Craig Counsell Nears Crossroads With Brewers Amid Another Impressive Year

Ask Brewers proprietor Mark Attanasio how on the planet his staff does it. Ask him how a staff that performs within the majors’ smallest tv marketplace, that has now not produced a top-five offensive staff within the Nationwide League for greater than a decade and every year helps to keep a payroll beneath primary league reasonable can win extra video games over the last seven years than each and every NL staff however the Dodgers and Braves. Ask and Attanasio will start with balance.

“Probably the most primary commonplace denominators is we’ve the similar box body of workers and baseball ops body of workers,” Attanasio says. “Matt [Arnold] took over [as general manager] from David [Stearns], however David used to be advising for the steadiness of the 12 months.

“There’s been absolute continuity. I feel in any industry balance is a great factor.”

4 weeks in the past, Attanasio stared proper into the imaginable finish to that balance.

He sat throughout from his supervisor of the previous 9 seasons, Craig Counsell, Wisconsin-born and bred, who grew up dealing with fan mail for avid gamers that got here in the course of the place of business of his father, John, the staff’s director of neighborhood members of the family. Counsell has performed for the Brewers, labored of their entrance place of business and gained probably the most video games as their supervisor.

And but at that assembly, even because the Brewers had been headed towards their 5th postseason previously six years, Counsell instructed Attanasio he would now not decide to returning as Brewers supervisor subsequent season. His contract expires with the ultimate sport the Brewers will play this 12 months.

“I’m nonetheless in the similar position,” Counsell says. “Some time in the past I promised myself I’d take till the top of the 12 months to attend to look what lifestyles had in retailer for me after which come to a decision. As you get nearer to it, you already know you’re going to be able to select. You’ll have a few choices. I need to have a month that items many choices.

“The entire level is to attend till the top of the 12 months to look the place lifestyles has me and what’s occurring.”

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Attanasio used to be now not stunned. Counsell has dropped sufficient hints this season about retaining his choices open—each off and on the sphere.

“Glance,” says Attanasio, “he’s were given a couple of choices. He may just make a decision to take a 12 months off—or extra. He has two sons enjoying school baseball. He has some broadcast alternatives. I’m certain with different jobs that open groups will take a look at him. He may have alternatives with us within the entrance place of business. Our first selection is to have him again within the dugout for various years.”

The Brewers are the potency professionals of MLB. Measured by means of runs or greenbacks, few groups function with this type of skinny margin of error and are available out on peak so regularly. Because the 2023 NL Central champions, they have got constructed a seven-year run during which they have got made the postseason 5 occasions and performed best two of one,033 video games whilst mathematically eradicated. They have got spent $1.24 million in keeping with win, virtually part up to the Dodgers ($2.34 million) and about three-quarters up to the Braves ($1.69 million).

They’re a deadly postseason staff as a result of, out of necessity, they’re constructed to win shut, low-scoring video games, the hallmark of October. Since 2017, best the Dodgers and Astros have gained extra video games whilst scoring 3 runs or much less.

The steadiness embedded on this run options beginning pitchers Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. Milwaukee is 205–134 when the ones 3 get started a sport, a .663 successful share that equates to the tempo of a 107-win staff.

“It’s just like the Moneyball A’s with Hudson, Mulder and Zito,” Counsell says. “What’s that word? ‘Don’t bury the lede?’”

Milwaukee’s trust gadget on this run is as blunt as how Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta assault hitters. The Brewers consider in run prevention over run manufacturing. They consider within the almighty energy of the fastball; no staff in baseball throws them extra regularly (63%). They consider in protection and baserunning. They don’t consider within the bunt.

They consider in era. In 2019 they invested $60 million to construct a state of the art pitching lab at their spring coaching headquarters. Since then, the Brewers have struck out probably the most batters in baseball and so they stay turning different groups’ pitchers into higher variations of themselves. Some of the renovated pitchers in this 12 months’s roster by myself are Wade Miley, Colin Rea, Bryse Wilson, Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguro and Hoby Milner, pitchers who’re a mixed 34–21.

Above all, they consider in Counsell. They consider their supervisor will to find some solution to win a ballgame. Counsell is on the center of Milwaukee’s ethos. He’s the uncommon managerial difference-maker who would be the largest unfastened agent this wintry weather this facet of Shohei Ohtani.

“We don’t truly ebb and go with the flow that a lot as a gaggle,” Arnold says. “The steadiness in our clubhouse is going again to Craig and to spring coaching when he units the expectancies top straight away. He oozes credibility when he walks within the door.”

Says Attanasio, “Craig truly has an innate working out of what it takes to get via a 162-game season. Some strikes don’t make sense, however he has the large image in thoughts. Via the way in which, regularly when his transfer doesn’t make sense it really works out anyway.”

Managing within the majors has turn into a center control process. The entrance place of business body of workers, together with increasing analytics and “sports activities efficiency” departments, inform managers easy methods to play baseball, even though typically sparsely sufficient to take action with affect relatively than direct command.

“I consider a large number of golf equipment increasingly more are run from upstairs,” Attanasio says. “We give Craig knowledge, however he has the authority.”

Counsell is a throwback. He is also the ultimate supervisor left who defines how his staff performs, how it was once for managers comparable to Whitey Herzog, along with his carpet-ready speed-based groups in Kansas Town and St. Louis, Billy Martin along with his “Billyball” helter-skelter taste and Bruce Bochy, who with the Giants pulled levers and hit the appropriate notes of a deep bullpen with the mastery of a pipe-organ virtuoso.

For Counsell, that implies making only a few runs rise up with pitching, protection and his knack for locating the appropriate matchups on offense and protection. His Brewers play with a skinny margin of error—and thrive on it.

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Attanasio makes use of Wilson for instance of the way Counsell will get probably the most out of his avid gamers. The Pirates designated Wilson for task in January. He had a 5.54 profession ERA, beneath reasonable speed and no pitch that graded as the rest higher than about reasonable. Milwaukee picked him up for money.

With the assistance of the Brewers’ pitching lab, Wilson sharpened the ruin on his cutter and added speed to it, resulting in an building up in utilization. Noting Wilson’s effectiveness towards righthanders, Counsell used Wilson 61% of the time towards righthanders, a profession top platoon benefit for a complete season. Wilson has held righties to a .194 reasonable and posted a 2.58 ERA.

“The analytic metrics whilst you dive into the qualitative information for Wilson don’t seem to be off the charts, however the floor numbers are just right,” Attanasio says. “Craig has picked terrific spots to make use of him. He mentioned Wilson for instance of a man you would possibly not have the ability to see on a pc how efficient he can also be, however he’s been efficient for us.

“Craig is unquestionably a contemporary supervisor, and he performs matchups. From an proprietor’s seat, he turns out to make use of matchups extra in September. Round Milwaukee we name it Craig-tember.”

The Brewers require deft maneuvering as a result of they aren’t an excellent offensive staff—and not were underneath Counsell. They have got ranked no higher than 6th within the league in runs in keeping with sport in any 12 months since 2013. This 12 months used to be in particular difficult, particularly earlier than Milwaukee introduced up outfielder Sal Frelick and traded for outfielder Mark Canha and primary baseman Carlos Santana.

Milwaukee hit the fewest homers, had the fewest hits and slugged the worst of any postseason staff. Handiest 3 groups have gained a full-season department identify within the wild card technology by means of hitting .240 or much less. Counsell has controlled two of them (2021 and ‘23; Bob Melvin’s 2012 A’s are the opposite).

With Counsell, the famously fickle nature of one-run video games frequently pointers within the Brewers’ desire. Handiest two managers ever gained one-run video games at the next clip than Counsell’s .567 mark (211–161): Frank Probability and Weaver.

“I feel general it’s about seeking to get everybody to remember the fact that retaining runs off the board is equal to scoring runs,” Counsell says. “I at all times attempt to make that an emphasis earlier than the season begins.

“The beauty of run prevention is everyone at the staff takes phase in it. On offense, it’s simply your 13 hitters. However run prevention is one thing we care about and make some degree of emphasis.

“We really feel like protection issues on account of the type of offense we play. And we’ve had just right bullpens. That’s necessary in one-run video games.”

Says Arnold, “Our DNA right here has at all times been pitching and protection. It’s at all times been our calling card. While you’re taking a look at a brief sequence and also you’re dealing with Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta and Devin [Williams] on the again finish, that’s a truly just right workforce to lean on. The protection at the back of them is truly proficient as smartly.”

Williams used to be drafted in the second one around out of highschool in 2013. Woodruff used to be an Eleventh-round pick out the following 12 months out of Mississippi State. Peralta used to be obtained the following 12 months from Seattle in a business for Adam Lind. And Burnes used to be picked the following 12 months within the fourth around out of St. Mary’s. All 4, to be had to each and every staff, become the development blocks of the way Milwaukee has reached the postseason 5 occasions previously six years, surpassing its 4 postseason berths in its first 49 seasons (expanded playoff caveat famous).

As implementing a postseason danger this pitching-rich staff appears, the method has now not labored smartly in fresh Octobers. Counsell is 7–10 within the postseason, together with 1–6 within the membership’s previous 3 journeys whilst scoring 11 runs and hitting .190 in the ones seven video games. Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta, Williams and that skinny margin of error have now not been sufficient.

This 12 months, the Brewers are one in all 3 groups with an opportunity to win their first International Sequence (with Texas and Tampa Bay). Milwaukee has been to 1 International Sequence—in 1982. Counsell used to be 12 years previous when he watched from the higher deck of Busch Stadium because the Brewers blew a three–1 result in St. Louis in Recreation 7 to lose, 6–3. He broke down and cried. He is aware of greater than maximum what a championship would imply for Milwaukee.

“The objective has at all times been a championship,” he says. “Baseball issues on this town. You’re making it topic by means of striking a just right product at the box. That’s what brings children to the ballpark. And when they see baseball, they’re true fanatics. You carry them October baseball and you’ve got a baseball fan for lifestyles.

“That implies so much to me, evidently. We’re developing the following technology of Brewers fanatics. Now we’d like to provide them without equal luck.”

It can be his ultimate, highest shot in Milwaukee.

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