Milwaukee Brewers Fielding Several Problems with Rotation

Jeff BreenContributor INovember 20, 2008

Eleven wins and seven complete games later, and CC Sabathia had his club in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. The 26-year drought was ended mostly in part due to the impressive outing produced by the "big man."
Along with the N.L.'s starting pitcher for the All-Star Game, Ben Sheets, these two became one of the most feared duos in all baseball. Unfortunately for the Brewers, these two stars could be moving elsewhere, leaving plenty of holes in the rotation, as well as some big shoes to fill.

Sheets and Sabathia are on the free-agent market, and the Brewers are faced with a subpar staff at best. Yovanni Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, Carlos Villanueva, and Seth McClung are the potential starters. On paper, these remaining pitchers aren't the worst, but it seems that most have not lived up to their full worth.

Dave Bush once again showed an inability to pitch well on the road, but once at home, he pitched like Cy Young. Bush had a 3.50 ERA, compared to a dismal 5.14 away from Miller Park. Six of Bush's nine wins game at home. He also added a playoff victory in game three of the NLDS against the Phillies.
Bush and Seth McClung platooned midway through last season, with Bush pitching at home while McClung pitched road games on Bush's day in the rotation. Bush showed promise at the end of the year, but if history repeats itself, his road struggles will continue.

Yovanni Gallardo came to Spring Training, got hurt, missed the start of the season, finally appeared on Apr. 20, only to be hurt three starts later on May 1. He didn't come back until the last week of the season. The best sign from Gallardo was a 1.88 ERA in his five starts. Gallardo, who came up as a very highly-scouted player looks to be the strongest player on the remaining staff.

Seth McClung came out of nowhere in 2008 and wore many hats. The former Ray started the year in the bullpen but came on as a starter at various times throughout the year. Fans started to pull 6'6'' right-hander. His 3.44 ERA on the road was an answer to Dvae Bush's road problems. Seth will be a major contender for one of the five rotation spots in 2009.

Chris Capuano had a rough 2008 in more ways than one. The left hander was hurt for the entire season, and had to sit at home while his team celebrated a playoff berth.  Capuano struggled mightily in 2007 and his status was unknown until his injury decided it for him.
He remains a solid option in the starting rotation or the bullpen. His amazing move over to first base keeps good tabs on the run game, as he was in the top five for pick offs from 2004-2006. He will have to earn his spot next spring, but his presence will boost the staff wherever he ends up.

Jeff Suppan had signed the biggest contract in 2007 when he came over after a NLCS MVP and World Series Championship. But the "soup was cold" in 2008.  Besides the month of June, Suppan never really put solid starts together. 
His experience which should have guided the team through the final month was not there, and the season ended in game four of the NLDS with Suppan serving up the loss. 
This reporter would like to see a trade, but with his contract, that is unlikely. The Brewers hope that he can put together a solid season, and see the Jeff Suppan that they thought they signed. 

Carlos Villenueva showed that he is better used out of the bullpen. He got knocked around pretty bad as a starter, but flourished as a closer similar to 2007. He's not a bad filler to give someone a break in the rotation or to fill in on injuries, but his game is best when out of the bullpen. 
Hopefully he will be used as set-up man in 2009, to help settle some of the bullpen problems, which will be covered next week.

Sabathia and Sheets will be the talk of the Brewers offseason. As of now, Scott Boras has not back to the Brewers. If by some miracle he does sign, the staff will get a major boost. 
As far as Sheets goes, it looks as if teams are skeptical with his injury-plagued seasons. If healthier, he would be getting Sabathia-type money, but as of now, it looks as of the Brewers may be where he ends up.  If that is the case, there is talk about him taking the role of closer. The less wear and tear on his body the better. 

So, the Brewers' staff remains up in the air. Compared to their infield, which I covered earlier, this seems to be the most pressing issue. 
After all, pitching wins titles.  If the Brewers can get either Sheets or Sabathia that will solve some problems, but look for the Brewers to try and sign a free agent to bolster their staff some more. 
Come back next week as I will tackle the Brewers bullpen, which raises even more questions. Until then, Go Brewers!