The Milwaukee Brewers bullpen carried the team to a fast start. If the team had a late lead in April, May and June, they were holding on to it. That hasn’t been the case in July and August. Is the Brewers bullpen broken?
Corey Knebel? Demoted. Matt Albers? Hurt and/or bad. Taylor Williams? Hurt and struggling. Dan Jennings? Wildly inconsistent. The Milwaukee Brewers have lost their ninth inning hammer, and their middle relief bridge. How can they fix this before it’s too late?
Who can they trust?
Josh Hader had a rough, patch right after the All-Star game disaster, but he owns a 1.76 ERA in the second half. He’s not on a historic pace right now, but he’s still putting up zeroes.
Jeremy Jeffress has also been solid since the All-Star break. Jeffress has a 1.80 ERA in 15 post-ASG innings with 20 strikeouts and eight walks.
Remember when people were questioning the acquisition of Joakim Soria? Other than a 10-day stint on the DL for a quad strain, Soria has been awesome. Soria owns a 1.35 ERA in six appearances for the Milwaukee Brewers.
What isn’t working?
Albers needed a DL stint for a hamstring injury, and hasn’t been the same. There’s a non-zero chance that he goes back on the DL after his most recent pounding. He owns a 6.82 ERA on the season, and has given up runs in six of his last seven outings…dating back to June 11th.
Knebel was optioned to Triple-A to find himself. He had given up runs in four out of his last five outings, and couldn’t be trusted with ninth inning duties any longer. Knebel will return to the team this year, but he’s unlikely to have a defined role again until next year.
Williams owns a 4.34 ERA on the season, and a 10.45 ERA in the second half. Williams only worked 51 1/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors last year. He’s only worked 46 2/3 innings this year, but it’s come in 47 games. That’s a lot of extra days of work and extra warm up pitches. There hasn’t been a huge drop in velocity, but his slider hasn’t moved quite as well in the second half as it did the first.
How can they fix this?
WIth Knebel struggling and now demoted, the Milwaukee Brewers don’t have a true closer. This has a ripple effect on the rest of the bullpen. What was formerly the bridge to Knebel is now forced into the ninth inning. What was the middle relief corps is now the bridge to the late inning guys.
The Brewers have three guys in a rotation that depends on matchups and who’s rested. Hader, Jeffress, and Soria can shorten games, but they could use a reliable fourth guy to make it so they don’t have to work so often.
The team was hoping that Corbin Burnes would slide into that role, but the league has caught up to him after a great start to his Major League career. After beginning his Brewers career with six straight scoreless outings, Burnes now has a 4.00 ERA.
Burnes looked fantastic on Friday night in extra innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he clearly has a future in the starting rotation. The Milwaukee Brewers need to pick their spots for Burnes. It makes sense for him to work multiple innings in his outings. He’s worked more than one inning six times, and he’s only allowed runs in one of his longer outings.
Jacob Barnes has tossed three consecutive scoreless outings in Triple-A, and should return to the team quickly. He should come back to replace Albers yesterday. Whether Albers hits the DL again or gets DFA’ed remains to be seen.
The Milwaukee Brewers have the talent to succeed in the late innings, but it’s time to move on from struggling arms and reorganize the quality that they currently have. Albers and Williams need to go, and Barnes and Adrian Houser need to return. Burnes needs to appear less often, but work more when he does. The bullpen isn’t broken, but it doesn’t need an update heading into the final month.