We are used to seeing the baby faced manager make moves that seem odd at the time, but play out perfectly. That’s his specialty. He has created a name for himself by taking a small market team, and having them play like the big boys. Every move is a combination of gut and strong analytics. His ability to push all the right buttons and create a winning environment in the clubhouse, makes him one of the best in the game.
The day usually starts when the lineup for the night gets pushed out around 3 hours before game time. There are days when it seems somewhat “normal” for the Brewers and then there are the days when Grandal is leading off. You first question everything, how is this very slow catcher leading off in the major leagues? However, when game time rolls around you are amazed by how well it works out. All of a sudden in the first inning you automatically have a guy on base with no outs, almost every time.
The real navigation happened this year when Counsell has to figure out what to do with two previous sluggers. The anomaly of Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar. It becomes a debate of maybe if you give them just one more start they will get on track, or the pitcher they are facing tonight is the perfect matchup for them. A constant discussion on top of that, is making sure Ryan Braun has enough off days to get through the season, and whatever leads after. Then in September, arguably the most competitive month of the season, Counsel is faced with losing his slugger Christian Yelich. It’s no secret either, that Yelich carries the team offensively.
Then you see the starter for the night. Any fan of any other team thinks, if we can get six to seven quality innings out of this dude we should be good to go. However you are a Brewers fan, so you think, if we can get four to five innings with less than three runs we are good to go. The stats prove it too, only Jordan Lyles, Brandon Woodruff, and Zach Davies averaged over five innings of work, and none over six. There was only 19 games this year where a pitcher threw over 100 pitches, and none over 120. In an 18 game set to finish off the season there was only twice where a pitcher went over five innings. Craig Counsel legitimately bullpened his way through September, going 15-3 in that 18 game set.
Speaking of the bullpen, out of 236 total times a relief pitcher came out, 181 times he ended up pitching more than three outs. Only 29% of inherited runners scored while in relief. These numbers for pitching are insane considering Counsell had a fallout of Corbin Burnes, a somewhat fallout of Freddy Peralta, only having one “electric dude” (who also had his struggles), and Jimmy Nelson’s return not being as smooth as thought. Through all of those roadblocks, the 2019 season was pretty smooth because of Counsel’s last skill.
Craig Counsell’s ability to have a winning feel in the clubhouse is incredible. All the players buy into what he talks about. Through the downs of the season when there was reason to worry, they never wavered. Everyone on the team still enjoyed coming in everyday, hanging out with their brothers, and playing the children’s game. They had the perfect balance of being down after a hard loss, but coming in the next day with a clean slate. That was shown day in and day out with homerun celebrations, clubhouse shenanigans, showing some love, and so much more. All of this starts from the top in Counsell, and it shows, even if he only cracks a smile every now and then.
At the end of the season, what do you get after all this? Definitely not the end goal, and the season ended much earlier than wanted. At the same time however, you have a team that pushed through all the naysayers. Who played in the Wild Card game, when they had no business when looking at the standings three weeks before. Who rallied behind losing their best guy, and crushed September. That’s what you got, five and a half months of meaningful baseball.
What Craig Counsell has done in the few years he’s been leading the Brewers, has been magical. He has brought excitement back to Milwaukee about baseball, and this year was no different. I could care less about end of the season awards, but if Craig Counsell does not get awarded Manager of the Year, the award needs to be canceled.
Needless to say Couns is one of the best in the business and should be recognized for that. He has changed the way to look at how a baseball game is played, and used it to his advantage.