The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves tied 1-1 in the NLCS, and through the first two games, have had some uncharacteristically poor bullpen play. At the center of both those performances has been Jeremy Jeffress. That begs the question, how should Milwaukee utilize Jeffress the rest of the series?
Milwaukee Brewers right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress has had a tremendous 2018 season and has been one the most consistent players on this Brewers pitching staff.
Jeffress began this season as the bridge between the starting pitcher and Josh Hader and Corey Knebel in the later innings. He would often come in during the sixth or seventh innings to shut down the opposing team until it was time for Hader and Knebel.
But with Knebel’s injury and pitching issues that he had in 2018, Jeffress eventually was moved to the closer role where he was quite dominant. Jeffress made his first All-Star team this season and was able to record 15 saves out of 20 opportunities. Over his 76.2 innings pitched, Jeffress had an ERA of 1.29, giving up just 11 earned runs and recording a WHIP of 0.991.
Once Jeffress entered the game, it was almost a certainty that he would shut down opposing batters.
The last month of the regular season
Although Jeffress has struggled since the post season began, there was no evidence that this would happen during the month of September. In fact, it appeared that Jeffress was playing some of his best baseball.
Over the final month, Jeffress appeared in 10.2 innings and gave up no runs, three hits, three walks and struck out 15 batters. He also converted seven of his 15 saves in September and had a WHIP of only 0.563.
Jeffress played an important role in the Milwaukee Brewers postseason push and was playing his best at the right time of the season.
Jeremy Jeffress in the playoffs
Unfortunately, the postseason has not gone smoothly for Jeffress. Right from the first game against Colorado in the NLDS, he has struggled. At that time, I thought rust could have been a big factor since he hadn’t pitched in over a week. But we now find ourselves five games into the playoffs and Jeffress does not appear to be himself.
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Over this stretch Jeffress has pitched 4.2 innings and has given up 11 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks and a home run. In his defense, he has been called upon to get the Brewers out of some difficult situations, but on the other hand it is what he has done all season long up until this point.
Jeffress doesn’t appear to be too far off from returning to his old self. He has still been able to strike out six batters and a number of the hits he has given up have been good pitches that are unfortunately finding gaps in the defense.
What to do moving forward?
With every game being so important, it would be difficult for manager Craig Counsell to continue putting Jeffress into late inning situations hoping that he will work through it.
A potential solution for the Milwaukee Brewers could be switching the roles of Jeffress and Corey Knebel. Due to his inconsistent season, Knebel lost his closer role and has been the setup man who has been pitching in the sixth and seventh innings in order to get the Brewers to Hader and Jeffress late in games.
Knebel has had his issues this season, but since returning from Triple-A, he has been absolutely lights out. Over September and October, Knebel has pitched in 16.1 innings, surrendering just five hits, giving up only three walks and hasn’t allowed a run. Over that stretch he has regained his command and has struck out 33 batters and was awarded the NL’s Reliever of the Month award for September.
Jeremy Jeffress is a key component to the Milwaukee Brewers success, so he won’t be going away this postseason. But perhaps we could see him in lower leverage situations rather than at the end of games or making appearances with multiple guys on base.
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Corey Knebel has shown us over the last month that he is back to pitching like he did in 2017, in fact it may even be better, and can handle being put back into the closer role.