Milwaukee Brewers: What happens when Corey Knebel returns?

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Corey Knebel /

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Corey Knebel could return from the disabled list by the end of the week. Should he come back to his role in the ninth inning, or should he prove himself again?

The Milwaukee Brewers wouldn’t have been as close to a playoff spot last year if it wasn’t for Corey Knebel in the ninth inning. However that was last year. In 2018, Knebel went from mediocre to hurt. In that time, multiple members of the Brewers relief corps stepped up in the ninth inning. Josh Hader, Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers, and Jeremy Jeffress have earned saves this year.

Are the Milwaukee Brewers better served by sticking with the ‘closer-by-committee’ or does Knebel deserve his job back?

Why is the committee working?

The Milwaukee Brewers ‘closer-by-committee’ is working because their bullpen is ridiculous right now. The only full-time reliever on the roster with an ERA over 3.00 is Jorge Lopez, and he’s only made two appearances. Everyone else has an ERA below 3.00. Jeffress currently has a 0.48 ERA in 18 games. The entire bullpen has stepped up to carry the team through April and into May.

How bad was Knebel before his injury?

Knebel wasn’t that bad. He gave up a run in his first appearance of the season. He worked a clean save in his second time out, and then he gave up a two-run homer to Jason Heyward in a blowout loss to the Cubs. His velocity was down slightly, but it was still early April. Most pitchers don’t reach peak velocity until July, and his fastball was only down about 1.5 MPH compared to last year. He has five strikeouts and zero walks in 2 2/3 innings with the Milwaukee Brewers this year. The results were poor, but he wasn’t as bad as his 10.13 ERA indicates.

Should Knebel return to the ninth inning?

By all accounts, Knebel looks more like the guy who posted a 1.78 ERA in 2017 after his three appearances with the Biloxi Shuckers. He’s allowed one hit and on walk in 2 2/3 innings with four strikeouts. Given that Knebel lost his job to injury and not due to diminished skills, he has to return to the ninth inning, right?

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If Knebel were only throwing 93 MPH and struggling with command, he should be removed from the closer’s role. But that wasn’t the case. Knebel averaged 96 MPH on his fastball in his first few appearances. Knebel should return to the ninth inning, but the leash is much shorter now than it was on Opening Day. The Milwaukee Brewers have too many other solid options to go with to allow Knebel more than a few chances to keep the role.