Milwaukee Brewers: Could we see more tandem starts?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 26: Eric Lauer #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 26: Eric Lauer #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers have many talented out-getters and could use them to complement each other in shorter starts.

David Stearns and Craig Counsell always preach that their Milwaukee Brewers have organizational depth and the importance of having talent no matter what positions guys usually play. That works perfectly with Counsell’s philosophy of having out-getters instead of traditional starting and relief pitchers.

Because of these schools of thought, the Brewers have found themselves with quite a few pitchers who can stretch out to pitch many consecutive innings in a game. Obviously, each of the pitchers that started the first five games of the season – Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, and Josh Lindblom – are capable, but so are Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer, and Brent Suter.

This essentially gives Milwaukee eight guys who all have experience as starters and have all pitched at least five innings in a major league game. I wrote a few weeks ago about how the shorter season would be advantageous to Counsell, allowing him to use the bullpen as he pleases, and being able to use these guys in this manner is one consequence of the situation.

Woodruff is the undisputed ace and will be in charge of going deep into games on his own when it’s his turn to start as he did against the Pirates, giving up one hit in 6 1/3 innings. Houser will also probably be on his own as he’s looked sharp and threw five good innings Monday night, allowing only one hit and one run. The others, at least early in the season, are all candidates to be piggybacked by another starter type.

Lindblom was looking good in his first three innings back in the MLB before a shaky fourth and back cramps that ended his day. Lindblom is expected to make his next start when his spot comes around in the rotation again and how long he goes in that one and who comes in to relieve him will be very telling.

He certainly seemed capable of going five or more innings by himself, but Suter picked up 1 2/3 innings in that game to help with his short start. Suter also tossed 2 2/3 and got the win against the Cubs after a short but effective 3 1/3 inning start from Corbin Burnes. Burnes and Suter essentially combined for a quality start in that game throwing a total of 6 innings and giving up three runs.

Suter will likely not be making any starts this year, but he has experience as a starter and could be seen as the Milwaukee Brewers’ long reliever this season. Other more fitting titles for his role would be second starter, piggyback starter, or change of pace inning eater.

He’s the best candidate to get the game through the fifth or sixth inning after a short start for a few reasons. First, he throws significantly slower than most of the starters with his fastball velocity hovering around 86 or 87 miles per hour. Also, he’s a lefty and most of the Brewers starters are right-handed. These things, combined with his starting experience make him a great option for tandem starts.

Anderson is slated to make his first start of the season after coming off of the 10-day injured list. Last season, his average start was almost exactly 5 2/3 innings which would be a pretty lengthy average had he pitched for the Brewers. Longer starts are definitely in the realm of possibility for Anderson, but coming off the IL his first few outings could be shorter ones. That could mean getting some help before the game gets handed off to the traditional relievers.

Lauer could be the guy that comes in to help him out, but it could also be Freddy Peralta. Counsell likes to play his cards close to his chest and hasn’t announced a starter for the second game of the doubleheader Sunday.

After a bad start for Peralta last Sunday against the Cubs in which he gave up four runs in only three innings, his spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy. The man to take his spot would be Lauer who pitched 2 2/3 innings in that same game and gave up only one hit and no runs.

Anderson’s start will be very telling as to what things will look like going forward. It will set a precedent and could very well determine whether he’ll have another guy working in tandem with him moving forward. If that is the case, whether it’s Peralta or Lauer would basically decide who will be starting the second game of the doubleheader on Sunday.

If Anderson manages to go five innings or more and doesn’t need any help from either Peralta or Lauer, then they will likely be paired together on Sunday. Counsell may be waiting to see how Anderson’s start goes and that is why he is keeping his pitching situation so fluid.

The idea of tandem starters with this staff is very enticing. Analytically, a pitcher going through a batting order for a third time will get hit harder and this all but eliminates that.

A change of pace with a guy like Suter after seeing mid-90s fastball could also mess with hitters. Even switching from lefty to righty on the mound with Lauer or Suter coming in or someone like Peralta backing up Anderson adds an extra adjustment that hitters have to make.

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I’m looking forward to seeing how Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers mix and match with all of their talented arms for the rest of the season. With Counsell at the helm, it’s guaranteed to get wild, so the best thing to do is hang on for dear life and enjoy the ride.