Milwaukee Brewers closer Corey Knebel is heading to the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Who is going to close with the 2017 All-Star on the shelf for a while?
Corey Knebel fell to the ground after throwing a pitch in Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Chicago Cubs. The Milwaukee Brewers closer needed help getting off the field. He has a left hamstring strain for now, but that diagnosis could change after the MRI scheduled for Friday. However, the Brewers still have 155 games remaining on the schedule. Who closes will Knebel is out?
Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Josh Hader has excelled in a relief role in his short time at the Major League level. Since arriving at baseball’s highest level last summer, Hader owns a 1.95 ERA in 37 appearances. He’s struck out 37.7% of the Major League hitters he’s faced. Oh, and he hasn’t even turned 24 years old yet.
Hader also possesses a ‘closer’s repertoire’. He can light up a radar gun with his fastball, and he can generate whiff swings with his slider.
Hader is left-handed. Lefty closers are rare, Hader doesn’t come with the traditional platoon split that they often have. He’s not just a LOOGY. Hader can work full innings.
The only reason he won’t close is because the Milwaukee Brewers don’t want him to. Hader still projects as a starter. He’ll probably end up in the rotation as soon as his change up develops into a reliable third pitch.
Tossing Hader into the ninth inning may make sense for the short term, but this team focuses on the big picture. Hader was expected to transition into a starting role at some point this season. If the Brewers stick with the original plan, Hader won’t work the ninth inning.
Before Knebel broke out last season, Jacob Barnes was the heir apparent to the Milwaukee Brewers closer role. Barnes features a two-pitch arsenal that is often seen in closers. He flashes a 97 MPH fastball, and backs it up with a very good cutter. He’s earned a handful of saves in his three seasons in Milwaukee, but he’s never held the closer job exclusively.
After a solid start to the 2017 season, Barnes wore down over the summer, and posted ERA’s over 6.00 in June and July. He did rebound with a solid August and September, and he’s already off to a solid start to the 2018 season.
As long as the Milwaukee Brewers monitor his usage, Barnes is a solid option. He worked 27 games in the first two months of the 2017 season. That’s a lot of warm up pitches and in game pitches early in the year, and it’s no wonder that he struggled after May. If he can work fewer games as a the Brewers closer, he may actually avoid wearing down like he did last year.
If the Milwaukee Brewers want to go with a guy who has the stink of a closer on him, it’s Jeremy Jeffress. He saved 27 games in a season as recently as 2016. If they want a guy who can take the ball in the ninth inning, it’s Jeffress. He has limited upside outside of ‘been there, done that’, but he provides a veteran presence in the ninth inning…whatever that’s worth.
The Milwaukee Brewers can’t replace Knebel. He was a huge part of their success last year. The Brewers needed him to repeat his 2017 season if they were to have a shot at the post season. His loss hurts, but Hader or Barnes have the skills to step into the ninth inning role, and keep the Brewers bullpen from imploding until Knebel can return.