Jimmy? Jimmy??!!! Jimmmmmyyyyyy!!???? Oh. He was on the DL. While the Brewers were having a successful run in the playoffs we can only guess how the tables could have turned had Jimmy Nelson been in the starting rotation. If you don’r remember, Nelson had to undergo season ending shoulder surgery that put him on the shelf for the last couple weeks of 2017 and the entire 2018 season. While pitchers like Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin came up big for the Brewers in 2018, Nelson was establishing himself as a true ace and could have made a big impact in the playoffs.
So here is something you probably did not know about Nelson. Below is the worst 5 seasons according to xFIP of Brewers’ starters since 2008.Before breaking out in 2017, Jimmy was the worst Brewers starting pitcher in terms of xFIP in the past decade! Also notice who has the 7th worst season in the past decade in terms of xFIP. Chacin massively outperformed his xFIP which is another reason why Nelson returning to form this season would curb the loss that will be in Chacin’s performance. A non related side note here: How does Braden Looper keep a job with a 5.22 ERA and end up making the most starts in MLB. Wait? What?! Recall that the Brewers had an above .500 record at the half way point and for most of the season was in a playoff chase. Easy for me to say sitting here 9 years later, but I would have to believe there would have been another starter who would have been a better option than Looper. His last name alone indicates he pitched BP most games. Anyway I digress. Moral of this: Jimmy Nelson was historically bad when it comes to Milwaukee starters. So bad that his xFIP was worse than Braden freakin Looper.
(Assumed to be Looper following another rough outing where he somehow got the W)
Now take a look at the best Brewers seasons sorted by xFIP:
Aside from 2011 Zack Greinke, where he was incredibly unlucky that season, Jimmy had the best season by a Brewers starter in the past decade according to xFIP. His quick turn around was likely due to increased curveball utilization in 2017. While every team looks to add starting pitching depth, the Brewers would get a gift if Nelson could return to form. The rotation would project to be:
Chacin, Davies, Anderson, Woodruff, Nelson.
However, Woodruff might be better suited in the bullpen. If Nelson could be somewhere around a 2 WAR player in 2019 that would cover some of the likely regression of Chacin. While the curveball was critical to Nelson’s success in 2017, it is to be seen how he adjusts following shoulder surgery. Adding another top starter such as Keuchel, whose ground ball pitching would be appreciated in a hitters ball park as Miller Park, might be just what the Brewers need to get over the hump.