Without Big Names, the Brewers Bullpen Has Been Elite

Even with Devin Williams on the shelf, the Brewers have put together an elite bullpen from minor trades, waiver claims and under-the-radar free agent signings.

Bryan Hudson of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 05: Bryan Hudson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on July 05, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

The Milwaukee Brewers have quietly assembled one of the better bullpens in the league, but they’ve done so without any star-level names. Devin Williams is still on the payroll, but he’s been on the injured list all year so far. His absence is a significant one, but the group has done shockingly well without their stud closer.

And yet, the relief corps in Milwaukee has the second-highest amount of innings pitched and the fifth-lowest ERA in all of baseball as we near the All-Star Break and trade deadline. Most times, when a ‘pen is used and abused like this one is, the numbers may falter as over-usage sets in.

Things haven’t been perfect, despite the solid numbers. At the time of this writing, the Brewers have a total of 12 players on the injured list, including four relief pitchers. Even when some relievers go down, there seems to always be a competent backup just a phone call away.

The Brewers have put together a solid group of arms by way of waiver claims, minor trades and under-the-radar free agent signings. Let’s check out some of the top performers and how they got here.

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A Closer Look at the Brewers’ Elite Bullpen

Bryan Hudson

The league got its first brief look at Hudson last year when he made six relief appearances for the Dodgers. Across 8.2 innings of work, he surrendered seven earned runs on 12 hits while walking four and striking out seven. Not a whole lot jumps off the page.

A minor trade in January sent the 6-foot-8 lefty to Milwaukee and he’s been one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball. Through 32 outings, Hudson has a 1.54 ERA and 269 ERA+ with 52 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 46.2 innings. Don’t let Hudson’s recent rough stretch fool you, he is a legitimate weapon.

One of Hudson’s calling cards is his ability to go multiple innings. In his 32 appearances this year, 18 of them have seen him go longer than a single inning. That flexibility is invaluable for Pat Murphy’s bullpen.

Hudson credits the Dodgers organization for helping him get his mechanics under control and the Brewers for helping him properly utilize his pitch arsenal. A few tweaks here and a few tweaks there, and now he’s one of the best non-closer relievers in the league.

As of right now, Hudson is tied for seventh amongst qualified relievers in innings pitched, 13th in ERA and tops in the game in LOB%, which currently sits at 100%.

Jared Koenig

Koenig is currently on the shelf with left forearm tightness and he will not return until after the All-Star Break. However, he’s done more than enough to work his way into this conversation.

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Prior to his signing a minor league contract with the Brewers this past offseason, all we had previously seen from Koenig was an uninspiring 10-game cameo with the 2022 Oakland A’s. He had a 5.72 ERA in 39.1 innings.

In 38 innings this year, he’s sitting at 1.66 and is striking out three more batters per nine innings, has lowered his walks per nine by one and has dropped his hits per nine by nearly three full hits. He seems to excel when under pressure, as he’s only allowed four of the 22 inherited runners of his to come around and score.

Even though Koenig’s numbers are inflated a bit by a high LOB% and low BABIP, he’s got a 3.81 xFIP and 3.48 SIERA, which both tell a better story than a stat like ERA does. He’s been used by the Brewers in a variety of different roles and has thrived in each of them. Once he’s back in action, he’ll continue to form a strong southpaw duo with Hudson.

Trevor Megill

Another player that made his way to Milwaukee via minor trade, Megill has been a top-shelf contributor to this bullpen for two years now. He was used as a middle-relief option last season but has turned himself into the Brewers’ primary closer in 2024.

In 31 outings this year, Megill boasts 21 games finished and 18 saves. He’s also got a 1.53 ERA with over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He is currently 10th amongst qualified relievers in saves, seventh in FIP and 12th in both ERA and fWAR. He, like Hudson, is a lowkey All-Star candidate who could squeeze onto the NL roster as an injury replacement.

Elvis Peguero

Peguero clearly never had a long-term home in the Angels organization, so it’s nice to see him taking to the Brewers nicely. He came over to Milwaukee in the Hunter Renfroe deal back in November of 2022 and has been heavily relied upon ever since.

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This year, Peguero has appeared in 35 games and has a 3.50 ERA with a 121 ERA+. He doesn’t strike a ton of batters out, but he does a solid job of keeping the ball in the ballpark and is a groundball machine, ranking in the 92nd percentile in GB%.

He’s not flashy and is certainly not the sexiest of names, but Peguero gives the Brewers yet another under-the-radar reliever who quietly goes about his business and does it well.

Other Names Worth Noting

Enoli Paredes, another hurler on the shelf, made 14 appearances of 1.08 ERA-ball before going down. He walks more batters than you’d typically like to see, but he only allowed two earned runs in 16.2 innings, so he’ll be an interesting player to watch as his sample size grows a bit.

Bryse Wilson, a useful swingman-type, has 22 appearances under his belt with nine of them being starts. He has a 101 ERA+ on the year, which puts him just one percent above league-average but his flexibility is an asset. He has a 3.57 ERA as a reliever and 4.75 as a starter, so it’s clear that his skillset plays better in one role over another. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s held right-handed batters to a batting average of just .201 on the season.

A Team of Underdogs

Outside of Freddy Peralta, Willy Adames, Christian Yelich and William Contreras, the Brewers have done an excellent job of putting together a team of underdogs.

Who saw Brice Turang’s 110 OPS+ coming after his poor debut last season? Who saw Colin Rea and Tobias Myers, of all people, showing up and becoming leaders of this starting rotation? Above all, who saw some of these relief-pitching weapons coming?

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The Brewers hold a four-game advantage over the Cardinals in the NL Central standings. At 53-39, it’s clear that they’re no longer division leaders because “somebody has to win the Central.” Now, they’re simply a well-oiled machine that can beat you in a variety of different ways.

Locking it all together is a bullpen consisting of castoffs from other teams. You know the saying about one man’s trash is another one’s treasure, right?