Looking Forward, History Favors Teams Like The Brewers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

At this point, anybody who follows the Brewers understands what the problem with this year’s club is. It’s the bullpen, stupid.

There have been worse bullpens in history. There have even been worse bullpens this season, in terms of just allowing hits and runs. The Astros (4.78), Cubs (4.78) and Mets (4.75) all have worse ERAs than the Brewers’ 4.67 out of the bullpen. Milwaukee’s 3.81 bullpen FIP is almost good — average sits at 3.76 for relievers this season. But timing has been the issue — the Brewers have combined being bad in general with being worse when it matters most. There’s the 26 blown saves, there’s 0.6 and 0.7 runs allowed in the eighth and ninth innings respectively. And there’s the -7.11 Win Probability Added (WPA), the 11th-worst since 1974 (all stats entering play Wednesday).

The Brewers have otherwise been a pretty good team, which typically comes with the territory of having the worst WPA. In order to blow games, you first have to lead them. The Brewers have the third-best run scoring output in the NL (and the second best by a team that doesn’t play half its games at Coors Field), and the starting pitching has been fine (4.06 ERA, 3.81 FIP).

It isn’t much of a stretch to say the Brewers would at least be in the playoff hunt, if not outright leading it, with a half-decent bullpen. Even with this season’s disaster, they only trail the last Wild Card team by 7.5 games, and much of the core of the team will be around for 2013. But can they get around the awful bullpen in just one season? Let’s take a look at some of those other terrible bullpens and how their next seasons went:

Of these 25 teams, the average squad won 67 games and improved all the way to .500 the year after. Seven reached the playoffs, an especially notable mark considering the Wild Card didn’t exist for 12 of the 25.

We don’t see a normal distribution in terms of win change, either. Fifteen of the teams saw improvements of 13 wins or greater, with the other 10 sitting at six or lower. Ten of the 25 saw improvements of over 20 games. Why the big spread? Likely, some of these teams decided to blow it up after a horrible season. Others recognized a team that was a few pieces away and went for it on the free agent or trade markets.

This isn’t to say the Brewers can just stand pat and things will fix themselves. But the players already in tow are likely to pitch better next season, and it shouldn’t be difficult to improve on the current crop of relievers given the starting point. Enough of the offense is around, and the free agent market for starting pitchers (to replace Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf) coming up this season is one of the deepest we’ve seen in years. We’ve seen it happen before. If the Brewers play their cards right, they could be the next team to rise up from the ashes left by a historically bad bullpen.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Gman says: September 5, 2012

    Hows about Dice-K coming over to the NL and becoming buds with Nori?

  2. desertfool says: September 5, 2012

    Jack, how much do the Brewers need to look for on the free agent market in terms of starting pitching? The Crew seems to have some good, young arms that could be major league starters. Granted they are young and may not be consistent, and it might be trading bullpen problems for starter problems, but I would hate to see Doug Melvin trade a bunch of talent in the minors for another rent-an-arm.

    How many pitchers do you think need to be replaced on the free agent market?

  3. woodman says: September 6, 2012

    Unfortunately there’s not much for impact arms I’m seeing on that free agent SP list – best value I can see for the crew is Colby Lewis. I think he’d look even better against NL Central lineups and won’t cost much for a couple/few years. Marcum should be re-signed to a short incentive laden deal as well.

    • Cecil Cooper's Love Child says: September 6, 2012

      I have been preaching this guy for a while now….KYLE LOHSE! Add him and Jason Grilli or Joel Peralta in the pen. BOOM! NL Central Champs again!

      I would even consider Dempster, Ervin Santana or Jeremy Guthrie. Lots to choose from.


Websites mentioned my entry.

  1. Daybreak Doppler: You’d Think Jennings Was Already Gone | PocketDoppler.com
  2. The Bullpen Is All Right? | Disciples of Uecker
  3. The Baltimore Orioles and Fleeting Bullpen Greatness | FanGraphs Baseball

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