Brewers News

Milwaukee Brewers: What’s Wrong With The Bullpen?

Jun 13, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (37) looks on after giving up a solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (37) looks on after giving up a solo home run to St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jose Martinez (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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If you’ve watched any Milwaukee Brewers baseball recently, you’ve probably seen the bullpen blow a lead late in the game. It’s happened rather frequently as of late and everyone is frustrated, but none more so than Brewers manager Craig Counsell. So why can’t the bullpen get guys out?

Against the Dodgers, the bullpen wasted a masterful performance by Jimmy Nelson against Clayton Kershaw. Against Arizona, Chase Anderson left a 1-0 game for the bullpen. By the time the game was over, the D-Backs scored 11 runs. Last night against the Cardinals, the bullpen allowed the Redbirds to tie the game before the offense saved them.

These are only a few examples of recent letdowns by the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen. Counsell has said that the guys down there need to “figure it out”. The bullpen was actually a strength back in April, so what changed?

Key Differences In The Brewers Relievers

Brewers relievers have thrown the second most innings of any bullpen in baseball with 237 2/3 innings over 66 games. They’re 3rd-highest in runs allowed and have given up the most walks by a wide margin. Also, the bullpen has suffered the most losses with 18.

They’ve given up the most doubles, third-most total bases and hits and their 12 blown saves are tied for second most in baseball. Not to mention that opponents are getting on base at a 35% clip, also worst in baseball.

So why can’t these guys get outs anymore? They’re overworked. Earlier in the season, when the rotation couldn’t go deep into games, the bullpen had to pick up the slack. They did a solid job eating up innings and saving leads. But overusing the bullpen early in the season has consequences later on.

Jacob Barnes leads the NL in relief appearances with 34 and Corey Knebel and Carlos Torres are right behind him with 33. Neftali Feliz has 29.

Their overuse has shown. Feliz and Wily Peralta both own ERAs over 6.00 and Oliver Drake isn’t far behind with a 5.16 ERA. Torres and Jared Hughes have ERAs over 4.00 and have been ineffective lately.

The Brewers need to get some fresh arms in this bullpen and fast. If they want to make some sort of playoff run while they’re still in first place, the bullpen needs to protect the leads given to them. Rob Scahill, who was just DFA’ed, was actually one of the more effective arms with an ERA of 3.57. However, his nine walks and only five strikeouts led to his demotion.

When the season began, Neftali Feliz was a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline for a prospect or two. But now, David Stearns would be lucky to get a bag of balls for Feliz. He’s now DFA’ed. If he’s not traded within ten days, Feliz will be released.

What’s The Answer?

The Milwaukee Brewers have begun to call up their prospects with four new players arriving in the past week. That’s their play for the playoffs. It won’t be a huge trade at the deadline. It will be the promotion of their prospects. Josh Hader is currently pitching out of the bullpen, but belongs as a starter. It may be time to raid the pitching staff at Triple-A Colorado Springs to bring up whatever effective arms they can find.

The promotion of all these prospects shows a push for the playoffs. However, the team is barely above .500, and the Cubs are breathing down their necks. The bullpen will need to vastly improve and fresh arms are necessary.

Two bullpen candidates from Colorado Springs are Michael Blazek and Wei-Chung Wang. Wang was awful in Milwaukee a few years ago as a Rule 5 pick. After a few years in the minors, he’s developed into a quality bullpen option. Wang has a 1.78 ERA in 24 relief appearances in Colorado Springs. We’d all like to see the return of Wei-Chung Wang Wednesdays. Blazek held his own as a reliever in the Brewers bullpen recently, and is having a nice season with the Sky Sox.

The Milwaukee Brewers would need to clear a 40-man roster spot for either of those two but we’ve already stated that Neftali Feliz is getting DFA’ed. The only pitchers from Triple-A that are already on the 40-man roster are Taylor Jungmann and Tyler Cravy. Cravy is currently on the DL so, don’t expect him to be the guy.

Next: How Did Josh Hader Look In His Major League Debut?

The bullpen is currently a major source of frustration for everyone and Counsell is in a tough spot. He can’t just throw his pitchers under the bus and blow up in his interviews about how badly they pitched. The Brewers just need to get some fresh arms and longer starts out of their rotation to give these guys a rest.

The flurry of roster moves over the past week shows that the Milwaukee Brewers are willing to move guys around to get things going and make some sort of push for the playoffs. Counsell’s frustration with the bullpen could lead to more moves coming very soon.

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