Brewers Wrap Up Season, Look Ahead to 2013
The Milwaukee Brewers surged in the last month of the season, only to come up a bit short of their playoff goals; goals that didn't look attainable after the All-Star break. Now, with all position players coming back and viable young options for the 2013 pitching staff, next season looks promising.
Can Brewers' fans blame the bullpen for missing out on the 2012 postseason?
"I always say we win and lose as a team", said GM Doug Melvin, at the annual end-of-the-year-presser last week at Miller Park. "I always make sure we don't point fingers at any one component of the ball club."
In a way Melvin is right. Teams, in any sport, win and lose together as one single unit. But Melvin is supposed to say these things. In reality, the bullpen was horrendous. Jon Axford led the majors in blown saves with 9 and Francisco Rodriguez chipped in with 7 of his own with the relief corps losing an embarrassing 33 games altogether. They led the league in blown saves with 29, losing 18 of those games. Fans would drive themselves crazy trying to sort through games they "should've" won this year, simply because there were so many of those games.
Let's say they did win half of the 18 games they lost due to blown saves by the bullpen. That's 9 more wins to the 83 they had in 2012. 92 wins versus the Cardinals' 88 wins and that's a playoff year for the Crew.
Alas, would've . . . should've . . . could've . . . playoff teams find a way to win and the Brewers just didn't have the magic they had in 2011 and thus, no playoffs this year. And like Chicago Cubs' fans say, "There's always next year."
I don't want to be an optimistic "homer" on this, but the Brewers' outlook for 2013 does have a promising feel to it. They were sellers at the trade deadline, sending Zack Greinke to the L.A. Angels for prospects. And from that, Shaun Marcum being injured and the release of Randy Wolf, the auditions from the farm system began. Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornberg, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and Jim "The Puppet Master" Henderson all tasted, not only big league time, but high pressure big league time. As the Brewers made their run late in the season, those rookies were a huge reason the team was successful down the stretch.
Instead of finishing 10 games below .500 and completely retooling a pitching staff, Melvin can now build around Henderson and Axford in the bullpen and have the option of letting the young starters compete for a couple of rotation spots. The future looked bleak a few months ago. Now, the pitching staff has some much needed upside, the likes to which Brewers' fans haven't seen in decades; home grown talented pitching, that is.
As it stands, Melvin mentioned going after a veteran starter or two to start beside Yovani Gallardo. Chris Narveson, if completely healthy, should have a good chance to return to the rotation as an effective lefty. That leaves just one or two spots for four young, talented, hungry starting pitchers that would not have gotten a look this season had the Brewers been in contention earlier on in 2012.
Melvin will probably dedicate this off-season to finding a couple of solid, veteran starters and two or three quality relief arms. Remember, a lot of money is coming off the books and owner Mark Attanasio will spend to remain competitive. The focus will be on finding reliable pitching in the off-season because the offense will not need a lot of attention.
All of the positions should be spoken for heading into 2013. Corey Hart proved to be a blessing at 1st base. Rickie Weeks had a terrible first four months of the season, but woke up and sparked the offense much during their late season run. Jean Segura, acquired in the Greinke deal, proved he is a young, talented big league SS. Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun will be a feared 3 and 4 combination again; Braun putting up MVP numbers better than his MVP season a year ago. Carlos Gomez put together his best offensive year while maintaining his reputation as one of the best defensive CFs in the league. Norichika Aoki will go down as one of Doug Melvin's best moves as Milwaukee's GM. The guy is just a plain big leaguer. His stats were very comparable to Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. And what can we say about Johnathon Lucroy? Had he not gotten hurt, he would have played in his first All-Star game and who knows what kind of production he would have put up had he been healthy for the whole year?
The offense answered the Prince Fielder question. Can it be productive without him? The answer: Yes. Definitely, yes. They finished 1st in the NL in: HRs(202), Runs scored(776), team RBI(741), SB(158) and team SLG%(.437). Not bad for a team that lost one of the best sluggers in all of baseball.
2013 should be another year of contention for a team that recognized losing as a culture in the 90s and into the 2000s. The bar has been raised and although this seasons' goals were not met by this ball club, its refreshing to know that success is in the plans for years to come. A 2013 playoff appearance, being the immediate goal for a team that fully expects to win each year, will be well within their reach.