The Bullpen: B
The strength of the team in 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen was expected to be leaned upon heavily for success in 2019 as well. And why wouldn’t it? The three-headed monster of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, and Jeremy Jeffress was coming back. Junior Guerra worked all offseason to become a more effective reliever after being moved to the pen the previous year. And GM David Stearns appeared to make some shrewd additions to bolster the relief corps even further.
And then the bad news struck before the season even began. Knebel would learn that he needed Tommy John surgery and would miss the season. Bobby Wahl, a young flamethrower acquired by Stearns before the season, who was expected to be a big 2019 contributor, tore his ACL in a rare injury for a pitcher and would also miss the season. Jeffress would end up with a shoulder issue that would delay his start to the year.
Despite all the turmoil, the bullpen has somehow held their own. While they haven’t been the bullpen the led the league in ERA for much of last year, their 4.39 ERA sits seventh in the NL at the break. Their .233 opponents’ batting average is good for third in the NL, as is their 9.8 K/9.
Unsurprisingly, Hader has led the way. Put in the closer’s role due to Knebel’s injury, Hader has blown hitters away again to the tune of a league leading (among minimum qualifiers) 16.5 K/9 and 51.0 K%. Yes, he has given up home runs at a higher rate than in the past, but that hasn’t stopped him from tallying 20 saves so far this year, tied for seventh in the NL, as well as a second consecutive All-Star bid.
A number of other relievers have stepped up big as well. Though he has struggled as a starter, Houser’s 1.05 ERA as a reliever leads Brewer pitchers with over 10 innings of relief. Peralta has also been much better as a reliever than as a starter and has an ERA of 2.81. Jeffress, Guerra, Matt Albers who has fully recovered from last year’s injury, and though fans might not like to admit it, even Alex Claudio have all had long successful runs that have contributed to the bullpen’s success.
It hasn’t been all rosy. Pitchers like offseason pickup Alex Wilson and mainstays Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams largely struggled in their appearances this year and have 5+ ERAs. But all of them are now down at Triple-A where they can’t do any more damage.
The Brewers may not quite have the bullpen that fans envisioned before the season started. But considering the adversity they have faced, it’s hard to to complain too much with the results.