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Why Brewers Pitching May Get Even Better!

The Brewers have struggled to draft and develop young pitchers with any kind of consistency. Rather than look at the drafts of all teams, I set the Brewers against the Royals, one of four expansion teams that entered the MLB in 1969. I was thinking teams like the Cardinals,Yankees and Dodgers already had established minor league pitching systems in place while the Royals and Brewers were starting from scratch. I listed the top 10 pitchers for each team. (ranked by career WAR)

ROYALS  PILOTS/BREWERS
NAME #pick YEAR WAR Max WAR NAME #pick YEAR WAR Max WAR
David Cone 74 1981 57.5 6.7 (1997) Ben Sheets 10 1999 24.2 6.3 (2004)
Brett Saberhagen 480 1982 54.4 8.6 (1989) Jim Slaton 357 1969 16.5 3.8 (1976)
Mark Gubiza 34 1981 34.8 7.3 (1988) Bill Wegman 124 1981 16.2 4.7 (1992)
Tom Gordon 157 1986 34.4 4.0 (2004) Moose Haas 30 1974 15.6 4.6 (1980)
Dennis Leonard 42 1972 24 5.1 (1977) Dan Plesac 26 1983 15.5 2.7 (86/87)
Zach Greinke 6 2002 22.8 9.0 (2009) Cal Eldred 17 1989 14.4 4.0 (1993)
Jon Leiber 44 1992 21.4 3.5 (2001) Larry Sorenson 172 1976 12.2 4.9 (1978)
Paul Splittorff 575 1968 20.8 3.5 (1973) Steve Sparks 123 1987 8.8 4.2 (2001)
Danny Jackson 1 1982 16.4 4.7 (1988) Scott Karl 164 1992 8.6 2.9 (1996)
Scott Bankhead 16 1984 10.1 4.2 (1989) Yovani Gallardo 46 2004 7.8 2.4 (2009)

I think the Royals were the most prolific in developing young arms, but clearly an all or nothing franchise. When the Royals were going good, they produced pitchers in bunches, most noteably in 1981-82 when Gubiza, Saberhagen, and Jackson were drafted and eventually led them to a World Series Championship in 1985. And when they were going bad like three consecutive 100 loss seasons (2004-2006), Greinke was one of the few drafted Royals. And nowadays with their #1 ranked farm system, Kansas City is hoping to win once again with home growns.

The Brewers have never had a reputation for excellent pitching. When they’ve won, it’s been about scoring more runs than the opposition. In contrast to the Royals, drafting and developing pitchers has not typically  translated into winning seasons for the Brewers. It was true in 1987(Higuera, Wegman, Plesac, Nieves, Bosio, Crim, Aldrich),  but certainly not the case  in 1982 when other than Moose Haas, the most effective pitchers were Caldwell, Vukovich, McLure, Fingers, and Sutton or in 2008 when other than Sheets, the most effective ones were Bush and Sabbathia. Either way, the big lows like the 100 loss season in 2002 or 13 consecutive losing seasons might have been avoided with a stronger emphasis-investment on developing young arms. Maybe we should be ranking Brewer scouts and low level pitching coaches rather than actual players drafted.

Regardless of the past, Brewers pitching is looking better and better for the future. I’m thinking about the influence Greinke and Marcum will have on the entire pitching staff; on Mark Rogers learning to control his excellent stuff…on Yovani Gallardo pitching a little bit more to contact. …on the baseball community seeing the Brewer’s organization in a new light. So come trade deadline, pitchers will follow Greinke’s lead and reconsider Milwaukee as a favorable destination. And in the near future, like next June when the Brewers have two first round picks, amateur pitchers won't think twice about signing with Milwaukee. 

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