Corey Knebel’s 2018 season was certainly a tale of two halves. The 2017 All-Star started the year in rough shape but finally got things right to help bring the Milwaukee Brewers to the postseason.
When I say Knebel’s season started rough, I mean rough. On April 5, barely a week into the season, Knebel injured his hamstring and had to be carried off the field by trainers. He then went on to a month-long rehab process but still didn’t return to full form.
From May 9 to August 21, Kenebl pitched in 38 games. During that time, he allowed a 4.71 ERA, two blown saved and three losses. His performance was enough to lose his closer spot, passing it on to Jeremy Jeffress. Eventually, Milwaukee sent him down to AAA for a 10-day stint at the end of August.
Milwaukee brought Knebel back up on September 2nd, and he embarked upon a 16.1 inning scoreless streak over 16 games though the end of the season. With peak velocity and a killer curve, he managed to strike out 33 in those 16 games and was one of the Cream City Nine’s most essential hurlers during the pennant race that ultimately ended in a division championship for the Brewers.
Knebel was just as good in the postseason. He appeared in 10 innings for Milwaukee and allowed only one run, coming in game one of the NLCS. Otherwise, he was next to untouchable, going multiple innings when needed and ensuring the Brewers could compete.
FIP and DRA say that Knebel’s 3.58 ERA was probably worse than he deserved. FIP had him at 2.99 and DRA at 2.58, both far better than the league averages. His regained mastery of the curveball should help him continue to be successful going forward. Here’s hoping, because a dominant Knebel along with Jeffress and Hader at the back of the bullpen would mean bad things for any team trying to retake a lead in the seventh inning or later.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus