After starting 26 games for the Brewers in 2018 and struggling down the stretch as a starter, Junior Guerra made the transition full-time into the bullpen in 2019. He would appear in the second most games out of Brewers pitchers and pitch the most relief innings on the team.
There was no easing Junior Guerra into this role from the Brewers. On Opening Day he pitched 1.2 innings vs the Cardinals and was credited with a hold. In fact, his first three outings were all in high leverage situations in which he successfully recorded holds. On April 13, he would record his first ever save against the Dodgers.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows however. Guerra had lots of success the first 2 months of the season that was backed up by a 2.79 ERA and a season-high eight straight appearances without allowing an earned run.
However, an ERA of 5.93 in June and 4.50 in July really hurt his confidence. He would pitch much better in August and September, but was unable to consistently keep runs off the scoreboard like he did early in the season.
While his consistency may have been lacking, Counsell still trusted him in high leverage situations the majority of the season. Of his 72 game appearances in 2019, 34 of them came in high leverage situations. With three saves and 20 holds on the year, that shows Guerra did have lots of success, but he did also let opportunities get away from him.
Guerra posted a 1.3 WAR in 2019, which was his highest WAR since the 2016 season. Other interesting stats showed that Guerra really struggled when pitching on zero days rest. He pitched 19.1 innings on no rest and logged a 4.19 ERA in those situations.
2019 Season Grade: B-
With the way Guerra’s 2018 season ended, Brewer fans have to be happy with his performance in 2019. He pitched a lot of innings and earned Craig Counsell‘s trust early on in the season. That being said, he was not the most reliable reliever in high leverage situations.
He may have faltered as the season went on due to a high usage rate or often pitching on no days rest. A stronger supporting cast around him in 2020 may result in a better Junior Guerra who pitches at a high level more consistently.
One awesome moment came late in the season as the Milwaukee Brewers were just about to clinch their second consecutive postseason berth in a game against the Reds. Counsell called in Guerra to close out the ninth inning as he was GM David Stearns’ first acquisition and has remained an important part of the team.