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Behind a dominant bullpen, the Brewers came one win away from advancing to the World Series last season. The regular season is a whole different animal, however.

In an attempt to address a starting rotation in need of innings, the Brewers swung a deal with the Pirates on Monday, acquiring starting pitcher Jordan Lyles in exchange for minor league pitcher Cody Ponce.

Lyles got off to a great start this season, holding a 5-2 record, 3.09 ERA and 56 strikeouts compared to 19 walks through 10 starts. It’s been all downhill for him since, however, as the 28-year-old is 1-6 with a 9.57 ERA since May 23 (nine starts) and 0-3 with a 15.00 ERA in July (four starts).

Entering Monday, the Brewers rank 20th in MLB both ERA (4.84) and OPS against (.798) from their starting pitching. Opponents are also hitting .272 against Brewers starters, good for 24th in baseball. Last season, Milwaukee ranked 11th (3.92), 10th (.704) and 5th (.235), respectively, in those same categories.

For the Brewers, there’s more than one explanation for this regression. Milwaukee elected not to re-sign left-hander Wade Miley, who reportedly wanted to return to the team. Miley, who posted a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts last season, joined the AL West-leading Astros on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. He holds a 3.06 ERA through 22 starts this season.

One starter leaving doesn’t deserve all the blame, as some Brewers starters haven’t enjoyed the same success in 2019 as they did in 2018. Jhoulys Chacín’s ERA currently sits at 5.79 through 19 starts, a large jump from the 3.50 ERA that he finished 2018 with in 35 starts. Gio Gonzalez hasn’t pitched a full season with the Brewers yet, but even his 3.48 ERA in eight starts is up from 2.13 in five starts with Milwaukee last season. This sample size is admittedly small, however.

 

Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes opened the season in the starting rotation, but each were moved to the bullpen early on after ineffective starts to the year.

The biggest thing going against the Brewers rotation now, though, is health. Brandon Woodruff (left oblique strain), Chacín (right lat strain) and Jimmy Nelson (right elbow effusion) are all currently on the 10-day injured list.

Woodruff, an All-Star this season, hit the injured list on July 22 and is expected to be out for six weeks. This would put him on the shelf into September, assuming he experiences no setbacks in his recovery. Chacín hit the injured list just three days later and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Meanwhile, Nelson – who missed all of 2018 nursing a right shoulder injury that he experienced diving while running the bases against the Cubs in 2017 – is currently on the 10-day IL with a right elbow effusion.

Nelson faced a long road to recovery and started the 2019 season on the injured list, so he counts less in this equation than Woodruff and Chacín do. Between their injuries, and Peralta and Burnes being ineffective starters, 4/5 of the Brewers’ Opening Day starting rotation is currently not starting games. In fact, Brewers starters have combined to pitch 533 2/3 innings this season, 22nd in MLB. 

Thus, despite his ineffectiveness, the Brewers actually need Lyles right now for his ability to eat innings, at the least. Ironically, the Brewers claimed him on waivers from the Padres last summer, and he finished with a 3.31 ERA in 11 games out of Milwaukee's bullpen.

The Cubs roughed up Lyles on the Fourth of July, knocking him around for seven runs on 10 hits in four innings. He holds a career 5.68 ERA and 1.433 WHIP against the Cubs in 15 games (nine starts), a span of 52 1/3 innings.

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