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MILWAUKEE – On Wednesday’s Workout Day, manager Bud Black shared his views on a wide range of topics, much of which is well known to Rockies fans, particularly to those points pertaining to his own players.
Black addressed several areas of concern as it dealt with the Brewers pitching, Christian Yelich and the strategies to a five-game series.
In Game One of the National League Division Series, Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell announce that this team would opt to use their bullpen then send out one of their many starting pitchers.
On May 19, a seemingly mundane Saturday in the park, the Tampa Bay Rays deployed reliever Sergio Romo on May 19th this year as baseball’s first opener, a strategy to start games by pitching an above average reliever to set down three of the best bats in the opposing team’s lineup then ushering a starting pitcher for his normal workload starting in the second inning.
The Rays went on to win 90 games and in the process, other teams followed suit with the opener strategy.
This strategy gained enough credence that the Oakland Athletics opted to play their entire American League Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees using only relievers to maximize the matchups, a strategy that did not work, ultimately.
The 96-win Brewers started eleven pitchers and featured seven pitchers with ten or more starts.
Their need for starting pitching was apparent in the offseason and even after acquiring Washington Nationals veteran Gio Gonzalez in late August, pundits around baseball questioned Milwaukee’s inability to acquire a postseason ace when they had a chance.
Rockies manager Bud Black responded to the news of the Brewers bullpen day with his typical aplomb.
“Well, I think we’ll adhere to rule number one, which is be ready for anything, which our guys will be. Whichever way they start this game out, we’ll be ready for any number of pitchers that might come our way. We’ve probably faced most of them at some point, so there’s some history.”
One of the Brewers starting pitchers, lefty Dan Jennings, was recently used as a reliever to face St. Louis Cardinal leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.
Black disregarded the idea of flipping Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu in order to block such an occurrence from happening again, but focused on the idea of keeping it simple in the batter’s box.
“Again, I think the ultimate challenge is just have good at-bats, play baseball, have a good approach against any pitcher that the Brewers throw out there.”
On the other side of the ball, Milwaukee will feature the probable 2018 National League MVP, Christian Yelich.
The 26-year-old, acquired from the Miami Marlins during the offseason, has been better than advertised, reaching career highs in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, not to mention counting stats like home runs, runs batted in, and stolen bases.
Black heaped praise upon the young star during Wednesday’s Media Day.
“Well, what a player. I think we’ve seen him grow up, right? Obviously, we haven’t been in the division as Christian has in the NL East or in the Central, but I’ve seen enough of him to see a talented player emerge. That’s what’s happened is his emergence as…. an all-around great player.
Yelich propelled himself in the MVP debate on the heels of a strong second half, amassing 5.4 Wins Above Replacement, a full 2.0 WAR above the second best in the National League, and winning the Triple Crown, becoming the first player to do so in the NL since Joe “Ducky” Medwick in 1937.
“The second half has been phenomenal, what he’s done. What I appreciate is doing it in September. That tells you a lot about a player, what they do when the stakes are the highest.”
With the divisional round of the playoffs being limited to only five games, Black was asked if a manager’s philosophy has to be modified, for better or worse.
“Well, maybe some, because every game is important, right? And it helps now when you have (a day) off. The Brewers have had two days off. There’s a day off on Saturday. There’s another one on Tuesday, right? So I mean, that helps keep certain bullpen members fresh and the ability to go to them, where maybe during the regular season, you might not have that luxury.”
The luxury of which Black speaks is being able to use his relievers for multiple innings, as seen in the Wild Card Game victory against the Chicago Cubs.
Black continued on this shift when pursuing the Fall Classic:
“In October, there’s sort of light at the end of the tunnel, and you can sort of push guys a little bit out of that bullpen. But it probably changes a little bit because you probably want to get certain pitchers into the game to try to win it or try to win that inning, that type of philosophy, for sure.”
With games three and four at home at Coors Field, started by their strong sophomores German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, taking a win in Milwaukee may be all Colorado will need to do to win the short series and take the Rockies into only their second National League Championship Series in franchise history.