In light of Corey Knebel‘s recent struggles and the addition of Joakim Soria, the Milwaukee Brewers could be going back to a closer-by-committee.
After Knebel went down with a serious looking hamstring injury, manager Craig Counsell went with a variety of ‘out-getters’ in the closer’s role. He rotated through pitchers like Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, and Matt Albers to get the final outs of the game. Those pitchers routinely racked up multi-inning saves.
But once Corey Knebel returned from his hamstring injury over a month later, the Brewers went back to just having Knebel in the closer’s role, pushing the other pitchers back into the earlier innings.
The entire month July has been a struggle for Knebel. His ERA has jumped from 3.20 up to 3.94 and had a stretch of eight straight appearances allowing a base hit. Prior to Friday night’s game against the Giants, Knebel’s last appearance with a three-up, three-down inning came on July 3rd.
He’s allowed six runs this month and it seems like every time he comes into the game, the stress levels of Brewers fans rise significantly. His performance has raised questions as to whether Knebel should stay in the closer’s role.
Back To A Committee?
After the acquisition of Soria, Craig Counsell appeared open to moving Knebel around to pitching in different parts of the game.
It’s a well known fact that, when Corey Knebel doesn’t pitch regularly, he tends to struggle. He needs to pitch every other day in order to keep his curveball sharp, which plays a big role in his success.
If Knebel goes four or five days without pitching, he’s not going to pitch well his next time out. Counsell can get Knebel into more games and keep him pitching regularly if he’s not glued to the closer’s role.
Other Closing Options
The three main options from earlier in the season, Hader, Jeffress, and Albers, will all figure to get opportunities in the ninth inning, once Albers returns from the DL. Jeffress has had struggles of his own recently, but he’s still been able to get through innings unscathed.
New addition Joakim Soria also figures to get some chances to close out games. He was the closer for the White Sox this season and earned 16 saves before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
This figures to be a wise move for Counsell. He is able to use his most dominant reliever from last season in a role that gets him more innings and helps him work through his struggles. This also allows the Brewers to pitch the best available option they have in the ninth inning based on matchups instead of pre-defined roles.
The Milwaukee Brewers are in the thick of a pennant race and a move like this frees up the bullpen to reach its maximum efficiency.