Brian Shouse is not likely to sign a multimillion dollar contract or end up on an all-star team. His No. 51 jersey t-shirt is not one of the hottest sellers in the Miller Park gift shop. It is doubtful that Shouse will find himself immortalized with a bobblehead giveaway. And, he probably could walk into any coffee shop, mall, or restaurant in Milwaukee without being hassled for an autograph.
Despite that relative anonymity, Shouse may be the single most valuable pitcher in the Brewers' bullpen this season. As the team has struggled to hold onto leads during the last two months, Shouse has been called on to play a bigger role in the bullpen, often pitching full innings.
He's been the team's most reliable arm out of the bullpen this year. Even with a couple of gaffes thrown in, Shouse is 1-1 with a 2.70 earned run average and has stranded 58 of 68 inherited runners this season.
"He's been solid all year," Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He's sneaky quick. He contains lefties well and is underrated against righties. I think he's a valuable cog to that bullpen; he's the unsung guy nobody talks about."
Maddux credits a lot of Shouse's success to his somewhat unorthodox delivery. With a motion that is not quite sidearm and not a full submarine, Shouse can fluster opposing batters.
"It's different, but it works for him," Maddux said. "He may not be lightning quick, but he's putting goose eggs up and that's all that matters."
Often called on by manager Ned Yost to retire one batter on the verge of breaking the game open, Shouse has fulfilled his duties. The veteran was named the team's Pitcher of the Month in August after pitching 11.2 innings in 15 appearances. He allowed six runs -- four earned -- and 12 hits and stranded all 12 inherited runners.
"As a reliever, you don't get a lot of credit sometimes," Shouse said. "Any time you can do your job and keep somebody's runners on base, I take a lot of pride in that."
That type of performance justifies general manager Doug Melvin sending infield prospect Enrique Cruz to the Rangers for the lefty last summer. Shouse has proved himself even more valuable to the beleaguered Brewers' pen, pitching full innings on several occasions; a job Shouse is enjoying greatly.
"It just means I have a chance to pitch more. I want to get out there as much as I can and hope for the best," he said. "My goal is to get out there as much as I can and help this team win."
It has also helped him shed the "situational" label, which is not a stigma in baseball but can be limiting. Shouse was more of a full-inning reliever with the Rangers in 2003 and 2004, but fell into the situational role the next two seasons.
"When you're used a certain way with a team you can earn that label," Shouse said. "But until you get with a team, you don't really know what your role will be."
The recent additions of Ray King and September call-ups have given Yost more flexibility on when he can turn to his clutch lefty.
"That sets our bullpen up really well," Yost said. "He provides another veteran guy to mix and match. The sixth inning for us has been a black hole. The last nine outs are really hard to get and he gives us another option to get one or two of those outs.
Shouse -- who will turn 39 later this month -- has plenty of baseball left. With left-handed pitching so desirable, these specialists often pitch well into their 40's, thanks to the limited workload and increasing demand for their services.
Shouse's success this year extends beyond the field. His wife, Trish, recently gave birth to the couple's third daughter. With a new bundle of joy in the family and the team still in the thick of a playoff race, things are good for the Brewers' least-heralded player.
"It's great," Shouse said. "This is what you live for."