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Craig Counsell will have to use his September pitching strategy at the outset of 2020

Depth, preparation, and talent make the Brewers’ pitching very interesting

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff is underestimated year-after-year. Yet Brewers’ pitching exceeded expectations over the past couple of seasons, especially down the stretch.

Coming into 2020, the same questions existed about this group of pitchers. Outside of Josh Hader, there was no marquee pitcher. There are a group of number 4 and 5 type pitchers with young, yet to reach their potential talents mixed int. With that said, coming into 2020 the Brewers did have pitching depth. Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, Eric Lauer, and maybe even Shelby Miller were all competing for rotation spots. Depth was likely seen as a critical component of eating through the multitude of innings that 162 games requires.

Obviously things have changed a lot since anyone was thinking like that. Yet Milwaukee is still blessed with the same amount of pitching depth, especially when you consider bullpen arms like Josh Hader, a healthy Corey Knebel, Brett Suter, Ray Black, David Phelps, and others. The question is, will that amount of pitching depth be a competitive advantage in a 60-game regular season?

The answer: It just might be. It has been argued that Craig Counsell is one of the best managers in baseball at manipulating the expansion of rosters in September. In effect Counsell will have 16-17 pitchers to utilize to begin the season. Look for the Brewers to go after the first month of the season as if it were September of a normal year, before rosters are eventually whittled back down to 26 after the first four weeks of the season.

Will Sammon of the Athletic (subscription required) quotes players and the Brewers’ pitching coach, Chris Hook, about pitching strategy. For the Brewers it will be similar to the strategy normally employed during Brewers’ September playoff runs. Hook also pointed out that Peralta, Burnes, and Lauer could be employed in tandem or piggyback roles.

The Brewers believe they have about 10 guys who “can give us length,” as Hook put it, and can be interchangeable. Some pitchers will throw five to seven innings and others will throw three or four innings. What perhaps will be most fascinating is how they will configure those pieces.

“You may have a very deep rotation,” Hook said. “I can’t speak for anybody else, but I think the way we pitched last September will be very similar to how we go at it right from the start.”

Sammon’s article also suggests that Milwaukee’s pitchers are ready to go right now. The coaching staff has employed an arm care plan during the shutdown, and the pitchers have executed it.

Everyone is at varying levels of strength, but no one is unprepared for this ramp-up to the upcoming 60-game season set to start in the final week of July. And that readiness will help the Brewers best utilize a versatile staff, and likely in some creative ways, if necessary.

“We have a bunch of guys that are much further along than I anticipated,” Counsell said a few days before camp started.

PECOTA recently predicted a fourth place finish for the Brewers in the N.L. Central. Some scheduling quirks that could disadvantage Milwaukee as well as an uncertain and untested starting rotation are likely reasons for the projection.

The Brewers are going to face the gauntlet all season long. There is no question of this. While the pitching for the Brew Crew might be seen by the outside world as lacking, the inner circle for the Milwaukee Brewers see their pitching as anything but. And that is not a surprise.

Look for Craig Counsell to set the standard of how to utilize a pitching staff for the 2020 sprint. He has the pitching depth and talent to make it happen. If my statement about Counsell setting the standard for pitcher utilization proves prophetic, Milwaukee will be competing for a playoff spot again.