The Milwaukee Brewers breakout closer left his most recent outing with a left knee issue.
It is no big deal, very minor in fact. Odds are, we will not see Knebel in a game again for at least a little while he recovers, however. The wet mound at the time caused a small tweak, but luckily nothing major. But this scare begs the question, what would the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen look like without its reliable closer?
Remember we are talking about the one all-star from the team that surprised many by being atop the division at the break. There was a time when fellow RtB writer, Matthew, was looking into Cy Young chances for Knebel. Sure, they weren’t great. But he was just that dominant.
How Good Is He?
Well, he had a 2.8 WAR in only 76 innings, fourth highest among closers. Knebel is trailing only Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Roberto Osuna. That is pretty darn good, especially for not starting 2017 as the official closer. His 1.78 ERA isn’t to shabby either. But it is hard to top his 14.92 K/9.
Predictions are saying there will be some regression with his ERA numbers due to his 91.9 percent of runner left on base. That is a pretty fair assessment. None of the predictions are giving him a WAR over two. The highest he got is 1.8. Again, that is fair considering he just broke out, and he broke out big. He is still anticipated to be a top ten closer in 2018 when all is said and done.
Even though Knebel is only the back end of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen and pitches an inning every few days, it would be a huge loss. There is really no one who is geared up to take the reigns, so needless to say it would be interesting to see how the situation would be handled.
Who Would Step Into The Role?
Other than Knebel, seven Brewers recorded a save in 2017. Of those seven, Jacob Barnes and Oliver Drake are still on the team. Between them, they saved three games. After taking out the Knebel, starters and guys who have not thrown in the MLB from the pitchers on the Milwaukee Brewers 40 man roster, they have a combined 36 saves over their careers. 28 of them are from Jeremy Jeffress, who collected 27 in 2016 while playing for the Crew.
Before the 2017 season when Knebel took over as the closer, do you know how many career saves he had? Two. So there doesn’t need to be a ton of closing experience to step into a door slamming role.
If the logic to follow is most experience in the role, Jeffress will step in. If the logic is using the set up guys as a closer, Barnes will take over. Closer by committee is also an option. And of course, I believe Josh Hader would make an excellent closer down the road.
The Milwaukee Brewers are lucky to have such talent at the back end of their bullpen. And they will be able to figure it out. For now, we can all just be happy that the injury to Knebel’s knee is minor and he will no be missing Opening Day.