By: Melissa S. Wollering
Ben Sheets is filled with rage. CC Sabathia has raised his eyebrows, slightly impressed. Rollie Fingers is rejoicing from his leather lounger and the Pittsburgh Pirates now feel utterly-and-completely-screwed as opposed to just sort-of-screwed. Doug Melvin has assembled the first real starting pitching rotation Milwaukee Brewers fans have seen in years.
The starting rotation could look similar to this: Randy Wolf, Yovani Gallardo, Doug Davis, Manny Parra, Dave Bush. If Jeff Suppan is used in a middle relief capacity, he could eat up the innings Manny Parra can’t quite finish. When the injury bug bites, put Suppan in. Go ahead. Or call up Chris Narveson.
This arrangement looks so normal, I’m almost baffled. It is not superb, but it is satisfactory. It is decent. It is adequate. It is, daresay, pleasing. It actually doesn’t suck. All season, I’ll be waiting for the floor to drop out from beneath this. I remain in moderate disbelief, sprinkled with feelings of shock and awe. Yes, please pick my jaw up from the ground. Thank you.
Examining the entire team at a glance, we still have the Ryan Braun/Prince Fielder 3/4 punch for at least one more season. Rickie Weeks has healed and we’ll still have Casey McGehee and Mat Gamel in the lineup. Craigy Counsell’s veteran utility brilliance is available once again. And Coffey, Hawkins and Hoffman are pure caffeine in the bullpen. Could the Brewers finally be a legit force in the NL Central? I think that question is best answered by the following question…
In what year did the Milwaukee Brewers last have a good starting rotation secured prior to the start of the season? The mid-season CC Sabathia acquisition worked wonders for the back half of 2008, but the starting rotation was not all that impressive prior to that and Ben Sheets was constantly injured.
So was the last great pitching year 1982? Mike Caldwell, Pete Vuckovich, Moose Haas, Bob McClure, Randy Lerch, Doc Medich and Don Sutton? The 2010 starting pitching rotation has a lot to prove before it can even be mentioned alongside the arms of Harvey’s Wallbangers, but it would be nice to call our pitching reliable for once.
In his heyday, Randy Wolf has produced a more valuable ERA than Vuckovich and Caldwell. And Yovani Gallardo’s 2009 ERA of 3.73 is extremely close to that of Vuckovich in 1982.
Of course, comparison truly lies with the 2010 squad’s ability to eat innings. Whereas Harvey Kuenn enjoyed having two pitchers with more than 200 innings pitched, the 2008 and 2009 Brewers did not even possess one. In 2008, CC Sabathia had more than 200 IP, but not all of those were with the Brewers. In 2009, Braden Looper was close but fell six innings short of the mark.
On the other hand, the 2010 relief corps may have more strength than that of the 1982 bullpen. Taking nothing away from the great Rollie Fingers, bless his soul, the starting rotation ate so many innings that their relievers weren’t used nearly as much as the 2010 pen will be.
In the year’s first Chart Magnificence, I gave Bush and Parra the benefit of the doubt and used their 08 stats in these comparisons. Let’s put them head-to-head on the mound in simulated PS3 games, shall we?
If the 2010 starting rotation eats innings, stays relatively healthy and has offensive support power comparable to the 1982 World Series team, it could make the Brewers a legit force in the NL Central. Then, instead of being known for the individual signings of Sabathia and Braun, Doug Melvin would be remembered for assembling the most reliable starting pitching corps since the Milwaukee Brewers were known as Harvey’s Wallbangers.