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Milwaukee Brewers decade in review: top-5 seasons by starting pitchers

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Looking at the best Brewers initial out-getters in the past decade.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We’re continuing our look back at the best individual seasons for Milwaukee Brewers players over the last decade. Today we are remembering the best performances by starting pitchers since 2010. Once again, we’re trying to remain as objective as possible while making these lists. To do so, we’re combining fWAR (FanGraphs WAR), bWAR (Baseball-Reference WAR), and PWARP (Baseball Prospectus) and averaging the number to determine which performances were best. That number is called Aggregate WAR. Let’s get started!

5. Zack Greinke, 2011

171.2 IP || 3.83 ERA || 201 K || 45 BB || 1.200 WHIP || 3.23 Aggregate WAR

One of the biggest trades in Brewers history brought the sensational Greinke to Milwaukee. After missing some time due to an injury suffered playing basketball, Greinke finally arrived on the Miller Park mound in May.

The early results were so-so, but Greinke settled in by July and dominated over his final 100 innings to the tune of a 2.61 ERA. Had he started the season healthy, it’s likely that Greinke would be the #1 player on this list, but he was still part of the team’s first NL Central crown. He was also a major piece of possibly the best rotation in team history.

4. Yovani Gallardo, 2010

185 IP || 3.84 ERA || 200 K || 75 BB || 1.368 WHIP || 3.34 Aggregate WAR

Gallardo’s lone All-Star campaign came in 2010. While the Brewers weren’t at all competitive, Gallardo was a bright spot in the rotation. He even managed to throw two complete game shutouts. I don’t remember what those are, really.

Gallardo’s season was far from perfect, as shown by that less than ideal walk rate. WAR numbers loved his performance this season though and his dominance made it easier for the Brewers to justify adding the pieces needed to improve their rotation in 2011.

3. Yovani Gallardo, 2011

207.1 IP || 3.52 ERA || 207 K || 59 BB || 1.215 WHIP || 3.39 Aggregate WAR

Gallardo was essential to the 2011 team’s success. The homegrown prospect improved upon his 2009 and 2010 campaigns. He brought his walk numbers down and that helped him find more success alongside one the franchise’s most dominant offenses.

Gallardo’s 2011 ranked highest among starters for PWARP at 5.17 for the decade. The average came down greatly when bWAR put him at just 2.7, lowest among the five players on this list.

2. Shaun Marcum, 2011

200.2 IP || 3.54 ERA || 158 K || 57 BB || 1.156 WHIP || 3.5 Aggregate WAR

I will defend Marcum’s 2011 season until my death. While his awful performance in the playoffs is indefensible, he was the most consistent hurler in the rotation from the start of 2011. From the word go, Marcum was a reliable contributor who helped guide Milwaukee to its first division crown in the NL Central.

Marcum’s 2011 is behind PWARP to Greinke and Gallardo, but his bWAR and fWAR are better which brings his aggregate WAR higher. The numbers loved Marcum for his regular season performance, and without him, the Brewers might have been a Wild Card team instead of the second-best team in the NL.

1. Jimmy Nelson, 2017

175.1 IP || 3.49 ERA || 199 K || 48 BB || 1.249 WHIP || 4.14 Aggregate WAR

This is maybe the saddest outcome for this list. After three so-so seasons, Nelson finally seemed to put all the pieces together in 2017. He cut his walk total from 2016 in half and limited opponents to just 16 homers. He even earned some Cy Young votes, coming in 9th on the ballot.

But we all know how Nelson’s season ended, on a labrum tear while running the bases. If it hadn’t been for that injury, it’s easy to drool over the heights he could have achieved. The Brewers tried to get Nelson back to form in 2019, to no avail. They non-tendered him and he’s currently a free agent.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus