The Return of Brewers Starter Jimmy Nelson

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 01: Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park on September 01, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

In 2017, Jimmy Nelson was the Milwaukee Brewers ace. The prospect that had dominated in the minor leagues had fully arrived.  But, he wasn’t just and ace, he was also one of the best pitchers in the National League.  Pitching at the top of the rotation for Milwaukee, his dominance helped take the Brewers from a rebuilding team to contenders.  Though not expected to contend, the 2017 Brewers’ battled until the final week of the season.

Nelson’s tough End to 2017

But while his season was great, the end was trying for Nelson. On September 8th, while shutting out the Cubs at Wrigley Field Nelson season saw a drastic end. After singling, Nelson slid back into first base and injured his shoulder.  The injury would keep him out for not only the rest of the season, but also cost him the entire 2018 season, too. As the Brewers had one of the best years ever in 2018, Nelson was a spectator.  

Nelson’s Improvements

Heading into 2019 however, Nelson’s return is a major reason why the Brewers have not needed to add another arm this winter. In 2017, Nelson finished the year with a 12-6 record and a 3.49 ERA. He also had a career low 1.24 WHIP and averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Aside from these numbers, Nelson showed tremendous improvement in command.  Pitching in almost an identical amount of innings, he struck out 59 more hitters in 2017 than 2016.  He also saw his walk and hit by pitch numbers which both led the league in 2016 shrink in half in 2017. This improved command through the season allowed him to finish seventh in the Cy Young voting at season’s end. 

While there are lingering questions if he can repeat his career year, adding that potential to the top of the rotation gives plenty of hope. The team was one win away from the World Series and getting Nelson back should help push another October run. 

Coming back from labrum surgery, which is a very difficult procedure to come off of, Nelson is confident in his abilities. Though the surgery is a bit of an unknown he is anxious to get back and lead the Brewers’ staff again. After a full recovery he has spent all offseason without restrictions and preparing for 2019. 

Confidence in Return

This past weekend at Brewers’ On-Deck, Nelson was very outspoken in his expectations.  He believes he will be back and better than ever.  Not only is he fully ready to pitch again, but his words show he is ready to be the ace again.

Names like Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber and even Dallas Keuchel are out there and have been linked to Milwaukee, but the Brewers have their arm.  Though many have clamored for years about adding arms to Milwaukee, the Brewers are stocked with arms.  This team is young, talented and they have their anchor back. 

Years ago Nelson entered the rotation with high expectations and he is again brimming with confidence.  He has the talent to take the rotation to new heights.  It would be very unwise to bet him.  

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