Plenty of Brewers fans tuned into Tuesday's All-Star game, hoping the first place team's lone representative -- Corey Knebel -- would get an inning at some point during the night.
Instead, Knebel was still sitting in the bullpen in the 10th inning when the Cubs' Wade Davis gave up what ended up being the game-winning home run to Robinson Cano. In the process, he became the first member of a division leader to not get into the All-Star game since Chone Figgins and Brian Fuentes of the 2009 Angels (Coincidentally, Joe Maddon also managed that All-Star team). It was also the first time in more than 20 years that the Brewers didn't get a player into the game.
As frustrating as it may have been to see Knebel tied to the bullpen bench, there's more to it than him not getting the chance to represent the Brewers on a national stage. He also could have used the mid-week work.
It's been brought up a few times this year, but Knebel has tended to struggle after extended layoffs, and probably could’ve used the work Tuesday night.
Granted, we're already working with small sample sizes when we talk about half-season numbers for a relief pitcher, and those sample sizes get even smaller when we dive into splits for those numbers, but some of Knebel's worst outings have come when he hasn't been able to get into game action for 4 or 5 days at a time.
He's only pitched on 4 days rest twice so far this season -- on April 24th against the Reds, and July 5th against the Orioles. Neither of them were good, at least compared to the standard he’s set this season.
The April outing was one of his most laborious outings of the year, needing 29 pitches to get 3 outs in the 8th inning. After getting Scott Schebler to strike out, Knebel allowed a double to fellow All-Star Zack Cozart, then walked Stuart Turner. After striking out Scooter Gennett, he walked Billy Hamilton 7 pitches to load the bases, then gave up an RBI single to Jose Peraza. He was able to escape further damage by getting Joey Votto to ground out with the bases loaded after 6 pitches. The final line on that night: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2K and 17 strikes in 29 pitches.
In the July appearance against Baltimore, Knebel did end up striking out 3 Orioles to close out a 4-0 win, but allowed 2 runners into scoring position before recording the final out after giving up a single to Trey Mancini and a double to Joey Rickard.
Knebel's only appearance after 5 days of rest -- June 28th at Cincinnati -- has a genuine case for being his worst of the season. That would be the night where he entered the 9th inning in a tie game and gave up a leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton, who promptly and predictably stole second. After striking out Gennett, Knebel was charged with an intentional walk of Votto before giving up an RBI single to Adam Duvall, then giving up another walk to Eugenio Suarez. The damage would be limited to one run after he got Schebler to pop out and Peraza to ground out after a 7-pitch battle, but 3 walks and a run allowed was enough to get him the loss.
While his worst overall line this year comes with 2 days' rest (3.1 IP in 4 appearances, 3 ER on 1 hit and 2 walks), nearly all of that came last Saturday, when he gave up the walkoff three-run home run against the Yankees. However, that was also his worst days-rest split last year, too, when he gave up 6 runs on 11 hits in 9.1 innings over 10 appearances.
Again, these are teeny tiny sample sizes, but so far this year when Knebel has been given an extended break or hasn't been able to find his way into a game for nearly a week, it's been a struggle for him -- especially when it comes to commanding the curveball that's been so crucial for his success this year. Like most pitchers during the break, Knebel likely found some time for a bullpen session in order to stay on his normal schedule this week, but it still would have been nice to see him take the mound, even if it was only for a batter or two.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference