NL Wild Card Game: Examining Brewers' starting pitcher options for one-game playoff
Will Craig Counsell go with Gio Gonzalez, Zach Davies, or his bullpen?
With a week to go in the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers are sitting pretty. The Brewers are up two games on the St. Louis Cardinals and 3 ½ over the Colorado Rockies. (Milwaukee is still alive in the NL Central race too, entering Sunday 2 ½ games behind the Chicago Cubs.) The Brewers do have three games left with the Cardinals, and that could shake up seeding. But it looks like they'll find their way to the postseason in some capacity or another.
Presuming the Brewers will be able to set up their rotation as they'd like heading into the postseason. Who will they decide to start in the NL Wild Card Game? Let's examine the options.
We're lumping these two together for a few reasons. Foremost, both are veteran southpaws who have impressive earned run averages (Gonzalez's is 1.65 in September; MIley's is 1.69). The arguments against them are similar as well, beginning with the fact that the Cardinals and Rockies have each performed better on the season versus lefties than righties. Would that be enough to push the Brewers to a right-hander?
In Miley's case, it's worth highlighting his shaky peripherals, too. Even in September, he's struck out just eight batters in 16 innings. That's not a formula that tends to work -- nor one that teams like to entrust with their postseason fates.
Chacin has been the sturdiest part of Milwaukee's rotation this season, tallying 33 starts and 182 innings. Should the Brewers weigh recent performance more than overall output, then Chacin could find himself down the pecking order. He's allowed 21 baserunners in 18 innings and has posted a 4.34 ERA in four September starts, the worst of Milwaukee's starters.
Contrariwise, Anderson can't quite match up with Chacin's full-season numbers. He has, however, pitched better recently based on his shiny 3.06 ERA. Beware, though, because he's permitted 24 baserunners in 17 ⅔ innings -- that's a worse rate than Chacin despite the ERA.
Davies has held opponents to a .250/.288/.338 slash line and has a 3.32 ERA in four starts since returning from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. Perhaps the biggest argument against Davies is that he's posted the worst swinging strike among Brewers starters in September.
Without a standout in the group, perhaps the Brewers would turn to …
The opener/bullpen game
The Brewers have the sixth-best bullpen ERA in the majors, and a one-game playoff would allow them to leverage their depth in a significant way.
Craig Counsell, for his part, has spent September conditioning his starters to face a lineup twice -- maybe twice and some change -- suggesting that might be the plan for the postseason, too:
|Pitcher||Sept. BF/GS||Seasonal BF/GS|
24 (mostly with Nationals)
The Brewers could use Josh Hader for two innings while asking Corey Knebel, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes to pitch an inning-plus. That covers six-plus innings right there -- and that's without working Joakim Soria, Jeremy Jeffress, Xavier Cedeno, and whomever else into the equation. Remember, they can load their roster with relievers if they so desire. The Brewers, theoretically, could go coast-to-coast without calling upon a starter.
Granted, it is a risky strategy -- especially in an elimination game. The Brewers, then, may keep things a touch more conventional and go with a standard starter. It's not like they're picking between bad choices, anyway, they just don't have someone who stands out above the rest.
If we had to guess, Counsell will end up rolling with Gonzalez, Chacin, or Davies. That's simply a guess, however, and the Brewers have other, perhaps more compelling options to consider over the coming week.
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