The Milwaukee Brewers have one of the MLB’s strongest bullpens, but an unproven starting rotation could lead to problems in 2020.
Fresh off of two consecutive playoff berths, the Milwaukee Brewers look to be playoff contenders again in 2020. Left fielder Christian Yelich has been a revelation in his two years with the team, bringing home an NL MVP in 2018 and nearly doing the same in 2019. The bullpen, led by Josh Hader and Corey Knebel, is still among the MLB’s strongest.
However, rotation problems have plagued the Brewers in recent years, and figure to be even more important in 2020. With the season shortened to 60 games, the team will not be able to rely on its bullpen quite as much as it did in 2018, when manager Craig Counsell rode his relievers to Game 7 of the NLCS.
This is not to say that the rotation is weak, it’s just unproven. While there is no true ace on the roster, Brandon Woodruff turned in a solid season in 2019, earning an 11-3 record as a starter and posting a 3.62 ERA. At the very least, he is reliable, and will likely be the Brewers’ top starter.
Free agent addition Josh Lindblom also figures to crack the starting rotation after a few strong years in South Korea. The former KBO superstar won the league’s MVP award in 2019 after earning a 20-3 record and posting a 2.50 ERA, fresh off of a 15-4 2018 season with a 2.88 ERA.
The team clearly has faith in Lindblom after handing him a three-year deal in the offseason, and he will likely check in right behind Woodruff in the starting rotation. After that, things get a little murky.
Brett Anderson likely cracks the rotation after posting a 3.89 ERA in Oakland in 2019, and Adrian Houser will likely get some work as well after starting 18 games in 2019. However, each potential starter is unproven, and Woodruff and Lindblom might be the only locks in the rotation.
Even Lindblom still needs to prove himself, as the KBO does not present the same challenges as the MLB. With the 60-game season providing little rest, the Brewers need four to five reliable arms to alleviate the bullpen’s burden, but it is unclear if they have them.
The rotation, as currently constructed, could assuredly get the job done if it plays to its potential, but erratic pitching could be Milwaukee’s fatal flaw. Yelich and the rest of the lineup will certainly provide run support in a tight NL Central race, but at a certain point, pitching will decide just how far the Brewers can go in 2020.