Lesser Brewers: Craig Counsell

Last year wasn't the best way for Craig Counsell to, potentially, end his career. For him, 2011 will always be marked by his tying the (at the time) record streak for hitless at-bats as he went 0-45 for a stretch in the middle of the season. That awful streak is somewhat indicative of his play the rest of the year, as well.  Counsell struggled through the worst hitting season of his career, batting just .178/.280/.223. That's good for a .234 wOBA with his previous career low .248 coming when we were still working about Y2K.

Counsell has always been known first and foremost as a defensive player, though, and he shined yet again last season. He rarely makes plays that make you jump out of your seat, but he gets to a number of balls and makes many plays that should be difficult seem easy.  He was worth a whole lot at 3B, 2B, and SS defensively in 2011 according to UZR, just as he has been his whole career. He even played a couple of innings in the outfield for the first time in his major league career, though he didn't have any chances.

Counsell's bat had just fallen off so much, however, that his glove hardly seemed worth it. The Brewers must have seen it the same way, as he slowly began losing more and more playing time as the season progressed. Counsell ended up with the fewest at-bats he has had since 2000 and was relegated to the late-inning defensive replacement role for much of the season. The Brewers trading for Jerry Hairston, Jr. was just about the final nail in the coffin as far as playing time for Counsell goes.

Counsell is now a free agent and has expressed interest in playing at least one more season. Whether that is in the 41-year old's best interest is debatable, though he could find a suiter who needs a strong glove off the bench. Doug Melvin has said recently that he wasn't going to pursue Counsell, though I'm sure if worst comes to worst we could find Counsell on the bench for the 2012 Brewers. There seems to be legitimate interest in having Counsell become a coach, too. The Brewers have shown some interest in that possibility as they would like to keep the Whitefish Bay native around. In addition, Dale Sveum has mentioned that he could look into bringing Counsell on as a part of his new coaching staff in Chicago. Whatever happens, I'm sure that Counsell, by all accounts one of the league's "good guys", will be able to find a job somewhere.

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