It’s said that pitching wins championships. In particular, starting pitching wins championships.
This sentiment particularly resonates in Milwaukee because the organization has largely failed to develop quality starting pitching for longer than most fans care to remember. It resulted in many below-average years — as well as bad free agent contracts — and the only way the Brewers were able to catapult themselves into the postseason was through acquiring proven starting pitching via the trade market at high expense.
So, you’ll have to excuse Brewers fans for getting antsy this winter while Doug Melvin and the Brewers’ front office have chosen to rely on unproven, young pitchers to make up the majority of the 2013 starting rotation. Such a large number of unknown quantities in the starting rotation leaves the Brewers with a massive range of expected performance from the starting staff. Knowing that, the organization desperately wanted to add a veteran workhorse to the rotation this offseason for stability, but the inflated free agent market has prevented the Brewers from signing a number-two or number-three starter, as the club expects to dramatically reduce their payroll to roughly $80M in 2013. They seemingly do not have the funds available to stay competitive in free agency this winter.
The Brewers’ starting rotation ranked ninth in the National League last season with a 3.99 ERA, and that included 247 innings from Zack Greinke and Shaun Marucm, both of whom are no longer with the organization. It’s certainly not a foregone conclusion that the Brewers’ rotation will be below-average — as it’s a rotation that possesses legitimate upside — but no one should reasonably expect the Brewers to be one of the best pitching staffs in the National League.
Does that mean the Brewers have no shot at competing for a postseason berth in 2013?
The second Wild Card berth heightens the Brewers’ chances next season, but since the 2000 season, only eight teams with starting rotations that ranked in the lower half of the National League have made the postseason. Those eight teams are highlighted in red below.
Only eight of 53 postseason teams (15.1%) since 2000 have featured starting rotations that finished in the bottom half of the National League. In that way, the Brewers do not project to have much of a chance if their rotation replicates last season’s performance. It gets worse once we realize that the 2006 Cardinals benefitted from a weak NL Central and only won 83 games. The 2005 Padres only won 82 games. The Brewers are in a much-improved National League and a division that includes the Cincinnati Reds, who are seemingly built for a big year, so it’s unlikely that 82 or 83 wins results in a postseason berth for Milwaukee.
So, we’re really looking at six teams that featured below-average starting rotations and still played in October. The 2004 Dodgers were very much like the 2012 Orioles, in which they rode a dominant bullpen and won a disproportionate amount of one-run games (32). The Brewers do not project to have a dominant bullpen unless the planets align and everything breaks perfectly.
Instead, the Brewers can look to the 2011 Diamondbacks, 2010 Reds, 2007 Phillies, and 2001 Astros for a blueprint for postseason contention. Each of those four teams won at least 89 games and did so by mashing the baseball and outscoring their opponents. The Reds and Phillies scored the most runs in the National League in their respective seasons, while the Astros were second and the Diamondbacks were fourth.
Milwaukee scored the most runs in the National League last season and return each of their starting position players. While players such as Aramis Ramirez and Norichika Aoki could be due for regression, the projected upticks for Rickie Weeks and the entire shortstop position should be enough to keep the offense from falling off the map. They still should be well above-average offensively. But even then, it’s not as if we’re talking about a large sample of high-powered offenses that made up for below-average starting rotations. It would still be a long shot.
Of course, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers could step up and be mid-rotation starters, while Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers hold down the back end and Yovani Gallardo puts up a breakout season. It’s certainly possible. The talent is there. In that case, we would absolutely be talking about a postseason contender. That’s just a lot that needs to go right in the rotation for an entire season. I’m not certain the Brewers can enter the season with the expectations that will happen.
Most likely, the Milwaukee Brewers are looking at a season with mediocre pitching and an above-average offense. History shows us that can be a recipe for success. However, it’s also proven difficult, so the Brewers need to hope that either they win a large percentage of one-run games to outplay their expected win totals or the second Wild Card berth lessens the needed win-total enough that they can sneak in and try to win a one-game playoff.
BREWERS SIGN DOMINICAN OUTFIELDER
The Milwaukee Brewers reportedly signed 17-year old Dominican outfielder Geraldy Martinez for a $50,000 bonus. DPL Baseball first reported the signing, and they provided a very brief scouting report of the young outfielder.
Martinez is a product of trainer Christian “Niche” Batista, he’s an athletic player at 6’3″ with a muscular toned body weighing 180lb. Geraldy is a 6.7 (60 yard) runner and posses solid average arm strength. The right hand hitting outfielder’s best tool is his bat; He has good bat speed and hits the ball hard gap to gap with true power from pull side.
Of course, one should take the scouting report with a grain of salt because the DPL obviously has a vested interest in hyping the prospects coming through their system.
Interested in a six-second video of Martinez? DPL Baseball once again has you covered: