StaTuesday: Brewers' Jimmy Nelson has things under control

BY Dave Heller • July 25, 2017

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson has taken a huge leap forward this season and it is pretty easy to see why.

Nelson is walking fewer batters and striking out more in 2017. That's a recipe for success.

In 2016, Nelson led the National League in both walks and hit by pitches. In 2015, he also led the league in hit batters and was second in wild pitches.

But Nelson has things under control this year.

After walking 4.3 batters per nine innings in 2016 -- and 3.6 over his first four seasons -- Nelson, through his first 20 starts, is allowing just 2.2 free passes per nine innings. Along with allowing slightly fewer hits than last year (8.8/9 down from 9.3/9), Nelson has a career-best 1.227 WHIP.

In conjunction with walking fewer batters, Nelson is whiffing more. A lot more.

His previous K/9 rates in his first four seasons was pretty consistent: 7.2, 7.4, 7.5 and 7.0. This season Nelson is fanning 9.8 batters per nine innings.

As a result, his strikeout to walk ratio has improved tremendously. Entering this season, Nelson's whiff to walk ratio was 2.02 and last season it was a career-low 1.63. This year Nelson's ratio is an impressive 4.40.

How impressive? If he keeps it up, it would be just the ninth time in Brewers history that a pitcher with at least 20 games started had a ratio of 4.0 or better. Nelson would be just the sixth to do it overall, and (based on him having 12 more starts and averaging six innings per game) just the third with over 172 innings.

Ben Sheets 2004 34 237 8.25
Ben Sheets 2005 22 156.2 5.64
Marco Estrada 2012 23 138.1 4.93
Zack Greinke 2011 28 171.2 4.47
Jimmy Nelson 2017 20 120.2 4.40
Dave Bush 2006 32 210 4.37
Zack Greinke 2012 21 123 4.36
Steve Woodard 1998 26 165.2 4.09
Marco Estrada 2013 21 128 4.07

By the way, this year Nelson also has hit "only" five batters this season and thrown two wild pitches (he had 30 and 19, respectively, combined the last two seasons).

Nelson currently has 132 strikeouts as well. If he can keep up his current pace, Nelson would finish with the second-most strikeouts in Brewers history, behind Ben Sheets' 264 in 2004.

How rare would be this feat? It's only happened nine times previously in franchise history and by five pitchers.

Ben Sheets 2004 264
Teddy Higuera 1987 240
Doug Davis 2005 208
Yovani Gallardo 2011 207
Teddy Higuera 1986 207
Yovani Gallardo 2012 204
Yovani Gallardo 2009 204
Zack Greinke 2011 201
Yovani Gallardo 2010 200

Nelson is currently has the fourth-best K/9 in Brewers history at 9.85 (minimum 20 starts). Only twice has a Milwaukee pitcher with 200 innings struck out nine or more batters per nine innings. As it stands, Nelson would fall just short of 200 innings if he maintains his current pace, but should top 190 innings. Only Sheets and Yovani Gallardo (three times) have reached 185 innings in a season and had a 9.0 K/9 or better.

Zack Greinke 2011 28 171.2 10.54
Ben Sheets 2004 34 237 10.03
Yovani Gallardo 2009 30 185.2 9.89
Jimmy Nelson 2017 20 120.2 9.85
Yovani Gallardo 2010 31 185 9.73
Mike Fiers 2012 22 127.2 9.52
Marco Estrada 2012 23 138.1 9.30
Mike Fiers 2015 21 118 9.23
Yovani Gallardo 2012 33 204 9.00

With a 3.43 ERA -- he's tied for ninth in the NL with an adjusted ERA of 130 -- not to mention a 3.23 FIP (fourth in the NL behind just Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg), the 28-year-old Nelson has turned into a legitimate workhorse and ace. When you look at the above numbers, it's no surprise why.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth's Shadow, Facing Ted Williams - Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns

share story