The Milwaukee Brewers have won four of their first five, and their bullpen is a key reason why. Closer Josh Hader has been the ‘electric dude’ that was expected, but who else has stepped up this year?
Jeremy Jeffress is working his way back from shoulder soreness. Corey Knebel is done until 2020. The Milwaukee Brewers still have Josh Hader in the ninth inning, but they need a new bridge between the starter and the closer. A few guys have really upped their game in the first week, and could develop into the new bridge to Hader.
Who is growing into an increased role?
The Milwaukee Brewers have three relievers with 0.00 ERAs. One is Hader. The other two are Alex Wilson and Matt Albers. Wilson has logged three scoreless innings with four strikeouts and only one hit allowed. Albers has also tossed three scoreless innings with four strikeouts, one walk, and one hit allowed.
Alex Claudio has also logged three innings, but has a 3.00 ERA with one walk and three hits allowed.
What’s different for Wilson & Albers?
Wilson has ditched a mediocre slider and a bad change-up for his fastball and an awesome cutter. He’s a two-pitch pitcher, but relievers like Wilson have proven effective in limited action.
The secret to Albers’ current run of success is simpler. Albers is healthy. He appears to be completely over the shoulder and hamstring injuries that limited his effectiveness in 2018.
He’s also throwing his slider slower and more often this year than in seasons past. The drop in velocity looks more intentional than as a result of age, and the frequency is absolutely intentional.
The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have the same three-headed monster at the back end of the bullpen that they ended 2018 with, but they are seeing a few guys step up. If the success continues, the need for Craig Kimbrel or another ‘off the street’ free agent is much lower. A reinvented Wilson and a healthy Albers can’t fully replace Jeffress and Knebel, but they can make the loss feel not quite as bad. Especially if they continue to put zeroes up on the scoreboard, and bridge the gap to Hader.