But injuries have plagued this team, and injuries have kept them out of playoff contention. Zack Greinke, unfortunately a little more greedy than I thought he would be, decided to turn down a massively lucrative offer that would have kept him in Milwaukee for half a decade at over $100 million.
Greinke pitched well for the Brewers this year and last; he was a maestro on the mound at home, and he showed how wonderful of a strikeout artist he can be.
But he's gone. And the Brewers are going to be just fine. In fact, they're going to be pretty dang good.
I'll go ahead and say it, I still think there's an outside chance this team makes the playoffs. It's going to take a lot of hard work, luck and some serious winning streaks, but it can be done. Some key injuries have been worked through, and with a few more players (*cough* Shaun Marcum *cough*) coming back soon, things are looking up for the second half.
Which brings me to my main point. The starting rotation.
As it stands right now: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Randy Wolf, Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers/Tyler Thornburg.
Gallardo is the obvious anchor. He's had a so-so year, but he's always been a second-half guy and he can and will stop having bad starts. He's plagued by one or two shellackings that make his ERA look much higher than it actually should be.
Estrada pitches much better in the rotation than in the bullpen, and he should be kept in the rotation. He's had a few ho-hum starts, and can be plagued by the long ball, but Estrada has proven he belongs in the rotation.
Fiers has been unbelievable this season for the Brewers. After being called up from Triple-A in what was supposed to be a "please God get me out of here" spot start, Fiers dominated. And he's dominated since. In 72 IP, Fiers has a 1.88 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, 73 Ks and a .228 BAA. Where the heck did this come from?
Fiers doesn't do it with hot stuff—he has a four-seam fastball that sits between 88-91 MPH, he has a good curveball, and a good changeup. But the strikeout numbers (as many as 10 in six innings) are shocking, and the fact that batters can't seem to figure him out is baffling. He's pitching like an ace.
Shaun Marcum will be back soon—hopefully sometime in mid-August. Marcum was having one heck of a year before being thrown onto the DL, as is prone to happen to him. He had a 3.39 ERA in 82.1 IP to go along with 77 Ks, a 1.17 WHIP and a .227 BAA. Great numbers from a guy who can only touch 89 MPH on his fastball. The Brewers need him back big time.
But once he returns, the real battle will begin. Randy Wolf has had an absolutely, terrifyingly bad season. I won't put it in any lighter terms.
He has an ERA that has hovered around six for the entire season, he's not getting batters out and he has a shocking .304 BAA. I love Randy, and as great of a career he has had (including two fine years in Milwaukee prior to this one), it's time for the Brewers to move the man out of the rotation. He's not good enough, and there are two other guys who can legitimately pitch MUCH better than he.
Mark Rogers had a spot start on July 29, and he pitched very well. He went five and two thirds, gave up only two earned runs and struck out seven. His fastball was running in the mid to upper 90's, and he was dropping some serious hammer curveballs that I didn't even think he had in his repertoire. It was an impressive outing that the bullpen blew in what should have been his first major league win.
I could go on about how miraculous it is that Mark Rogers is even in this spot, but I'll save it for another time. It deserves its own article. Suffice it to say, well done Mark, a lot of us are proud of you for overcoming some serious difficulties.
Then there's Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg's numbers aren't impressive (5.79 ERA, 14 IP, 12 K, seven BB), but he's pitching much better than those numbers indicate. The strikeout numbers are pretty good, and Thornburg is proving he has a place in the majors. Give him a few more chances, and I think he could easily drop his ERA down into the mid to upper threes.
When Marcum returns, I don't think Randy Wolf should even be in the discussion for that last spot. The Brewers must keep giving Rogers and Thornburg starts to see who is more ready to pitch at this level. If both appear to be ready, then let's go with a six-man rotation. Why not? Can't hurt to give some of these guys some extra rest, and it could give them the chance to go longer into games to keep our horrible bullpen out of the game.
With a final rotation as follows: 1 - Gallardo, 2 - Marcum, 3 - Fiers, 4 - Estrada, 5 - Rogers and/or Thornburg, we're looking pretty good to finish out the season on the starting-pitching front.
The offense has been swinging well lately, defense has been solid and the bullpen really just needs to buckle down and stop screwing the Brewers over, otherwise this would be a much closer race, and Greinke might still be here.
As it is, the Brewers still have a dandy rotation full of young arms, and they got a pretty fantastic haul in the Greinke trade. Not a bad deal for the Brewers.