The Milwaukee Brewers: Adventures in mediocrity

 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Yovani Gallardo fuels the Brew Crew

The Milwaukee Brewers did not play baseball very well in the month of May. Injuries and really poor pitching produced a dismal record of 6-22, which is pretty difficult to accomplish even considering the aforementioned hardships.

Of course, the Brewers were essentially eliminated from contention following this brutal month, but did manage to close reasonably strong, finishing up September 15-12 for an overall mark of 74-88. This mild success was due in large part to vastly improved starting pitching from a number of guys who had struggled for most of the season.

Unfortunately, a moderate late season renaissance is usually a mirage for any team — namely the Milwaukee Brewers. Teams that make important personnel decisions based on a random four- to six-week sample size extracted from an entire season frequently regret these choices.

In regard to the Brewers potential starting rotation for 2014, it would appear general manager Doug Melvin and the gang intend on traveling down this grim path. Currently, the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation includes Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and an assortment of other less than desirable possibilities. Here’s why:

  • Gallardo was not very good for a significant portion of the year, with an ERA hovering around 5.00, and a plummeting K rate. He did pitch very well down the stretch, lowering his ERA from 4.91 to 4.18 over his final eight starts. However, while Gallardo is a quality starter, and durable as well, he is a No. 2 at best, probably skewing toward a No. 3 on an upper-division team.
  • Kyle Lohse was signed this past offseason to a 3-year/$33 million deal and delivered a very solid season. While he has enjoyed a remarkable late-career resurgence and provides decent value, Lohse is really no more than a No. 3
  • Then there is Wily Peralta, who did show some promise this season, and also closed strong after a rough start. Peralta is only 24, so he could be a fixture in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation for some time. However, his ceiling is likely no higher than a No. 3.
  • Estrada was serviceable, and should return to the rotation based on a combination of merit and a lack of more desirable options.
  • There are some young arms in the mix as well, including Johnny Hellweg and Tyler Thornburg. The Brewers like Hellweg, but he was rather inconsistent in his eight appearances with the big club, featuring a terrifying 9/26 strikeout to walk ratio. Meanwhile, Thornburg was excellent in four September starts, and also did some good work out of the bullpen earlier in the season.

This group did perform well down the stretch. However, the Milwaukee Brewers appear to be under the impression the rotation is solid enough to enter the 2014 season as-is. And it is not.

There are some quality arms here, but Gallardo and Lohse are simply not adequate at the top of the rotation. Of course, even if the Brewers wanted to address this issue in free agency, there are factors working against them, namely possible payroll constraints and a general lack of impact starters in the 2014 free agent class.

The organization has indicated that a complete tear down is unnecessary, but this is certainly debatable. If the Milwaukee Brewers do trade Gallardo in the offseason, this rotation will be ugly, and fielding a competitive team will be quite a chore.

If they decide to hold onto Gallardo, there is still little chance of realistically competing in a vastly improved NL Central. Even at optimal health, with their desired everyday lineup intact, it would be difficult to break through the established hierarchy of the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. They could even conceivably wind up in the cellar, if the Cubs show any improvement.

If you recall, a similar scenario with the starting rotation played out at the end of the 2012 season, and the results this past season would indicate a different course of action might be warranted this time around in preparation for 2014. However, all signs from the front office at this point suggest otherwise.

Good luck with that, guys.

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