One of the ballclubs with the biggest benefit from that seismic shift could very well be the Brewers, with the Milwaukee Brewers rotation nodding at leading the team to the promised land.
Milwaukee didn’t put on a pleasant display during last year’s pandemic-shortened season. While the club did barely reach the postseason, making its third consecutive October appearance, the Brewers finished fourth within the NL Central division. Moreover, not only that but they also wound up with a losing 29-31 record, their first negative effort since 2016.
Just a few months later, Milwaukee has got it going more than almost any other team in MLB, let alone the National League. Craig Counsell‘s squad has won 17 of its last 24 matchups, the second-best mark in that span. After a quiet start to the 2021 campaign, the Brewers have rebounded and, at 38-30, trail the Chicago Cubs by just half a game (as of June 16th, 2021). Needless to say to anyone who has looked at the numbers, the Milwaukee Brewers rotation has been a centerpiece of this resurgence in a, potentially, strong season for the Wisconsin-based franchise.
2021 Milwaukee Brewers Rotation: The Performance Thus Far
Through the team’s opening 67 games this year, the Brew Crew’s starting pitching staff has been one of the best in all of MLB baseball. With a starter ERA of just 3.20, the unit ranks fifth within Major League Baseball. Furthermore, it is fourth in the NL in that metric and is one of just nine rotations with a collective earned run average south of 3.50.
The group’s turnout sounds even more impressive when looked upon individually. Milwaukee has had three starters on the mound with ERA figures under the 3.00 threshold and a total of four below the 4.00 mark.
Firstly, Brandon Woodruff has finally shown the remainder of the league why he is so highly valued by his current club. The fifth-year pitcher holds a 1.52 ERA. However, the real identity of success is best expressed by the figures he has put on in the three-true-outcomes department. On average, Woodruff has allowed slightly more than half a home run and less than two walks per nine innings. This risk-free performance is especially encouraging as regards the prospect of these values turning into a sustainable trend. It has to be weighed in against his comparable past track record to establish a real picture of his abilities over the entirety of a campaign. But more on that later in this article.
When it comes to avoiding risks, hence homers and bases on balls, second and third-choice starters, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes, are in a similar boat. Both members of the starting group have HR/9 numbers less than 1.0. In contrast, the outcomes in the field of ball control differ noticeably. Burnes has managed to concede less than one and a half walks per nine innings while Peralta has surrendered 3.8 on average. As it will become apparent in the following section, this issue has been observed with Peralta in each of his four years on the MLB level. Still, he has nearly always made up with a lack of home run woes and an abundance of punchouts to achieve positive results.
So far, all three players have ERA figures below 3.00 and have recorded more than ten strikeouts per nine innings.
Brett Anderson and Adrian Houser round up Milwaukee’s regular five on the mound. They have, up to this moment, posted earned run averages of 4.24 and 3.62, respectively. Furthermore, despite struggling against the long ball (1.4 HR/9 for both) and not striking out many batters, all shortcomings seem within control for both Houser and Anderson, which to a considerable degree explains their average-to-subpar results.
So far, the Milwaukee Brewers rotation has been amongst the MLB’s elite units. The top of the group has yet to go on a bad stretch while the bottom is impressively solid for its avid position. However, MLB’s season has not even reached the Colorado All-Star Game, scheduled for July 13th, and what has been observed is only a tiny portion of all the short timespans that form the “average” performance over the whole year, and with that the Brewers’ final 2021 record. Whether this domination carries on or not could be more confidently predicted based on each starter’s track record in comparison to their current figures in 2021.
2021 Milwaukee Brewers Rotation: A Group of Consistent Starters
After examining how the five members of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation have performed so far this year, a respectful follow-up would be to determine to what extent these impressive figures are likely to remain in their respective current ranges. Moreover, every starter within the unit should be looked at individually but, overall, things are looking beyond promising for the Brewers.
To start off, the pleasant display Brandon Woodruff has put on in 2021 isn’t an isolated case. Rather, it can be concluded that it is a part of an ongoing tendency throughout the entirety of his five-year major-league career. Keeping the argument in that direction, what’s more eye-opening is that even Woodruff’s numbers at the halfway point of the 2021 season are identical to the figures seen during full campaigns. Namely, the comparison happens to be with 2019, his lone 100-plus-inning year to date. This means that he is very likely to keep pitching with the same rates in the different statistical components he has maintained through thirteen starts. And to say that these values are satisfying would be quite an understatement.
Across thirteen appearances on the mound, Brandon Woodruff has conceded an average of 0.7 homers and 1.8 walks per nine innings. Also, he strikes out 10.52 batters every nine innings, which is the 14th-best mark amongst qualified starters in all of Major League Baseball. Firstly, the 0.7 HR/9 figure is very close to the 0.9 he has as a career average, as well as to the 0.9 he posted in 2019. In between those years, a noticeable jump was registered to 1.1 HR/9 in 2020 but that occurred in a shortened year and is a reasonable fluctuation within the common range.
Still, through the same amount of games he pitched in last year, Woodruff has a better homerun mark across more innings on the mound. Meanwhile, his control figure is simultaneously in a positive movement and close enough to his previous accolades. Woodruff surrendered 2.2 walks in each of his last two years with Milwaukee. Lastly, his strikeout capabilities are not slowing down either – 10.5 in 2021 against 10.1 career-wise and 10.6 in 2019.
It is clear that the outlook before Brandon Woodruff is of projections of dominance in the second half of the 2021 season and beyond. This, to a reasonable extent, is also the situation concerning Brew Crew’s remaining four starting pitchers.
Peralta’s walk problems have been a frequent occurrence since the very start of his professional tenure (3.8 in 2021-4.1 career). However, if anything, it is better than as per usual, which likely shows a slight and gradual improvement might be bound in that department. The biggest obstacle that stops Freddy Peralta’s numbers from being more credible? Heading into the current season, he didn’t have more than eight starts in a year except for his rookie year. In the other two, he was primarily a reliever.
Burnes is in similar waters – expectedly positive K/9 and HR/9, though his bases on balls are low by too wide a margin (1.7-2.8 career/>3.0 twice). Like Peralta, he hasn’t had more than nine starts in a single MLB campaign. These concerns are serious and thump the confidence directed at both Peralta and Burnes. Yet, their performance is great and intact with their career figures, perhaps indicative of what’s to come, if anything.
At the same time, Houser’s weak turnout against the long ball and as regards ball-control stand in sync with what he’s showcased for Milwaukee in the past four years. Furthermore, Brett Anderson makes up for an absence of strikeouts by keeping his HR/9 and BB/9 marks in a hazard-free territory at 1.4 and 2.9, respectively. Throughout the last four seasons, these numbers were even better but differed by not more than 1.0.
2021 Milwaukee Brewers Rotation: Reasons for (Yet More) Positivity and Sustainability
Being amongst the league’s top groups during the 2021 MLB season, the Milwaukee Brewers rotation has provided a rare state of consistency and success that has been the cornerstone of a front-running contender for a postseason berth. However, their dominance is not just words on paper with no factual evidence to back them up. The patterns previously observed in almost every measurement for all five starters were not only immensely positive in the past but are in the same range this year. This creates promises of sustainability for one of the league’s best rotations, pumping up the expectations for the Wisconsin ballclub in the process.
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