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Fiers, not Nelson, should remain in Brewers’ rotation

August 28, 2014

Jimmy Nelson is the better pitcher. But Mike Fiers is better right now.

The latter reason is exactly why Fiers is the young pitcher the Brewers should keep in the rotation when Matt Garza returns next week.

If you’ve been paying attention over the last month, Fiers is the obvious choice. Though, just because it seems obvious doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed. And if you haven’t been paying attention, then you might not realize Nelson has struggled while Fiers has been nearly unhittable.

In his last two starts, Nelson has allowed eight runs (six earned) over just 10 2/3 innings of work for a 5.06 ERA. Opposing batters hit .304 against him in the two games, tallying 14 hits and four walks against just 11 strikeouts.

Granted, the defense hurt Nelson in the three-run third inning Tuesday and a .382 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) shows some bad luck has been involved. But Nelson’s true problem has less to do with him and more to do with Fiers.

Since being called up in early August, Fiers has been lights out.

The deceptive right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing just four earned runs in 28 innings over four starts. Fiers has given up just 10 hits and four walks as well, against 32 strikeouts.

Opposing hitters are batting just .109/.146/.196 against Fiers with a .182 BABIP. Half the battle has been just putting the ball in play.

As long as Fiers continues to dominate opposing offenses, he should start every fifth day. And he isn’t showing signs of stopping any time soon.

There’s no doubt Fiers is benefiting at least in part from being a relative unknown to the hitters he’s faced this month. But the good news there is the Cubs and Pirates are the only teams he’d likely face a second time through the end of the season.

As a bonus, a trip to the bullpen could benefit Nelson.

In the short term, a change of scenery and approach could help Nelson improve on his last few starts. It also would give the Brewers another power right-hander in the bullpen, which could prove valuable down the stretch.

In the long term, shifting to the bullpen for a month or longer would keep Nelson’s total innings down and reduce the 25-year-old’s season-long workload. After tossing 162 1/3 innings last year, Nelson already has tallied 163 2/3 with a month to go in this season.

However you look at it, all signs point to Fiers being the Brewers’ best option. We could find out as soon as Tuesday if manager Ron Roenicke and his staff agree.

Categories: Uncategorized
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