The Milwaukee Brewers’ playoff roster is going to look different than everyone guessed. Devin Williams broke his hand punching a wall during their division-clinching celebration. Now, the Brewers need to find another pitcher to setup Josh Hader late in games. While the bullpen has plenty of quality arms who are capable of filling in, there is another option. Eric Lauer could replace Freddy Peralta as the Brewers’ third starter in the playoffs while Peralta assumes a role in the bullpen, possibly in the eighth inning. It sounds crazy, but upon further review, it does make some sense.
Eric Lauer’s 2021 Season
So far this season, Eric Lauer has posted a 7-5 record in 23 games (19 starts). He has a 2.93 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Additionally, he has 114 strikeouts in just over 113 innings pitched. Lauer is also posting career-bests in ERA, WHIP, FIP, ERA+, strikeouts per nine innings, hits allowed per nine innings, and many other categories. In short, he has been stellar.
*Note: Lauer has also been better than both Zach Davies and Yu Darvish this season. Lauer was part of the Davies trade between the Brewers and Padres. Davies was then sent to the Cubs for Yu Darvish.
Eric Lauer vs. the NL West
Even though the St. Louis Cardinals have clinched the second Wild Card spot, it is still very likely that the Brewers will face a NL West team should they advance to the NLCS. The San Francisco Giants are the NL’s top seed, and will play the winner of the Dodgers/Cardinals Wild Card game.
Over the course of this season, Lauer has dominated the NL West. He has a 0.00 ERA against the Dodgers, 1.50 ERA against the Padres, and a 1.29 ERA against the Giants. This is not just some fluke either. Lauer has pitched well against the NL West his whole career.
In eight starts against the Dodgers, Lauer has a 1.89 ERA. In eight appearances against the Giants, he is 3-0 with a 3.61 ERA. Most recently, Lauer pitched seven innings of one-run ball against San Francisco on September 2.
Would Freddy to the Pen Make Sense?
The problem with moving Eric Lauer to the starting rotation is that Freddy Peralta would likely move to the bullpen. Peralta is, after all, an All-Star as a starting pitcher this season. Additionally, Peralta’s first inning ERA is above 6.00, which indicates that it takes him a while to get into a groove. Moving him to the bullpen, especially in the eighth inning, may not be the wisest decision.
That being said, Peralta pitched out of the bullpen almost exclusively in 2020. He had a 3-1 record and a 3.99 ERA. While the ERA is not great, he also had a 1.16 WHIP, which is lower than the one Devin Williams has this year (1.18). Additionally, Peralta had a better strikeouts per nine innings last year as a reliever (14.4) than he did this year as a starter (12.2). Furthermore, Peralta only allowed 0.6 home runs per nine innings last year. This year, he is allowing 0.9 per nine.
Could the Brewers Have Both?
One option for the Brewers is to have Freddy and Lauer switch off between the starting rotation and the bullpen depending on the playoff series opponent. Peralta has much better numbers against the Braves while Lauer has better numbers against the Giants and Dodgers. Lauer could start in the bullpen in the NLDS and then move to the rotation should the Brewers advance.
Of course, this all depends on how their bodies handle the routines of switching. However, this strategy could pay huge dividends for the Brewers in October, and it sounds like such a Craig Counsell thing to do, too.