This is part three of what will likely be a five-part series comparing the active roster of the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers to a hypothetical team composed of active players who have made at least one MLB appearance in a Brewers uniform. Last week we gave the current Brewers the advantage at three of five positions in the infield, and on Monday we also credited them with two of three positions in the outfield.
Today we'll move on to pitchers, starting at the top of the rotation.
Worth noting: Again, the rules here limit the team of Former Brewers to players who appeared in a regular season game as a member of the Brewers. So, while the F-Brewers might benefit greatly from access to Jake Odorizzi and/or R.A. Dickey, neither are available here.
Starter #1: Kyle Lohse v Zack Greinke
Lohse has undergone something of a metamorphosis in his early 30's. He entered the 2011 season with a 4.79 ERA over 292 career appearances, but has pitched nearly 600 innings since with a 3.19 ERA. He does an excellent job of keeping runners off the bases (a 1.14 WHIP since Opening Day 2011), is pretty good at pitching deep into games and pretty consistently produces results better than any of his peripheral numbers would indicate.
With that said, Lohse is no match for Greinke. Greinke is five years younger, for one, and he's also significantly more dominant. Like Lohse, Greinke is also very good at keeping runners off base (2.3 per nine innings over the last three seasons), but he's much better at recording strikeouts.
A year ago at this time Lohse and Greinke were both free agents. Lohse got a nice three-year deal, but Greinke got six years and about five times as much money. That should tell you everything you need to know here. Advantage: Former Brewers
Starter #2: Yovani Gallardo v CC Sabathia
Your opinion on this matchup probably depends on which pitcher you think is more likely to bounce back from a career-worst year. Gallardo posted an ERA over four for the first time in 2013, spent some time on the DL and saw his strikeout rate plummet from 9.2 per nine innings for his career to just 7.2. He had an ERA up near 5 through the end of July before salvaging his season with a hot streak down the stretch.
Meanwhile, years of heavy workloads (and a heavy physique) may have caught up with Sabathia in 2013. He had averaged 233 innings per season over a six-year span from 2007-12, a stretch where he made three All Star teams and won a Cy Young Award. He still threw 211 innings in 2013, but his results were off: His 4.78 ERA was easily the highest in his 13 MLB seasons and he was hurt by home runs, allowing a career-high 28. He led all MLB pitchers with 112 earned runs allowed.
I could see going either way with this matchup: Gallardo is younger and has faced much lighter workloads, so I think there's a much lesser risk that his best days are over at this point. But Sabathia has been a much better pitcher over the course of his career. If I'm betting on upside, I'll take Sabathia. If nothing else, I'm much more confident in his ability to carry a heavy workload. Advantage: Former Brewers
Starter #3: Matt Garza v Jorge De La Rosa
It's injury risk vs injury risk in this matchup of pitchers in their 30's. De La Rosa's injuries have been more severe in recent years, as he was limited to just 13 appearances for the Rickies between 2011-12. He bounced back to have the best year of his career in 2013, though, making 30 starts for just the second time in ten MLB seasons and posting a 3.49 ERA.
Garza has been healthier, but he's still missed about 20 starts combined over the last two seasons. He was also outperformed by JDLR in 2013, making six fewer starts and posting a higher (3.82) ERA. Both pitchers average 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings for their careers, but Garza's walk rate is better at 3.0 per nine to 4.2.
JDLR may have been the better of these two pitchers in 2013, but Garza has been better in every other year of their overlapping MLB careers. Odds are he'll be better again this year. Advantage: Current Brewers
Starter #4: Wily Peralta v Chris Capuano
Capuano is still a free agent as of this writing, but I'm pretty confident he'll catch on somewhere in the next couple of weeks. Despite missing more than two full seasons following his second Tommy John surgery Capuano has been pretty good in his 30's, posting a 4.13 ERA over 114 appearances since Opening Day 2010. His 2012 season with the Dodgers (3.72 ERA over an NL-leading 33 starts) was one of the best of his career. Unfortunately, his performance dropped off a bit in 2013 and he was limited to 20 starts and 105.2 innings. His strikeouts also dropped below seven per nine innings for the first time since 2003.
Wily Peralta's first full MLB season was a tale of two halves: He had a 5.27 ERA and averaged just over 5.1 innings per appearance over his first 18 starts, but salvaged his season with a 3.35 ERA and over six innings per start in his final 14 outings. Capuano actually had better walk and strikeout rates, but Peralta threw almost 80 more innings.
The Brewers are counting on Peralta to continue to improve in 2014. I'm not sure if I'm overly optimistic in saying this, but I suspect he'll outperform the veteran lefty. Advantage: Current Brewers
Starter #5: Marco Estrada v Carlos Villanueva
I briefly considered swapping out Villanueva for Shaun Marcum, but opted to go with the pitcher we know is healthy. Villanueva made 47 appearances (15 starts) as a swingman in his first season as a Cub, posting a 4.50 ERA in his starts and a 3.03 mark out of the bullpen. His 128.2 innings pitched were a career high.
Meanwhile, 2013 was also a tale of two halves for Estrada, who had a 5.32 ERA before going on the DL in June and a 2.15 mark in nine starts after coming back. When Estrada is on he can be dominant, but like Villanueva he's never pitched a full major league season as a starter.
Both pitchers are 30 years old. Villanueva has a little more MLB experience, but Estrada has been better recently. I'll let you guys debate this one in the comments. Advantage: Push
So that's an advantage for the F-Brewers at #1 and 2, the current Brewers at #3 and 4 and a tie at #5. What do you think? Is it fair to call this rotation matchup a tie?