Corey Knebel

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Corey Andrew Knebel

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Biographical Information[edit]

When he made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers on May 24, 2014, pitcher Corey Knebel became the first player selected in the 2013 amateur draft to reach the big leagues. He had been the 39th overall pick in the draft a year earlier, the last pick of the supplemental first round. He made 6 appearances for the Tigers in May and June before being sent back to the minors, then was called up again after the All-Star break. He made a couple more appearances and had a 6.23 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with no decisions when he was traded to the Texas Rangers on July 24th. Along with prospect Jake Thompson, he was sent to the Rangers in return for closer Joakim Soria but in spite of the Rangers setting a record for most pitchers used in a season that year, he did not get to pitch for them.

On January 19, 2015, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers along with IF Luis Sardinas and P Marcos Diplan in return for P Yovani Gallardo. He pitched 48 times for the Brewers that year with no decisions - win, loss or save - while putting up an ERA of 3.22 in 50 1/3 innings. His first career decision came in his third appearance of 2016, when he was charged with an 11-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants. He went 1-4, 4.68 in 35 relief outings that season, also recording his first two saves. While his results were pretty modest over his first three seasons, one stat that stuck out was his strikeout rate, as in all three years, he had struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings, coupled with low walk rates, which is generally an indicator of future success for a pitcher. Indeed, that success came the following season, in 2017, when he was tapped to be the team's closer in mid-may after starting the season strong as the Brewers' primary set-up man for Neftali Feliz, who couldn't keep the job. He took the role immediately, being successful in 12 if his first 15 save opportunities. Moreover, he had recorded at least one strikeout in each of his first 38 appearances, setting a new record from the start of a season, the previous mark of 37 having been set by Aroldis Chapman. He was not just striking out batters either, but completely shutting them down, with an ERA of 0.96 in 37 2/3 innings through June 22nd. He was the Brewers' lone representative at the 2017 All-Star Game, although he did not get to play. On July 15th, he extended his record streak of games with a strikeout from the start of the season to 45. He finished the season with 39 saves in a NL-leading 76 games, going 1-4, 1.78. His performance was one of the key reasons the Brewers were in the running for a postseason slot until late September.

In 2018, he started the season poorly, being charged with one blown save and 3 runs allowed over his first 3 outings, and on April 5th he had to exit a game against the Chicago Cubs with a hamstring injury, putting him on the disabled list. He missed a month of action, then began to pitch better, as by the end of June, he had picked up 8 saves and lowered his ERA to 3.38 (it had been at 10.12 when he went on the DL). However, with the Brewers trying to hold on to a postseason slot, he began to regress seriously in August, as he was charged with a pair of losses and allowed 9 runs in 9 1/3 innings in 7 outings starting on August 5th. On August 23rd, the Brewers announced that he had been demoted to the AAA Colorado Springs SkySox. He came back in early September and then had a great last month with 16 outings and no runs allowed. He looked like the Knebel of old and was back in a key role in the bullpen as the Brewers made it to the postseason. He finished the year at 4-3, 3.58 with 16 saves. He gave up just one walk and nothing else in 3 innings as the Brewers swept the Colorado Rockies in the Division Series, and then appeared in 6 of the 7 games in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Once again, he was dominant, with just 2 hits allowed and 1 run in 7 innings, with 2 walks and 10 strikeouts. The Dodgers did what little damage they could in his first outing in Game 1, when he still managed to pick save Milwaukee's 6-5 win; he as then almost perfect the rest of the way, but the Brewers bowed out at the end of a tightly-fought series that went to the limit.

Knebel was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his elbow during spring training in 2019. That put him on the disabled list to start the year, with the risk of missing the whole season if he decided to undergo Tommy John surgery instead of just trying to return to action through rehabilitation. On March 29th, he announced that he had opted for surgery and therefore would miss the entire season. He made his return in 2020, pitching 15 games in relief during the abbreviated regular season, with no decisions and an ERA of 6.08. He was no longer a front-line pitcher in the bullpen, with Josh Hader and Rookie of the Year Devin Williams now the main men. The Brewers made it to the postseason but he did not see any action as they were swept in two games by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Wild Card Series. Following the season, on December 2nd, he was traded to those same Los Angeles Dodgers in return for future considerations, as the Brewers were not prepared to offer him salary arbitration given his lack of contribution over the previous two seasons. A few days later, minor league P Leo Crawford was identified as the player to be named later in the deal.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2017)
  • NL Games Pitched Leader (2017)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 1 (2017)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Steve Gilbert: "Knebel 'excited' to join World Series champs: Dodgers acquire veteran reliever in trade with Brewers",, December 2, 2020. [1]
  • Tom Haudricourt: "Knebel raises game to new level in topping strikeout streak of Aroldis Chapman", The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 22, 2017. [2]

Related Sites[edit]