On Sunday the Milwaukee Brewers made the unsurprising decision to demote starting pitcher Wily Peralta to the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Peralta – who is only two years removed from a 17-win season – has a 6.68 ERA and a WHIP of 1.879 in 2016. The rotation spot vacated by Peralta will be claimed by Matt Garza, who is coming off the disabled list.
The Brewers are currently five games out of the playoffs. Despite their surprising competence, Baseball Prospectus has their playoff odds at a meager 1.7%. That figure seems about right considering the Crew have a -44 run differential and would have to surpass teams like the New York Mets or Pittsburgh Pirates to win the Wild Card. Even so, stranger things have happened; and that’s where Matt Garza comes in.
Though their starting pitching has been better as of late, it’s still the weakest part of the team. The Brewers need to upgrade their rotation if they want to make an unlikely playoff run. Basically they need Garza to be lights out for the rest of the season. This is within the realm of possibility.
Garza has a career ERA+ of 102 (which is 2% better than average). His disastrous 2015 season aside, Garza is a consistently decent pitcher that can be dominant in spurts. His occasional brilliance was best evidenced by his 2010 no-htter against the Detroit Tigers when he pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays. If Garza can be his best self it will be theoretically possible for the Brewers to pull a Leicester City-esque miracle and steal the Wild Card. Even if Garza is merely average it will still be a huge upgrade over Peralta, who had the worst ERA of any starter in the Majors.
Of course, it’s best not to get your playoff hopes up when they rely on a slightly above average pitcher coming off the DL. More realistically, Brewers fans should hope that Garza performs well enough to be traded at the deadline. That said, being realistic is not as fun. The Brewers are a frisky team and this is the last time they’ll be within earshot of the playoffs for several years. A long, painful rebuilding process is imminent, so we may as well cling to these shreds of hope while they’re still plausible.