Brew Crew Ball Mailbag #10: Has Craig Counsell Changed His Management Style?

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of the Brew Crew Ball mailbag!

This week, the Brewers continued what has become a theme of the season: signs of life followed by a frustrating display.

The Brewers had an encouraging streak against stiff competition, sharing a four-game set with the Dodgers, and immediately followed it up with a disappointing 8-7 loss to the Cubs. They remain squarely in the hunt for a playoff berth, but they can’t seem to continue a solid run beyond a few games.

Potential promotions for Milwaukee outfield prospects continue to be a topic of discussion, so we’ll start with this week’s questions.

Mtcunning3 asks:

What do you think CF should look like for the rest of the year between Taylor/Davis/Ruiz/Frelick?

It’s almost time to promote one of Ruiz or Frelick and see what they can do. Unlike others, I say this not strictly because of Tyrone Taylor’s production, but because of his profile.

Taylor continued to show his raw power this season, but poor discipline at the plate put a damper on his season. He has a high chase rate and a 5.5 percent walk rate, which produced an appalling .273 on-base percentage. Perhaps hitting in the bottom third of the order contributes to his over-aggressiveness, but it’s fair to wonder if Taylor’s shot recognition is just that poor.

Neither Ruiz nor Frelick possess as much power as Taylor, but they have shown tremendous discipline at the plate this year. Taylor has a ratio of 0.22 BB/K this year. Ruiz and Frelick have ratios of 0.76 and 0.79 respectively in the minor leagues.

If the Brewers are promoting one of their outfield prospects, cutting Davis and moving to a timeshare deal with Taylor in the middle makes the most sense.

SANYTOLAN asks:

Someone asked this question last week, but with another week’s worth of data, I’m going to ask it again: Sal Frelick or Esteury Diaz? Or both after 9/1? And why haven’t the Brewers called Jace Cousins ​​yet, given that Jason Alexander is still in the bullpen?

I think Ruiz is even more likely to get the call first, but Frelick’s southpaw bat and immediate Triple-A success make him a tempting option. If the Brewers promote him, it would probably be because they think he can play a major role right now. Frelick will be promoted soon to ensure he is eligible for post-season rosters or not at all this season.

Cousins’ numbers in Triple-A look solid, but things matter more than results in rehab assignments, and he’s yet to get his A stuff back. He’s reportedly been sitting in the 90s after averaging nearly 96 mph with his fastball last year.

The Brewers probably won’t bring Cousins ​​back until he starts looking more like himself. At this point, giving him an option on Triple-A after completing rehab seems just as likely as a return to the big league roster.

Duhawk Steve asks:

Who has been the most disappointing position player this year? Willy Adames and his .318 wOBA after a .349 last year and a .335 projection but still leading the team in fWAR (2.8) or Luis Urias and his .317 wOBA after the .340 of the year last and a projection of .337 showing only 0.9 fWAR?

Based on my expectations for the two players entering the season, Urias has been the biggest disappointment.

I anticipated some regression for Adames. He provided a spark with an outstanding 135 wRC+ and .377 wOBA in his Brewers debut, but a 110 DRC+ and .332 xwOBA indicated he overproduced significantly based on the quality of his plate appearances. He was going to be closer to a solid hitter than a great one, so a 99 wRC+ is more of a slight letdown than a big letdown.

During this time, I had high expectations for Urias. Last season he completely revamped his position, made much harder contacts and learned to elevate the ball. This led to a career-best 23 homers and 111 wRC+. He also became a strong defender at third base after the Adames trade moved him there more permanently. Urias had 6 above-average defensive runs saved in just 508 innings for third, a 14-run pace in a full season.

Urias just turned 25 this season, and his youth made me optimistic he could take another step forward. I was hoping he could push his offensive production into the 120 wRC+ range and continue his great glove work at No. 3, bringing him closer to a five-win player.

Instead, he hovered around league average with the bat while stepping back with the glove (0 DRS). At this rate, it will barely eclipse 1 WAR on the season. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that a lingering thumb injury hampered his attack. Still, a difference of four wins from my optimistic expectations is hard to swallow.

leche10 asks:

The perception is that it looks like Craig’s special powers with his management style have run their course… Is he actually changing the way he handles games and using more conventional decision making than in the past ? And if it is, are we really seeing any negative results from this change in decision-making? Or is it more just a perception issue and he’s handling it well and the results are mostly in line with expectations?
If it seems like in the past he would have done things differently and found more success, but it might as well be my own mind picking things out to paint this narrative and either he was, and the success was more luck than anything and/or it still handles the same way and the success just isn’t as noticeable and it gets overlooked

that’s a great question. It’s hard to find a full answer as there are only a limited number of public statistics on managerial tendencies, but I’ll do my best.

Different roster builds and new rules over the past few seasons have changed the way Counsell has handled. In 2018, he masterfully orchestrated a pitching team with a seemingly underwhelming starting rotation. He was strict about shooting veterans like Jhoulys Chacin or Wade Miley before letting them take on the heart of an opposing order a third time because he knew their stuff wasn’t suited to succeed deep in games. .

Counsell knew the 2018 team had a deep bullpen and he did a fantastic job using it. He wasn’t afraid to be unconventional. Counsell declined to name any particular relative for most of the year. In the playoffs, he used a bullpen game in Game 1 of the NLDS, deployed veteran starter Gio Gonzalez for just two innings to pitch another bullpen game in Game 1 of the NLCS, and shot the famous Wade Miley gambit a few days later. .

Over the past two seasons, Counsell has afforded himself the luxury of a strong starting rotation. He also had to adjust to Josh Hader’s wish to be closer to a traditional inning to increase his save totals and referee pay.

The result was a more traditional management style. In 2018, Brewers starting pitchers faced 665 batters for the third and fourth time in order, the second-lowest total in baseball. They’ve been middle of the pack in 2021 and 2022. Counsell has also largely ditched his bullpen management in favor of traditional inning-specific roles late in games.

Meanwhile, the addition of the designated hitter to the National League diminished his opportunities to manipulate lineups during games with pinch hitters and double switches. Counsell particularly excelled at using substitutions in September with an active roster of 40 players at his disposal. A significant expansion of the roster was removed after the 2019 season, leaving him with fewer toys to play with over time.

The impact of these rule changes is obvious. This season, Counsell is using pinchers at a below-average rate for the first time in his managerial career. It’s also using pinch runners at its lowest rate since 2016.

It’s hard to say how this impacted the team’s win total, but I definitely think the way Counsell uses his roster now is different than in the past.

Dow Jones asks:

Forget official odds, what’s your opinion on the likelihood of the 2022 Milwaukee Brewers making the playoffs?

This team is good enough on paper to make the playoffs, but they haven’t always lived up to their talent level since June. Most “official” odds give the Brewers a 50-60 percent chance of making the playoffs. I still think this group is capable of a good streak, so I’ll be more optimistic and say 70%.

Thanks for your questions, everyone! As usual, we will resume it next Friday.

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