Quality managers are a dying breed. Most of the time their names only come up when they make inexplicable moves (*cough* see LA *cough*). That’s why what Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell is doing right now is that much more impressive.
Counsell is slowly establishing himself as one of the most intelligent coaches in baseball. His work with the bullpen this season is revolutionary. It’s been especially apparent in the last week or so as Brewers relievers dominated their past 21 2/3 innings. The bullpen has struck out 28 en route to giving up only one unearned run.
How has Counsell changed his bullpen usage?
Counsell has impressed most since Corey Knebel went down. His ability to ignore old school ideas and adapt is eye-opening. Three different relievers recorded four total saves the past 14 days, basically going back to when Knebel got injured. And of those four saves, three have been two-inning saves.
Clearly, Counsell hasn’t named a closer and he shouldn’t. He doesn’t Just throw his best guy when required. If that happens to be the last inning, then perfect! Or, if the Milwaukee Brewers are in a jam, Counsell can use his best man. But he doesn’t save his top arm for the ninth because he’s the “closer”. He doesn’t set roles for his relievers because that’s what managers have always done.
Counsell has avoided many of these bullpen mistakes that a lot of coaches trap themselves into. He’s not afraid to use a multi-inning guy when he pleases, or use his top choice when he must. He doesn’t force a certain guy into each inning just because that’s baseball.
No, Counsell is leading the charge into the new age of managing a game. The best example of this is his recent comments on Jeremy Jeffress. Counsell understands this better than most managers. Thank you, Counsell, for seemingly having a brain for your own.
Also, Counsell’s testament to leaving in a guy that’s producing has worked out. Why waste an arm by making a change because a reliever went one inning? If he pitched well, and can go longer. Take advantage!
Many coaches are too quick to yank a pitcher nowadays. It’s almost as if his arm is rapidly detaching from his body after the inning ends. Don’t risk turning to a reliever that might not have his best stuff. Why not stay with the guy who’s producing? Is that really such a novel idea? Well, to Counsell, it’s not. And it’s really making him look smarter and smarter.
The Milwaukee Brewers manager is in the midst of establishing himself in the league. Since his best reliever went down, Counsell has managed this bullpen into being at the top of the league. He’s worked magic with what he’s had and the returns of Logan and Knebel will only make things better.