Milwaukee Brewers: Who will be the closer in 2019?

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 29: Jeremy Jeffress #32 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after beating the Detroit Tigers 6-5 at Miller Park on September 29, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 29: Jeremy Jeffress #32 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after beating the Detroit Tigers 6-5 at Miller Park on September 29, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

With a stout bullpen led by Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, and Corey Knebel, the Milwaukee Brewers have some fantastic options for the closer role in 2019.

Last season, the Milwaukee Brewers and Craig Counsell relied on all three of their bullpen stars when it came to closing out a game, rather than having the traditional closer. Now, this happened more out of necessity than choice, but as we look ahead to the 2019 season, who will take over the closer role?

At the beginning of the 2018 season, Corey Knebel was the Milwaukee Brewers designated closer after putting together a fantastic All-Star season in 2017, where he recorded 39 saves and 126 strikeouts in just 76.0 innings.

However, an early-season injury that led to a DL stint never allowed Knebel to find any rhythm and unfortunately, he ended up struggling for much of the season. Before the All-Star break, Knebel had pitched in just 25.1 innings but allowed 18 hits, 11 earned runs and gave up 12 walks.

After losing the closer role, Counsell attempted to put Knebel in very low-stress situations, hoping he would be able to work through his issues on the mound, but that wasn’t the case. Eventually, Knebel was sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs to get back on track.

Jeffress and others take over

As all of this was going on, Jeremy Jeffress took over as the primary closer for the Milwaukee Brewers, but Counsell was willing to put in whoever he thought would give them the best chance of winning. There were multiple Milwaukee Brewers pitchers who recorded at least one save and Josh Hader had 12 of his own.

While Hader is the most dynamic pitcher out of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen, I wouldn’t expect him to take on the closer role permanently. Counsell is very particular when he uses Hader and also prefers that he throws multiple innings. Given his usage, the closer role full-time just doesn’t make sense.

Jeffress as the primary closer did a wonderful job for the Brewers and was able to get out of even the most difficult of situations when called upon. On the season, he posted 15 saves, 1.29 ERA, and a 0.991 WHIP.

Knebel returns

Once September rolled around, Knebel rejoined the Milwaukee Brewers for their late playoff push and he did not disappoint. In fact, Knebel was on absolute fire and eventually won the NL’s Reliever of the Month for his performances. Knebel would face 57 batters and struck out 33 of them, while also allowing only three walks, no earned runs and held his opponents to just a .310 OPS.

Knebel would carry that momentum over to the postseason where he would appear in ten innings, record a 0.90 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and allowed just one earned run in some incredibly high leverage situations.

Unfortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers and Jeremy Jeffress, he was unable to bring his regular season play into the postseason. He would actually struggle quite a bit. In just eight innings, Jeffress allowed 16 hits, six earned runs, and a 1.070 OPS.

Who should close in 2019?

Last year, Counsell once again was able to show off his flexibility as a manager by not being limited to the traditional closer role and was able to use multiple out-getters to get the job done.

While I do anticipate that we will see Counsell use the bullpen in this manner again when necessary, I do not think that it will be to the extent that we saw in 2018, as long as everyone is healthy and we don’t have any more Triple-A visits.

Given how last season ended, as well as Knebel’s past success in the role, I believe that on Opening Day he will be the designated closer.

Jeffress did a phenomenal job taking over in 2018 but has shown an uncanny ability to enter a game with multiple runners on base and is able to get out of the jam. Having Jeffress enter earlier in the game will be more of an asset to the Milwaukee Brewers than taking over in a clean ninth inning.

Next. Internal options at 2B will rise to the occasion. dark

Of course, some of this is dependent on performances in Spring Training and with Counsell as manager, nothing is ever set in stone. It wouldn’t shock me if we saw closer by committee once again in 2019, but at the beginning of the season in close game situations, I would expect Hader in the seventh, Jeffress in the eighth and Knebel in the ninth.