The Brewers have been historically good in the month of September under the guidance of manager Craig Counsell. This has led many to dub the month “Craigtember”. But will that magic continue in 2021?
For the longest time in baseball, for whatever reason, active rosters expanded from 25 players to 40 players in the month of September. Some teams would call up just a handful of players, bringing their active group to 28 or maybe 30 players. Some would bring up as many as possible, pushing their big league roster to 37 or 38 players. The Brewers were in the latter category.
In 2018 and 2019, Craig Counsell had about 37 players at his disposal any given night in the month of September. President of Baseball Operations David Steans prided the Brewers organization on its depth, especially on the 40 man roster, which allowed them a lot of quality players to call up to the big leagues.
With so many players to mix and match, Craig Counsell could show off his managerial skills with an endless amount of pinch hit options and bullpen pieces. And he did so with great success. In 2018, the Brewers went 19-7 in September, catching the Cubs for the NL Central crown. In 2019, they started the month 17-4 and ended the month 20-7, snatching a Wild Card spot.
But this year, due to a recent rule change, the Brewers won’t have 37 players they can have active. Can they still have the same September magic without the big roster expansion?
This year, active rosters were at 26 all season, and in September they expand to 28 players. That gives them just two additional spots to work with, instead of 14.
The Brewers used those two spots on Daniel Vogelbach and Justin Topa, giving them one extra bat off the bench and an extra arm in the bullpen. While that obviously helps and will give Counsell some more flexibility, will the lack of a fully expanded roster hurt the Brewers September magic?
Once again, the Brewers have a very deep 40 man roster. There’s plenty of big league talent that has had to stay in the minors longer than they should simply because of roster math. Tyrone Taylor, for example, has been demoted a few times this year despite being a capable big league player.
There are several important big league pieces on the IL that will need to be activated soon, namely Taylor, Freddy Peralta, Eduardo Escobar, and now Manny Pina. When they get activated, that’s four roster spots that will need to be made, which means sending someone else down.
We haven’t seen Craig Counsell navigate a month of September with such a limited roster. Granted, it did still expand beyond what he had from April through August, and he handled those months just fine. But the ridiculous success level and 20-7 records in the month may not be as attainable this year.
Another difference between this September and previous ones is that the Brewers aren’t chasing anyone. In 2018 they were chasing the Cubs for the division. In 2019, they were chasing a Wild Card spot. This year, the only thing they have to chase is the best record in baseball, which they maybe shouldn’t even want.
Instead of pulling out all the stops and charging full speed ahead, Counsell can take some caution, knowing they don’t need to risk too much right now. That may dim any hopes of a historic month of September.
Will the Brewers still be really good in September this year? Absolutely. Will they be as good as they were in Septembers past? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, instead of being remembered as a historic team in September, it’s better to be remembered as a historic team in October. That’s the goal.
Don’t be surprised if the “Craigtember Magic” doesn’t reach the same heights it once did. But that may be okay.