After 121.2 front-of-the-rotation caliber innings, Milwaukee Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell announced earlier today that starter Junior Guerra has reached his innings limit and will be shut down for the remainder of the 2016 regular season. Guerra pitched an additional 26.2 innings in AAA this season, giving him a total of 148.2 frames on the year. Counsell added that Guerra is indeed healthy, which is especially important considering that he missed most of August with inflammation in his throwing elbow.
Milwaukee will go to a five man rotation for the time being with Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Matt Garza, and Wily Peralta. Giving a start or two to Taylor Jungmann before the end of the year is still being discussed, as well.
Interestingly, Counsell added that Guerra may still be permitted to throw in winter ball, with Todd Rosiak relaying that “it will be discussed.” Junior is a veteran of Los Tiburones de La Guaira in his home country of Venezuela, having thrown for them in each of the previous eight winters. Last year he worked 56.2 innings in winter ball (with a 2.86 ERA) after tossing 87.1 innings with the White Sox organization for a total of 144.0 innings. If one considers 20% a relatively safe jump in innings, the club’s ace could conceivably throw another roughly 25 frames for La Guaira to get up over 170 total for the season. I’m not sure I’m necessarily in favor of Guerra working in winter ball this season, however.
Guerra’s waiver claim last October was the first roster move executed by General Manager Slingin’ David Stearns and quite obviously paid off in spades. The club recalled Guerra to make his Brewers debut in a start against the Los Angeles Angels on May 3rd and he quickly established himself as one of the top starters in the National League. The 31 year old rookie sensation wrapped up his season with six scoreless innings against the Reds on Wednesday to bring his ERA down to a stingy 2.81 earned runs per nine. He racked up an even 100 strikeouts against 43 walks with a 45.3% ground ball rate and 1.13 WHIP. He prevented 21 runs versus Miller Park/NL and was worth 3.9 RA9-WAR during his first extended opportunity in the big leagues, both tops among Milwaukee pitchers.
To put some perspective on just how excellent Guerra’s season was for Milwaukee, consider the fact that the last Brewers’ starting pitcher to throw more than 100 innings with an earned run average of less than 3.00 was in 2008, when CC Sabathia tossed 130.2 innings of 1.65 ERA baseball after coming over from the Indians to lead Milwaukee into the playoffs. In fact, only four times since 2000 has a Brewers’ starter accomplished the 100+ innings, less than 3.00 ERA feat, and one of those was Junior Guerra this year. #2016BrewersAce, indeed.
Guerra has firmly entrenched himself atop the Brewers’ starting rotation going forward and should be considered one of the favorites (along with Zach Davies) to get the nod on Opening Day 2017, in what will be his age-32 season. He’ll look to lead the staff of a potentially competitive Brewers’ team next season, one that as it stands looks like it may have the talent to win 80+ games. Guerra has another five seasons of club control remaining and his dramatic emergence into a strong presence in the rotation has helped begin to swing the pendulum from rebuilding back towards competing quicker than perhaps many may had imagined when this whole process began.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs