You don’t need me to tell you the Brewers starting pitchers were great this year, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Brewers starting pitchers were absolutely, undeniably great this year.
It’s no surprise that they broke some franchise records, but exactly how many and by how much is pretty bewildering. Some of the counting stats like the fewest walks issued or hits allowed will always belong to seasons shortened by strikes or pandemics, but this rotation even put up an honest fight against some of those years.
For example, the Brewers 2021 starting pitchers allowed 661 hits, which is fewer than the staffs of the 1981 and 1994 Brewers allowed in their strike-shortened years. In 1981 the starters allowed 682 hits in 109 games and the 1994 starters allowed 768 hits in 115 games. Only the 2020 Brewers staff surrendered fewer hits with 263, albeit in only 60 games.
Here’s a look at the franchise records set by their starting rotation.
The 2021 rotation set franchise records in ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. For counting stats in seasons where at least 160 games were played they set records in strikeouts, hits, runs, earned runs, intentional walks, total bases, and doubles. They also tied the 2019 staff for fewest double plays induced with 56, which isn’t great, but a franchise record nonetheless.
The 2021 rotation posted an era of 3.13, taking the record from the 1971 staff that posted an era of 3.30. They took the record for fewest runs allowed and earned runs allowed (min. 160 games) from the 2018 staff. In 2018 they allowed 402 runs, with 369 of them earned. The 2021 rotation destroyed that record by only allowing 327 runs with only 295 of the runs being earned.
Staying Off the Bases
Run prevention is easier when you keep the bases empty, which the rotation did at a record clip. The 2021 rotation posted a WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) of 1.094, besting the franchise record of 1.221 set in 1992. While the 847.2 innings pitched is the third-fewest by a Brewers rotation in a full season, they allowed the fewest amount of hits and issued the second-fewest walks by Brewers starters in a full season.
Only the 1979 rotation issued fewer walks than the 2021 rotation, 244 compared to 266. The 661 hits allowed is significantly better than the previous record of 737 set in 2018. The 2021 rotation only issued two intentional walks, edging out the record low of three set in 1996.
The lack of intentional walks makes sense when your rotation is as dominant as it was in 2021. The rotation set the record for strikeouts with 906, topping the record of 875 set in 2012. Those strikeouts were also enough to set the record for strikeouts per nine innings and strikeouts per walk. They beat the K/9 record by a full strikeout per nine innings. The K/9 record was 8.4 set in 2019 but now stands at 9.62. The K/BB record was 3.01 set in 2012, but now stands at 3.41.
They set record lows for every category in the typical slashline. The 2021 rotation allowed a slash line of .213/.282/.330, leading to a record low OPS of .611. That OPS is a whopping 61 points lower than the previous record of .672 set in 1972. The previous slash line records for a full season were .235(2018)/.303(1992)/.363(1976).
The .330 slugging percentage allowed was also best in the majors, 27 points lower than the second-place Dodgers’ rotation. That lack of power against the Brewer rotation helped them set record lows in doubles and total bases allowed. They couldn’t quite break the record of home runs or triples allowed, but they were good enough for second in both categories. Only the 1976 rotation allowed fewer home runs (72) than the 77 allowed this past season. They only allowed one more triple than the 2014 rotation, 11 to 10.
The 1024 total bases allowed not only beat the record low for a full season, but it’s also better than the 1248 allowed by the 1994 rotation that only played 115 games due to the player’s strike.
When it came to the starting rotation in 2021, you were lucky to just make contact against them. If you made contact, you were lucky if it was good enough for a base hit. If you got a base hit, you were lucky if it was anything more than a single. This rotation was absolutely dominant and aside from Brett Anderson, they’re all set to return for hopefully another historic season in 2022.