Brewers pitchers allowed 16 runs to the Cincinnati Reds on April 21, and 14 runs to the Dodgers on May 7. In the 14 games sandwiched between those terrible staff outings, the Milwaukee hurlers put together a string of excellent games: the club allowed fewer than four runs in 10 games, but thanks to a lackluster offense, the Brewers only managed a .500 record during that stretch. Things looked like they would continue in the arms’ favor with Craig Counsell at the helm, but a recent series of games is starting to see the arms experience their own problems. In fact, Brewers pitchers have allowed four or more runs in 10 of 17 games managed by Counsell. In fact, as much as the offense has improved during Counsell’s tenure, the arms are worse now than under Runnin’ Ron Roenicke‘s watch:
|Brewers||RS||RA||RS/G (NL/park)||RA/G (NL/park)||Record|
|Roenicke (25 G)||82||123||3.28 (4.18)||4.92 (4.28)||7-18|
|Counsell (17 G)||74||93||4.35 (4.18)||5.47 (4.28)||8-9|
Several trends define Counsell’s pitching staff.
|Counsell’s Games||Starter R||Reliever R||Note|
|May 4||3||4 IP scoreless relief to beat Kershaw|
|May 5||3||5||“Quality Start” by Garza to take loss|
|May 6||3||Great start by Peralta / K-Rod save|
|May 7||5||9||Terrible Fiers start / 4 relief IP|
|May 8||4||3||Nelson start followed by poor 2 IP relief|
|May 9||4||Terrible Lohse start / 4 IP relief IP|
|May 10||1||1||Great Garza start / BS but extra IP win|
|May 11||2||5||Great Peralta start / BS but bullpen win|
|May 12||2||2||Great Fiers start / bullpen loss|
|May 13||4||Tough Nelson start / 1.7 IP relief|
|May 15||Great Lohse start / 1 IP relief|
|May 16||10||4||Terrible start and bullpen work|
|May 17||5||Terrible Peralta start / 3 IP relief|
|May 18||2||Decent Fiers start / Crucial relief performance for W|
|May 19||1||Great Nelson start / 1 IP relief|
|May 20||2||3||Great Lohse start / Bullpen loss|
|May 21||4||6||Tough Garza start / terrible bullpen performance|
|Total||55||38||Eight scoreless / Six 3+ IP relief performances|
First and foremost, while the starters have not been great during this stretch on the whole, Matt Garza‘s terrible start truly inflates their numbers. Outside of Garza’s 10 run stinker, the starters are allowing 2.80 runs per game. While this is not great on the whole, the starters have worked at least eight quality-to-great starts. In the context of this pitching staff, even a 6 IP / 2 R performance must do as a great start.
However, the bullpen has had to work too many long nights of relief. In fact, by my count, at least four of the terrible bullpen performances have followed “long” nights of three-or-more relief IP. This is in no way a statement of causality, as the relievers do have some responsibility to do their jobs to retire batters. It’s merely a potential starting point for a deeper look at the pitching staff.
Finally, the Twitter critics may rejoice: Counsell’s absolute rigidity in pitching roles may also have cost the Brewers games. Infamously, Counsell has insisted to work Jonathan Broxton in close games, even though the righty is not his “past self.” Since Counsell has taken over the managerial role, Broxton has allowed eight runs in fewer than five innings pitched. Furthermore, Counsell inserted Broxton into a couple of close games despite the fact that Broxton had allowed three runs over one inning pitched between May 7 and 10. Predictably, Broxton blew a lead and lost a game in two close game outings. Granted, one might suggest that Counsell is not making this call, and that President & GM Doug Melvin may insist that the Brewers showcase Broxton to contenders desperate for bullpen help. We cannot know who is completely behind these decisions, but any way you slice it, the Brewers cannot afford rigid bullpen roles while also withstanding frequent three-inning (or more) workloads.
By contrast, one might place the blame squarely with these players. While Melvin may have made mistakes by signing expensive, veteran bullpen talent, the fact remains that the bullpen is largely struggling across roles (with a few notable exceptions). The same largely goes for the starting pitchers: these pitchers are better than their 2015 performances suggest, which leads one to ask whether the coaching staff and analytics department is building a proper strategical approach for their arms.