Apr 28, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the first inning at Busch Stadium. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Milwaukee Brewers early season success leans toward starters

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We’re all familiar how 2013 went for the Milwaukee Brewers. They lost their big bat due to injury and Biogenesis. You’d think that would have put a damper on the offense, but it was as horrible as some would have you believe. They still managed close to 4 runs a game (3.95 to be exact) which was 8th in the NL. They only other major stat the Brew Crew’s offense was in the NL’s bottom half was OBP (.311, 10th).

The offense has slightly picked up that pace, but with Ryan Braun now out with an oblique strain and the unsure nature of a Jean Segura return, who knows how those injuries will affect the team for 2014.

But one thing is certain. Brewers starters are working at a far better rate at this point of the season than they did for 2013. Through their first 26 games this season, as compared for all of 2013, here’s how the starters have performed:

2014: 2.74 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 76.8% LOB, .222 BAA, 167.2 IP (6.43 innings/start)
2013: 4.20 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 71.3% LOB, .258 BAA, 918.2 IP (5.67 innings/start)
(statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)

Milwaukee’s starters have hurled more innings than any other staff this season. For 2013, they threw the second least number of innings. The bullpen is fresher. Of those listed above, the only stat where the Brewers are not in the top five in the NL is FIP, which they are 9th.

And you can’t simply pick out one guy that’s outperformed the others. It has truly been a group effort.

Yovani Gallardo is once again off to a good start. Same for Kyle Lohse. Marco Estrada has knocked almost a full run off his ERA from his first five starts of this season (2.87) as compared to the first five of last year (3.86). Wily Peralta might be the one guy that has improved the most as he’s shaved two and a half runs off his ERA over the same period (5.02 for 2013 compared to 2.56 for 2013). Now toss in Matt Garza into the mix, and this starting staff is as complete as any within the NL Central, if not all of the National League.

Of course, providing each one continues at the pace at which they are currently performing.

Speaking of that ‘pen…

Let’s not give all the credit to the starters. The bullpen has been outstanding this season. And the bullpen was pretty solid last season.

2014: 2.18 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 86.8% LOB, .194 BAA, 14% IS%
2013: 3.19 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 77.4% LOB, .237 BAA, 32% IS%
(statistics courtesy of Fangraphs except for IS% – inherited runners scored – which is taken from Baseball Reference)

Seems like once Francisco Rodriguez got back into the groove as the club’s closer, this bullpen has arguably been the National League’s best. In fact, K-Rod has been practically untouchable.

Of course, with the starters working as they have, the bullpen is fresher.

Should Brewers fan expect this continued performance from their starting rotation? No reason not to from Gallardo and Lohse. Might be too tall an ask for Peralta and maybe even for Estrada. Even his grievances toward the Chicago Cubs could spark Garza to improve a little.

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