Jump to content
Brewer Fanatic
  • Filling the Gaps in the Brewers' Bullpen

    Jake McKibbin

    Entering the second half, the Brewers' relief corps is in a bit of upheaval. The All-Star break came at just the right time for a tired and heavily worked seven-man crew, but there might need to be more moves to finish assembling a fully functional bullpen.

    Image courtesy of © Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

    Brewers Video

    So far this year, the top tier of the Brewers bullpen has been magnificent. Elvis Peguero, Joel Payamps and Devin Williams have vastly exceeded expectations, and been lights out in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The “B Squad” of Bryse Wilson (occasionally in long/middle relief) and Hoby Milner (the fireman) have been fantastic, as well, recording ERAs of 2.70 and 2.50, respectively. The only issue has been at the bottom of the hierarchy, a group which has cost the Brewers several games so far–sometimes by fully imploding, and sometimes by not-quite meeting the challenge of being called upon for emergency late-game, high-leverage work.

    Currently the Brewers are using a six-man rotation (which, intriguingly, has coincided with a small uptick in performance from both Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta) leaving seven pitching roster spots for the bullpen, and the last two are occupied by Abner Uribe and JC Mejia. Before that however, here’s a list of the Brewers that filled those spots:

    • Javy Guerra – 8 1/3 innings pitched, eight earned runs (8.64 ERA)
    • Gus Varland – 8 2/3 innings pitched, 11 earned runs, 15 hits, eight walks (11.42 ERA)
    • Bennett Sousa – 2 2/3 innings pitched, four earned runs (13.50 ERA)
    • Tyson Miller – 9 1/3 innings pitched, six earned runs (5.79 ERA)
    • Trevor Megill – 14 2/3 innings pitched, eight earned runs, 20 strikeouts (4.91 ERA)
    • Jake Cousins – 9 1/3 innings pitched, five earned runs, 2.14 WHIP (4.82 ERA)
    • Ethan Small – 3 innings pitched, five earned runs (15 ERA)
    • Matt Bush – 12 Games, 10 1/3 innings pitched, 11 earned runs, 1.65 WHIP and three blown saves (9.58 ERA)

    While I could argue Megill actually looked okay, and that Clayton Andrews (I couldn’t include him above with 1 ⅔ innings pitched) has potential but just struggled with nerves in his first MLB stint, the long and short of it all is that the back end has been a leaky dam for most of the season. Even Cousins was lucky to only have a 4.82 ERA with a WHIP that high

    It’s a large part of the reason why the Brewers have struggled to come back in games, and also why they have been involved in so many blowout losses, as well as some agonizing losses with a tired bullpen (see: the 8-7 loss to the Pirates a week before the break).

    Improvements could be on the way, however, and one might already be here.

    Abner Uribe is, quite simply, someone who can get outs. He showed in his first inning of work how filthy his stuff is, with a wipeout slider at 89 miles per hour and a 100-mph fastball. He’s shown an ability to get outs with ease at each level of the minors, with high strikeout totals and stuff that will obviously play at any level. His command isn’t all there, and he hasn’t had a lot of exposure to professional baseball due to a checkered injury history, but his first inning against the Cubs showed exactly what he can bring to the table.

    If the Brewers go to a five-man rotation, Peter Strzelecki may come back into the mix, and although he hasn’t been as dominant as he was last season, he still gets outs and has looked more than capable in a big-league bullpen, whilst also battling some batted-ball misfortune, with his 1.18 WHIP and an xERA of 4.00. He’s above-average for the muddle in the middle of a bullpen, and will definitely contribute once the Brewers select their starters going forward. I would expect one of Teheran or Rea to get dealt to someone for a prospect we wouldn’t have expected.

    Finally, to add another lefty into the mix, the team will soon give a look to Justin Wilson. The veteran free-agent signee has looked very sharp from the get-go in his rehab stints, and is currently working away in Nashville. He has a career 3.41 ERA, with 510 strikeouts to his name, another veteran presence that can and will get outs. He’s had just one season since 2016 with an ERA above 3.66, where he struggled for a short time in the Bronx.

    So far in the minors, Wilson has pitched in five innings (three in rookie ball, two in Triple A) with three hits and two strikeouts. He may not need much more than another couple of innings before he’s ready to contribute to the Brewers bullpen, and he could be invaluable for what is a relatively inexperienced setup.

    What the likes of Uribe and Wilson (if they perform as expected) can do is allow Craig Counsell to mix and match for hitters as he sees fit depending on their strengths and weaknesses, as well as giving the likes of Payamps and Peguero more rest. With the likely regression in Rea, Teheran and Miley in the second half, a shutdown bullpen with this improved offense of recent weeks could carry the Brewers all the way to the playoffs.

    Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    — Latest Brewers coverage from our writers
    — Recent Brewers discussion in our forums
    — Follow Brewer Fanatic via Twitter, Facebook or email

    • Like 1

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Featured Comments

    What an interesting problem we'll have when Woodruff comes back. Currently Burnes, Peralta, Miley, Teheran, Rea, and Houser all starting. The obvious answer is probably moving Rea/Houser to long relief and kicking back to a 5 man rotation. There aren't any bad stretches of games in a row that a 6 man rotation is really necessary, so I see that going away quickly. They will probably try to have one of Rea/Houser available on days Miley/Teheran pitch, but you can't get away with strict piggybacks at this level. Sending our worst 2 relievers to AAA in favor of 2 effective starters shifting to relief should solve to a degree our problem created by the worst relievers in the pen, while adding length to what the bullpen can cover. Relief decisions/rest is certainly simplified when the starter goes 5 innings, Houser goes 3, Williams nails down the save.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    End of year staff

    Rotation) Burnes, Woody, Peralta, Miley, Teheran/Rea

    Pen) Williams, Payamps, Peguro, Hoby, Bryse Wilson, Houser, Uribe, Ashby/Justin Wilson

    If Uribe isn't great and Ashby's rehab isn't on track by the end of the month I would be all for a depth add in the pen. However at this point I don't think it is high priority.

    • Like 2
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

  • Create New...