For the last month the Brewer’s bullpen was lights out. Whether it was Josh Hader striking out anyone and everyone they put in front of him, or Jeremy Jeffress escaping bases loaded nobody out. Now the Brewers add Corey Knebel into that fold it seems almost unfair, however how does Corey fit into this puzzle. Knebel was an All-Star last year. He had an ERA of 1.78 and struck out just shy of 15 per 9 innings. Add in 39 saves, and you can see he was a dominate closer last year. Yet, there’s still a debate to be had. The Brewers will give him some tune-up appearances, but what about after that? Is he still the closer? Do you have him setup Josh Hader or Jeremy Jeffress?
Even though he had success last year, this year has been a different story. He’s only pitched in 4 games this season and he got hurt in one, but he hasn’t looked great up until this point. Corey has 5 k’s in 3 2/3 and hasn’t issued a walk. However, that’s where the positives end. He’s given up 2 HRs, 4 hits, 4 ERs, and blown a save. This is not a recipe for success and makes me a little hesitant to give him the keys back. Then again let’s remember that he throws his fastball in the upper 90’s and can follow that up by dropping in a bender you can hang your laundry on. Even with the numbers, his stuff is nasty enough to keep him as the closer.
Let’s talk about Josh Hader for a second. He’s been absolutely money so far this year. Boasting an ERA of 1.64 and striking out a hair under 19 per 9 innings. Not to mention most of his appearances span multiple innings and he’s a lefty. Maybe this is our guy and we shouldn’t fix what’s not broken. Corey did say he didn’t care when he pitched as long as we win and we haven’t lost a game when Josh Hader’s pitched. It’s not like Knebel is getting Wally Pipped here, he’ll still pitch in high leverage situations, not as the closer.
Also, let’s not forget about Jeremy Jeffress through all of this. Without him the early complexion of this season would look much different. He’s put out more fires than a fireman and cleaned up more messes than a high school janitor. He owns a minuscule 0.45 ERA and has also kept the ERA of his teammates down as well. After adding the split-change to his arsenal he’s been the best version of himself. Hitters have looked lost against him all year and there’s no reason to believe that is going to stop. He’s also one of the elder statesman of this bullpen, he’s been around the block and who knows maybe with such a youthful bullpen that’s just who we need as the anchor.
This “problem” is more like a luxury, and one that most teams in the league would love to have. Whether CC picks the young lefty flamethrower, the veteran, or the All-Star the Brewers will have a legit closer and some studs setting him up. For the moment we should just rejoice that our All-Star closer… make that our All-Star reliever is back. Any way you slice it this bullpen is nasty, and it doesn’t matter where or when Knebel pitches he’s going to make it better.