Both Jacob Barnes and Matt Albers have received looks in the ninth inning for the Milwaukee Brewers. Which reliever should close while Corey Knebel is on the shelf?
The case for Jacob Barnes
Barnes has been good over a long stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers as recently as 2016. In his first year in Milwaukee, Barnes posted a 2.70 ERA in 27 appearances and struck out 26 in his first taste of Major League action. He had a bad summer last year, and fell out of favor. He’s turned the page on 2017, and has looked sharp in most of his outings this year.
Barnes had one appearance that featured a few key errors in rapid succession, and a couple of wild pitches to a backup catcher. He has struggled in the ninth inning, but he can’t really take the blame when balls bounce the wrong way or routine plays are mishandled.
Barnes has the two-pitch closer profile, and has shown an ability to get strikeouts in bunches. He has allowed six walks in eight innings, but he’s also fanned eight.
The case for Matt Albers
Albers has appeared in Major League games since 2006 and he has exactly three saves in his career. He did spend part of his career as a starter, but it’s odd that he never worked his way into ninth inning duties.
Albers made a few adjustments last season, and has completely revitalized his career. He may not post a K/9 over 9.00 again, but he ended 2017 with a sub-2.00 ERA, and he still has a sub-2.00 ERA in 2018.
Albers recorded a two-out save on Tuesday afternoon, and looks like he’ll continue to work his way into the ninth inning.
He doesn’t look like a traditional closer, and he doesn’t have a power repertoire. He does rack up outs, and that’s what success in the ninth inning is all about.
What about Josh Hader?
Josh Hader is the best reliever on the Milwaukee Brewers with Knebel hurt. He may be the best reliever on the team with Knebel healthy. Hader isnt going to close any time soon.
The long term plan is to work Hader into the rotation by allowing him to work more than one inning out of the bullpen. If the Brewers stick to the plan, a role that only allows Hader to work one inning is out of the question.
The current closer-by-committee approach is probably the best route until someone emerges. Barnes fits the profile, but Albers gets the results. Does that mean that Albers is the best option? It’s possible. But, it’s also likely that Albers and Barnes continue to share the role until Knebel returns.