Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Knebel 2017 season review

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 22: Corey Knebel
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 22: Corey Knebel /

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Corey Knebel went from ‘intriguing’ set-up guy to one of the best closers in baseball last year. Take a look at what went right for Knebel in 2017, and find out where he’s going in 2018.

Corey Knebel broke out in a big, big way for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers. If Knebel didn’t emerge as a closer after Neftali Feliz struggled, the story of the 2017 season would look very different. Knebel essentially ensured that if the Brewers had a lead in the ninth inning, the game was over.

What went right for Knebel in 2017?

Everything? Knebel had a few rough patches in July and September, but he also had a perfect August, and a fantastic start to the season. He was literally perfect in August with a 0.00 ERA in 15 1/3 innings of work, and his ERA in the first half was only 1.70.

Knebel also struck out over 40% of the hitters he faced in 2017. That’s 126 K’s in 76 innings.

He also managed to stay healthy for the full season. He missed time in 2016 due to an oblique strain, but never sniffed the DL in 2017.

What went wrong for Knebel in 2017?

He did struggle in July and September, but struggle needs air quotes. If a reliever gives up a couple of homers in a month, his ERA is going to look awful. That’s essentially what happened in September. After Knebel’s perfect August, he was tagged for three homers in September, and they inflated his ERA to 4.38.

Walks were also a concern for Knebel in 2017. He may have struck out over 40% of batters faced, but he also walked 12.9%. When a pitcher has as much movement on his pitches as Knebel does, he’s going to allow walks. He’s also going to strike out a ton of hitters, but he does need to refine his control as he enters his prime years.

What’s on tap for Knebel in 2018?

He’s going to continue to close for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018 and beyond. Finding a lights-out closer and an ace starting pitcher are the two toughest aspects of roster construction. The Brewers have the lights-out closer and he’s not going anywhere any time soon. There’s a non-zero chance that Corey Knebel ends his career as one of the all-time great reliever to wear the blue and gold.

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There’s no reason to believe that Knebel’s breakout was a fluke. The underlying metrics point to Knebel’s success being real, and he passes the eye test as well. Knebel is one of the top five relief pitches in all of baseball, and will be for a while.