Where Does the Milwaukee Brewers Bullpen Go From Here?

June 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg (37) throws in the eighth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
June 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg (37) throws in the eighth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

After the Milwaukee Brewers traded Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith, the bullpen has had to mix it up a bit, so who’s been filling in their roles?

The Milwaukee Brewers at the start of the season certainly didn’t have a great bullpen without Will Smith, but Jeremy Jeffress jumped out right away as the closer and at the very least made sure to lock up the wins. Once Smith came back he didn’t go back into the closer role, but rather took the set-up spot and showed teams interested in trading for him he was back from the knee injury.

Once both were traded at the deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers have had to mix it up and find players to fill-in the spots for the rest of the season. Tyler Thornburg seemed to be the easy choice to take over the closer role.

About 2 months ago Adam McIntosh pointed out Thornburg seemed to be getting past his injuries as he ranked 11th in SIERA at 1.91. With 44.2 IP, it’s gone up a little bit at 2.45, tied with a few at 15th overall, but his ERA has dropped significantly from 4.32 to 2.22. Right next to his former teammate Jeremy Jeffress in the top 30.

More from Brewers News

While it was an easy call to fill in the void at the closer role with Tyler Thornburg, one can argue a set-up role is just as important. The Milwaukee Brewers seemed to be in two games where they put in Corey Knebel to take over Will Smith’s role.

Knebel was just recalled from AAA on July 15th as an oblique injury has kept him off the field as he only pitched 4.1 innings in 5 appearances before going back on the DL. In his 2 appearances in the set-up role, he either kept the game tied or kept the Milwaukee Brewers in the lead before Thornburg came in. They wouldn’t mind seeing a 2015 Knebel with a 3.22 ERA and 10.37 K/9.

Carlos Torres seems to be going back to a role of pitching when the team is in a lead also. This isn’t necessarily new for him as he did this when Will Smith was out, but the Milwaukee Brewers have to be happy picking him up as just looking at the basic stats he’s gone from 57.2 IP with a 4.68 ERA last year with the New York Mets to 54 IP with a 2.67 ERA.

While these three seem to be at least reliable for the rest of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers front office will have to see how much they’ll need to shuffle the rest of the bullpen. Jhan Marinez has been unquestionably been underrated with his 33.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, and 3.58 FIP, but the rest are pretty iffy.

Blaine Boyer is still an overall good pick-up, but is a not so reliable relief pitcher when runners are on with just a 3.72 K/9, his lowest of his career. He showed it last night against the Diamondbacks, although his defense didn’t help so much with an error (Orlando Arcia) in the 11th inning where he walked in a run to lose the game to the next batter. Blazek and Goforth are two that have gone up and down in the system.

Michael Blazek has lasted longer with 35.2 IP, but his 6.06 BB/9 certainly looks like it’s a good reason his ERA and FIP are over 5.00. David Goforth just called up on August 1st as he hasn’t been with the Milwaukee Brewers since the end of May. His numbers in AAA of a 4.50 ERA and 5.14 FIP doesn’t seem like any reason to get called up, but then again it’s Colorado Springs we’re talking about and they may not have a whole lot more options.

Overall, the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen has had a 2.3 WAR, 12th in all of MLB, which isn’t too bad compared to how the starting pitching has been at times. If anything, they can improve upon is the WHIP which is 1.41, 26th in MLB.

Next: Will Smith Post-Trade Analysis

But, at this point, not being the most competitive team, the GM David Stearns and company are just looking to fill-in the gaps while players develop in the minors. While Jordan Klimeck pointed out not having a lefty in the bullpen should be a concern for the Milwaukee Brewers, to me it’s not at the top of the list for a rebuilding team towards the end of the year. And before you know it, the waiver trade deadline possibilities or September call-ups will come and mix up things even more than just the bullpen.