Breaking down every pitcher in the Brewers’ rotation


Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Arizona for the Milwaukee Brewers today. Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson will be featured in the starting rotation this season. Take a moment to review each pitcher and examine their strengths and weaknesses before the season begins.

Kyle Lohse

2014 Statistics: 13-9 record, 3.54 ERA, 31 G, 31 GS, 2 CG, 2 SHO, 198.1 IP, 22 HR, 45 BB, 141 K, 1.15 WHIP

Strengths: Lohse has great control. He relies heavily on his sinker and slider, in 2014, 39.2 percent of Lohse’s pitches were sinkers and 29.6 percent were sliders.  These pitches that have a lot of movement, and it is vital for Lohse maintain control.

His change-up has proven to be an effective, with nearly 30 percent of batters missing on their swing. Lohse certainly does not overpower hitters, but the control of his off-speed pitches make Lohse effective.

Weaknesses: The problem with Lohse is that he becomes predictable. He has a steady mix of pitches in the first few innings, and he remains consistent, but batters become selective. The swing percentage of the opposition steadily declines up until the fifth inning, but by the time the fifth and sixth innings roll around, the swing percentage spikes. Additionally, the whiff percentage drops in later innings. Once the opposition grabs hold of his game plan, Lohse loses his edge.

Matt Garza

2014 Statistics: 8-8 record, 3.64 ERA, 37 G, 27 GS, 1 CG, 1 SHO, 163.1 IP, 12 HR, 50 BB, 126 K, 1.182 WHIP

Strengths: Unlike Lohse, Garza finds strength in his four-seam fastball. Accounting for 49.8 percent of his pitches in 2014, Garza understands the power of his fastball. This pitch has an average velocity of 93.5 mph, and movement that allows it to exploit batters’ inaccurate read of the pitch . His slider has improved in the last couple of seasons, becoming his go-to pitch in two strike situations. Garza’s curveball acts as a distraction, keeping batters off of his fastball and slider. He brings a level of intensity to the game that is unmatched. Taking down batters with sniper-like precision, little can stand in Garza’s way when he is in command.

Weaknesses: Garza has a history of being plagued with injuries. Troubling mechanics are at the root of this problem, though at this point in his career, his mechanics are not something that can be easily adjusted. Surviving an entire season without landing on the DL is not an easy feat for Garza, and the Brewers cannot rely on him to be consistently healthy. Garza’s competitive nature, while it serves him well in some situations, it can also be his kryptonite. Garza allows his mistakes to fester, and his desire to correct his errors often leads to a poor pitching pattern. His inability to separate the past from the present infects his mindset and makes him prone to a big inning from the opposition.

Sep 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Matt Garza (22) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Wily Peralta

2014 Statistics: 17-11 record, 3.53 ERA, 32 G, 32 GS, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 198.2 IP, 23 HR, 61 BB, 154 K, 1.304 WHIP

Strengths: Wily Peralta is a power pitcher. Not showing favoritism to any one pitch, Peralta has a steady balance in his repertoire. In 2014, 34.1 percent of Peralta’s pitches were fastballs, 31.6 percent were sinkers, and 29.2 percent were sliders (His change-up made up for the remaining 5.2 percent).  The velocity on his fastball averaged 96.5 mph, and his sinker averaged 96.7 mph. When Peralta is in control, his high velocity makes it nearly impossible for opposing batters to attack his pitching.

Weaknesses: Peralta struggles to remain in control. He has improved in the last couple of seasons, but he is still prone to issues with his command. In 2014, the home-run ball was particularly problematic for Peralta. Giving up a total of 23 home runs, the most of any pitcher in the Brewers’ rotation, Peralta would leave pitches hanging over the plate. Sometimes Peralta tries too hard, and his tendency to overcompensate gets him into trouble. While he has settled down considerably, given his power-pitcher nature, the long ball will likely continue to haunt Peralta.

Mike Fiers

2014 Statistics: 6-5 record, 2.13 ERA, 14 G, 10 GS, 71.2 IP, 7 HR, 17 BB, 76 K, .879 WHIP

Strengths: Fiers is a master of deception. His velocity is not electric, he has an average of 90.4 mph on his fastball, but he is extremely consistent in his pitching motion. His excellent arm speed and uniform release point make it incredibly difficult for batters to detect the pitch coming out of Fiers’ hand. This guessing game has been a large contributing factor in the success of Mike Fiers.

Weaknesses: Fiers’ weakness comes in his four-seam fastball. Averaging 90.4 mph, his fastball lacks high velocity and it is as straight as a string. There is simply no movement to mask the missing velocity. Fortunately, Fiers’ weakness is a minimal risk because of the aforementioned deception in his delivery.

Jimmy Nelson

2014 Statistics (Minors): 10-2 record, 1.46 ERA, 17 G, 16 GS, 111.0 IP, 3 HR, 32 BB, 114 K, .919 WHIP

2014 Statistics (Majors): 2-9 record, 4.93 ERA, 14 G, 12 GS, 69.1 IP, 6 HR, 19 BB, 57 K, 1.46 WHIP

Strengths: Jimmy Nelson is the epitome of potential. His minor league numbers prove that he is entirely capable of becoming one of the best pitchers in this rotation, and the Brewers will need him to succeed if they want to contend for the division. Similar to Wily Peralta, Nelson is a power pitcher. His fastball, which has an average velocity of 94.6, is his preferred pitch. The four-seam fastball sharply reaches the plate and has a late break away from left-handed hitters. When attacking right-hander hitters, Nelson opts for his slider, which lands at the hitters’ front elbow, handcuffing his opponent and making them victim to the lookout.

Weaknesses: Nelson faces two major challenges: he is inexperienced and struggles with his command. While Nelson spent last September with the Brewers, he is not quite accustomed to the demanding starting pitcher position. He is still developing and his inexperience will lead to mistakes. Every young player goes through the learning process, and Nelson is no different. Most of Nelson’s errors will likely be the result of poor command. Being that he is a power pitcher, he ability to throw hard overshadows his control from time to time. His command to the corners, in particular, could use some improvement. Facing big-league hitters will help his pitching evolve, but it may take time.

Overall, the Brewers have a solid starting rotation. While no one has been established as the ace, every pitcher on this staff plays an important contributing role. If they can accentuate their strengths and minimize the damage of their weaknesses, this rotation could lead the Brewers to a playoff berth.

*Statistics used in this article are courtesy of ESPN, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus

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