The toughest losses to endure in baseball are the ones that are right there for the taking. Your team is battling through six or seven innings and you’re either leading or within a run. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when your bullpen continues to surrender leads, or is either giving up enough runs to put the team out of striking distance. That’s beginning to become a trend for the Milwaukee Brewers this season.
The Brewers are currently leading the N.L. Central this season. They’re two games ahead of the second place Chicago Cubs. The Crew could be sitting on top of the division with an even bigger lead if it weren’t for the bullpen though.
There’s no question that the offense is the strongest dimension on the team this season. Thanks to offseason acquisitions like Eric Thames, Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar, the Brewers rank among the top ten in the league for combined team slugging percentage (.439) and OPS (.763). The offense is able to put the team in the lead early on in games and compete with some of the other top teams in baseball. It’s usually up to the bullpen to either close out games, or keep the team within striking distance. Sadly, the later innings of the game is usually when the team allows the opposing team to score.
According to MLB.com, the only relief pitcher in the Brewers’ bullpen with an earned run average (ERA) under 3.50 is the closer, Corey Knebel. He’s been the only bright spot in the bullpen though. The Brewers’ relief pitchers have a combined record of 10-18. The bullpen leads the league with the most losses. What’s even worse is that they also lead the league in save opportunities with 35 chances. This means that the team is leading by three runs or less heading into the last inning of the game. Sadly, they’ve only been able to close out 23 of those 35 opportunities, which means that the bullpen has blown 12 games.
A two-game lead in the division isn’t much of a lead at all. The fact that the bullpen has lost so many games and has given up the lead is incredibly frustrating on a team that is so good on offense. It’s like their bullpen is their own worst enemy. Their lead in the division could be a lot larger if the bullpen had just done their job.
It’s pretty obvious that the Brewers need all the help that they can get in the bullpen if they’re going to be a legitimate contender this season. They won’t be able to win games down the stretch of the end of the season if their bullpen is blowing games. They definitely won’t be able to make a run in the playoffs with this current pitching staff either.
It’s a lot harder to find help in the middle of the season than it sounds. The Brewers have had a pretty rough time trying to scramble for fresh arms to close out games. The team converted former starting pitcher Wily Peralta to a relief pitcher, hoping that he could turn into a solid arm that they could bring in for two or three innings. Peralta is still getting accustom to his new role though. His ERA is up to a skyrocketing 8.53.
The Brewers even called up their top-pitching prospect, Josh Hader, to help out the team. The flame throwing lefty has been a starting pitcher his entire minor league career, but the Brewers made it clear that he was going to be put in the bullpen for this season. Hader has been solid since his call up to the show. He’s only played in two games so far, but has yet to allow a run. The Brewers will need more arms than just Knebel and Hader though.
Expect the team to make a move at the July 31 trade deadline. Brewers’ General Manager, David Stearns, even realizes that the team needs to switch things up. “Time to get a couple of new arms in there,” said Stearns to reporters. Other than to keep trying to convert starting pitchers to relief pitchers, the trade deadline will likely be the only chance for the Crew to really upgrade their bullpen until the offseason. The team will most likely have to sacrifice a few of their top offensive players and prospects if they’re going to acquire talent. One thing’s for sure though, if the Brewers are able to add two or three more relievers to pair with Knebel and Hader, you could be looking at a real contender to make a run in the playoffs this season.