Brewers: Is It Time To Demote Matt Bush From His 8th Inning Role?

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers
New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The 2022 Trade Deadline was a disaster for the Milwaukee Brewers. They traded Josh Hader, didn't acquire an impact player in return for him to help down the stretch, and only acquired two other relievers in separate trades at the Deadline. One was Trevor Rosenthal, who was injured and never ended up pitching for the Brewers, and the other was Matt Bush.

Matt Bush has always had an electric arm, it's one of the reasons he was drafted No. 1 overall ahead of future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander back in 2004. He was also a position player back then.

The 37 year old has high leverage stuff, something the Brewers have been constantly telling us since his arrival. But he hasn't really turned that into results in a Milwaukee uniform. Bush has struggled with allowing home runs with the Brewers and they haven't gotten better even in a new season in 2023.

Bush is the only remaining big league acquisition from that 2022 Trade Deadline (excluding prospect Robert Gasser, who has yet to make his MLB debut), and he's not exactly helping the legacy of that deadline improve.

The Brewers might be looking to take Matt Bush out of his 8th inning setup man role after his struggles continue into 2023.

In a 1-0 game against the Padres, after Wade Miley tossed 7 shutout innings, the Brewers needed to turn to a trusted reliever in the 8th inning of a tight game to be the bridge to Devin Williams. Typically, that's been Matt Bush's job. But on Sunday, Craig Counsell opted to bring in young Peter Strzelecki.

Strzelecki retired the side in just eight pitches.

The Brewers ended up winning that game and in the most important moment, Craig Counsell changed things up and decided to not go to his regular 8th inning setup guy.

In the game on Thursday against San Diego, Matt Bush came in in the 8th inning to protect a 3-1 lead and gave up a walk then allowed a 2 run homer to tie the game. Luckily the Brewers were able to pull out the win in extra innings, but perhaps that was the final straw for Counsell.

Bush has struggled with walks this year, allowing 5 free passes in just 4.2 IP so far. While that Padres game was the first time he's allowed a run this year, it's a combination of factors that puts his status as the 8th inning man in peril. He struggled last year, and he now has a combined 4.23 ERA as a member of the Brewers with seven homers allowed.

There are two things that can destroy an inning for any pitcher, but especially a reliever, and they are walks and home runs. Unfortunately for Bush and the Brewers, those are two things he's been giving up a lot of lately.

Strzelecki has earned an opportunity for higher leverage spots as well. He's been excellent since arriving in the big leagues last season and has passed every test in higher leverage spots with flying colors. He posted a 2.83 ERA last season and has yet to allow a run in his first seven outings of 2023.

When the next setup opportunity arrives, watch who Craig Counsell calls in. Will he go back to Bush after Strzelecki had a successful trial outing in that role? Or will Strzelecki stay in the 8th and Bush moves to pitching in a lower leverage spot?

Counsell will probably give Bush another chance or two in the 8th, but Strzelecki making a cameo there on Sunday may be a sign that he's ready to make a change if Bush doesn't find a way to keep the ball in the park.

In Monday's game, Strzelecki came in early for an injured Corbin Burnes and Bush got the 8th inning again. Bush allowed yet another home run but still held the lead. Under different circumstances with Burnes, perhaps we would've seen Strzelecki in a different spot, but Bush continues his struggles with the long ball.

Strzelecki is earning more and more and Counsell may be left with no choice but to make a permanent change.

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