Milwaukee Brewers: Is Tandem Pitching an Option?
By Paul Bretl
As the rosters have expanded for the final month of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a good situation with some new-found depth in the bullpen. Specifically in regards to their long-relievers. Could they opt for tandem pitching in the final month?
Currently as it sits, the Milwaukee Brewers have Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff to multiple innings, but they will gain more help shortly.
With the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez, it has been reported by Adam McCalvy that Gonzalez will make his first start for the Milwaukee Brewers this Saturday against the Giants. Junior Guerra will head to the bullpen, giving the Brewers another option in long relief.
Are there any other options?
A potential fourth option could be Freddy Peralta. Adding Zach Davies back gives the Milwaukee Brewers six starting pitchers currently and they’ve been monitoring Freddy’s innings, so a move to the bullpen makes sense.
These are a lot of good arms to let sit in a limited role. For a majority of the season, the long relievers job is to bridge between a poor start from the starting pitcher to the short relievers. But in this time of the year, manager Craig Counsell can be creative and use Burnes, Woodruff, Guerra and Peralta as “tandem” starters.
Are there any recent examples of tandem pitching?
There have been teams in recent years such as the 2014 Houston Astros and the 2017 San Diego Padres who have flirted with tandem pitching as the main part of their rotation. Although neither of these teams had much success, I could see this being a great weapon for Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers during this final stretch of the season.
How would this help the Brewers?
What it would allow Counsell to do is to limit how long one of his starters is going to pitch. Rather than hoping the starter takes the team to the sixth or seventh inning, they will be given an inning limit or a pitch limit. The amount of innings and pitches allowed will be much less than normal. And beforehand, Counsell will select one of the long relievers to fill in for the starter once their limit is reached, so there are no surprises for them.
Another way to utilize the tandem starter is to designate two of the long relievers as the two “starters” for the game. Each will have an inning and pitch limit and the total work load between the two will equal what a starting pitcher would normally accomplish. The goal is for the two long relievers to cover at least six innings, and then transition to the rest of the bullpen as the Brewers would normally do.
What other advantages does tandem pitching offer?
Having these players available in this role would give Counsell a lot more flexibility in how he manages the starting rotation. A pitcher such as Chase Anderson, who has been struggling as of late, could benefit from this method. Anderson’s opponent batting average jumps from .189 to .293 after he sees batters for a second time, so having a designated long reliever ready to bridge the gap between Anderson and the seventh inning could help the Milwaukee Brewers.
The tandem pitchers will also allow Counsell to skip a spot in the rotation and utilize two of these bullpen pitchers as the “starter” for that day. Whether it is for match up purposes or the original starting pitcher is struggling, it would cover up any deficiencies the Brewers have in their starting rotation.
By having a number of options in a limited role, some of these pitchers could go a number of games before playing any meaningful innings. So cycling them in with consistency will help keep their arms active for any potential postseason games the Milwaukee Brewers may have.
Now, this isn’t a formula the Brewers should use multiple times per week over the final month but they could use it in specific games. It gives Counsell options on how to utilize the starting rotation, potentially covering up any weak spots. While allowing Burnes, Woodruff, Guerra, and Peralta to continue making appearances in meaningful games.