Milwaukee Brewers: A season of challenges for Craig Counsell
By John Schnabl
Craig Counsell was a finalist for Manager of the Year in 2018. Here are the reasons why he might be doing an even better job for the Milwaukee Brewers this year.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell has occasionally drawn the ire of Brewers fans this season, but he’s made it through some difficult challenges this year and has kept the team in the playoff race.
Reason #1- Injuries
Before the year started, the team lost its closer Corey Knebel for the year. Throughout the year, the injury bug struck several of the team’s key players including but not limited to, Brandon Woodruff, Keston Hiura, Mike Moustakas and most recently, Christian Yelich.
This has required Counsell to frequently adjust his lineup, move players to new positions and plug in young players that were not initially part of the team’s plans for 2019.
Reason #2 – Young Starters
The team put most of its financial resources into offense during the offseason. The two key signings were Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal. Along with fortifying the offense the team made a strategic decision to designate three starting spots to young and upcoming pitchers (Woodruff, Peralta, and Burnes).
Unfortunately, Peralta and Burnes failed to take advantage of their opportunities so the team needed to explore other avenues. Peralta has found some success in the bullpen and Burnes has struggled all season. Counsell was constantly plugging in new starters in order to fill the hole left by the failed plan to go with young starters.
Reason #3 – Underachieving Key Players
Several players who played key roles in the success of the 2018 team did not perform as anticipated. Jesus Aguilar, an All-Star in 2018, could not find success at the plate and was overtaken by Eric Thames at first base and was eventually traded to Tampa for Jacob Faria.
Travis Shaw has struggled mightily all year and has spent considerable time in the minors. After Wednesday’s game, he is hitting .151 with an OPB of .269 and an OPS of .526, far below his production level from the past two seasons.
Hernan Perez who has been the super-utilityman for the Brewers, was DFA’d earlier this year due to lack of productivity. Perez then returned to the team because nobody claimed him on waivers. Jimmy Nelson came back from major shoulder surgery and has not been able to have any success in his return the majors.
Orlando Arcia, who is incredible defensively, continues to struggle on the offensive end. Lorenzo Cain, who is destined for a Gold Glove some day, and is playing on a bad knee, has had trouble finding consistency at the plate all season long.
Finally, Opening Day starter and 2018 playoff sensation, Jhoulys Chacin, was DFA’d from the team due to lack of productivity.
The lack of production from past contributors has led Counsell to try to mix and match his lineup all year and forced management to find alternatives within the organization.
Reason #4 – Not the same bullpen
By the end of last season the Milwaukee Brewers had a bullpen that could shut down most opposing teams when the Brewers had a lead after six innings. Knebel, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress were one of the most potent one, two, three punches in all of baseball.
This year, Jeffress struggled and was eventually released, and, as was mentioned earlier, Knebel never made it out of spring training. The only reliever to have a consistent level of success is Hader. The rest of the bullpen arms have been riding a tidal wave of productivity.
Despite all the issues the Brewers have faced this year, Counsell has skillfully managed a team that is in the thick of a wild card race and has fans once again excited about baseball in September.
Craig Counsell doesn’t really get as much credit as he deserves. The way things have gone this year, it’s a surprise the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t below .500, but Counsell has gotten a lot out of this club.