MILWAUKEE BREWERS STORY BY TIM MUMA OF BREWER FANATIC
MILWAUKEE — Major League Baseball permanently instituted the universal DH across both leagues in 2022, primarily with the goal of increasing offense as pitchers became far more futile at the plate. Ironically, the DH actually helps the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff more than their run-scoring efforts, and it will be especially valuable in the playoffs, where not having a DH derailed the 2021 club.
During the Brewers’ last postseason appearance, the National League did not have the DH. For a team that relied on its elite pitching, one would have thought that gave Milwaukee an additional advantage when facing better lineups.
On the contrary, though, the lack of a DH came back to haunt the Brewers in their 3-1 NLDS loss to the Atlanta Braves by influencing their in-game pitching decisions.
In Game Three of the 2021 NLDS, the Brewers had runners at second and third with no outs in the top of the fifth inning of a scoreless game. After a groundout failed to bring in a run, manager Craig Counsell pinch-hit Daniel Vogelbach for stellar starter Freddy Peralta in search of the lead.
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Milwaukee did not score, and Peralta, who had five strikeouts in four scoreless frames, watched as reliever Adrian Houser gave up two singles and a home run to the first three batters he faced. Atlanta went up 3-0, and won by that same tally.
Then, in Game Four (a win-or-go-home contest for the Brewers), Counsell made the opposite choice. Starting pitcher Eric Lauer came to bat with runners on the corners and one out. Already leading 2-0, Counsell let Lauer hit for himself and drop down a sacrifice bunt, instead of using a position player to try to drive in the runner from third with one out.
The sac bunt moved a runner to second base, but it didn’t bring home the man from third. After a walk to Kolten Wong, Willy Adames struck out, and the Brewers couldn’t tack on another run.
How might things have turned out differently for the Brewers if the DH was in play that postseason?
Now, the NL has the DH, and the NL Central champions are again built around pitching. Instinctively, the thought is that the DH will help Milwaukee’s offense, which was a significant issue in the 2021 NLDS. While it certainly helps to add another bat like Mark Canha or Josh Donaldson in that spot, the DH is much more important for the Brewers’ stellar pitching.
Removing the decision to pull or keep a pitcher in the game favors the Brewers more than any other club in the postseason. Counsell will be more willing to let one of his big three starters begin (or finish) an extra inning, which could be valuable within that single game and across a series.
He also often does a masterful job mixing and matching his bullpen arms to maximize impact and efficiency. It allows the Brewers to keep guys in across frames, setting up favorable confrontations and finding ways to steal outs without overworking the top bullpen arms.
The ability to play 100 percent to your team’s strength is an enormous positive. When you have a team like the Brewers, where everything is predicated on elite pitching and defense, removing those extra decisions becomes especially valuable.
Thus, while the DH might help Milwaukee score an extra run here or there, the offense-friendly rule boosts the Brewers’ run prevention to even greater heights. If they are to make a postseason run, the DH will be a major contributor, in a backward sort of way.
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