Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Brewers had a fantastic starting rotation in 2011, and all five of the starters will be back for an encore in 2012.
The consistency of the starting rotation is hard to deny—Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson all had good years, and it stands to reason that at least two of these guys (Gallardo and Greinke) could be in Cy Young conversation in 2012.
The acquisitions of Greinke and Marcum elevated the Brewers to what was arguably their best season in franchise history. It was their first NL Central championship, and only the second time in two-and-a-half decades that they made the playoffs. With the exception of Gallardo, the starters were unremarkable in the playoffs, but the regular season was phenomenal.
Greinke had an extremely slow start. Broken ribs endured during a pickup basketball game in the offseason sidelined him for all of spring training, and the first month of the regular season.
He stumbled out of the gates, posting an ERA above 5.00 in his first two months. Once Greinke found his footing however, he was as dominant as anyone in the game. And if you go off of post All-Star break numbers alone, he would have been in the conversation for a Cy Young. Incredibly, Greinke never lost a start at home, and had a fantastic league-leading K/9 of 10.5
Gallardo also had a slow start, but he picked himself up as well. Gallardo would go on to post career highs in innings pitched (207.1), wins (17) and strikeouts (207), as well as career lows in ERA (3.52), WHIP (1.215) and BB/9 (2.6). His performance got him Cy Young recognition, as he finished in seventh place for the award.
Having Gallardo and Greinke at the top of the rotation for the second year in a row is going to be huge. I expect both of them to improve, and I think Gallardo is on the verge of a very impressive season.
Marcum and Wolf did everything that could have been expected from No. 3 and 4 pitchers, both posting ERAs in the mid-3.00s. It may have been Marcum's best year of his career, and it was one of Wolf's best years as well. Brewers fans will hope that Marcum can shake off a horrible postseason and pitch like he did for most of the regular season.
The only starter last year with an ERA in the 4.00s was Chris Narveson, and even he managed to impress Brewers fans. Narveson can lose control of his pitches, which makes him something of a wild card. He will be the fifth starter going into 2012, but expect Ron Roenicke to give prospects Wily Peralta and possibly Tyler Thornburg a chance to start in the big leagues.
The Brewers had the best rotation in the division last year, and one of the best rotations in baseball. If that continues next year, the Brewers will still have a great chance of contending.