The Amazing Bipolar Brewers, Reason For Optimism? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers were never supposed to be a lock for a playoff spot, not in a post-Prince Fielder world. But this was supposed to be a contending team, built with a solid lineup, good starting pitching headlined by a true ace in Zack Greinke, and a back end of the bullpen ready to hold down any late-game lead.

But this year’s team has been under .500 since the second week of the season. Barring a last-ditch 10-game winning streak — like the Scott Podsednik-fueled madness of 2003 — the club will be under .500 by a good margin the rest of the way. Despite their poor record, the team many believed would contend has been there for much of the season has shown up at times — specifically, the first six innings.

In innings one through six, the Brewers have scored 317 runs and allowed 287 — a 30-run positive differential, good for a .550 Pythagorean record. In innings seven and beyond, the Brewers have been outscored 183 to 135 — a 48-run negative differential, resulting in a .352 winning percentage. Basically, the Brewers have played like a borderline playoff team while their starting pitchers are in and turned into a replacement level team afterwards.

The point of presenting this statistic isn’t to tell you the Brewers’ bullpen has been awful — everybody knows that, most of all the recently-fired Stan Kyles. The point is the rest of this team has been as advertised.

Even with the struggles of Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan as well as the injuries to Jon Lucroy, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez, the Brewers are scoring 4.48 runs per game, over 0.2 runs above the NL average. Even with the injuries to Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson, the Brewers are 14th in SP ERA (4.03) and 7th in SP FIP (3.89). This is, more or a less, a playoff team with a Triple-A bullpen.

Zack Greinke is gone, and so the landscape for 2013 looks a good bit different than it did for 2012. But the Brewers will have almost every other major player back for next season, and so the question becomes simple: Can you build a bullpen in one year? Arizona, last season’s NLDS opponent, proved it is possible, going from a bullpen even worse than this year’s Brewers squad (5.74 ERA, -8.37 WPA, 5.09 FIP).

So there are two ways to view this season. It was a major opportunity lost, first and foremost, but the solid play of the team around the bullpen should give room for optimism heading into the 2013 season. If Doug Melvin can rebuild the bullpen, don’t be surprise if the Brewers rise from the depths in 2013.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Dan says: July 30, 2012

    The Brewers are a joke- Melvin has destroyed this team. By not proactively signing his stars except for Braun He has proceeded to lose a top five pitcher and a top five hitter in one year span. This Clown they have managing the team couldnt coach a little league team. Keep playing Morgan A 2.27 hitter with six r.b.i.s with more at bats than Gomez- Get putting Francisco Rodriguez out there. The guy doesnt belong in the majors. They need to make changes there. Not fire the bullpen coach. They are looked at as a joke!!!

    • Henry says: July 30, 2012

      Really, Dan? And just what would you have done differently this year? Would you have gotten rid of Morgan after the year he had last year? Would you start Gomez after he’s underproduced each time he’s been given a shot to be an every day player? Would you just not use K-Rod after the year that he had last year?

      Yeah, some of this stuff stinks, but all they’re doing is going with what’s worked in the past. It’s not working now, and they’re searching for answers. Chill out, man :)

    • Scott says: July 30, 2012

      Dan… there is no way the Brewers could afford to give Prince the $200+ million contract Detroit gave him. There wasn’t really an option there. As for the Greinke trade, I honestly don’t see the negative in that at all. Having him for the rest of the year would not have mattered one bit with how bad we are, he could not have turned that around single-handedly. He is a FA after the season so trading him now means nothing. Our chances of signing him in the off-season are no different than they would have been had we kept him, and this way we got a top prospect out of it at a position we desperately need help at. And what does Melvin have to do with playing Gomez or Morgan? That’s the manager’s decision. That comment coupled with the fact that you say a guy closing in on 300 career saves doesn’t belong in the majors really shows how much you know about baseball.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: July 31, 2012

      Dan, the Brewers are one of the best baseball organizations for signing young players to strong contracts for their service class and position. Beyond both Braun deals, the Hart and Weeks deals were strong when signed, and the Gallardo deal is great for the club and player. The Lucroy deal is another good example of the club yielding cost-controlled years from a young, up-and-coming player.

  2. E.J. says: July 30, 2012

    I don’t know if I would have fired the BP coach first but when the BP is sticking out like a sore thumb, how could he not get canned? Doug Melvin should have been fired years ago though; the only great season when he was in charge was last year.

    • Chris says: July 30, 2012

      In the 15 year prior to Melvin’s arrival, the Brewers had become irrelevant, having not even posted a break-even season during that time, and were struggling to draw fans, even in a new stadium. Melvin’s third team reached .500, his fifth team posted a winning record and was in the playoff chase until the final week of the season. The next year they reached he post-season for the first time in 26 years. That record of break-through performance is why Melvin was kept around.

      After two losings years, Melvin did the unexpected eschewing the conventional wisdom and not trading Prince Fielder, rebuilding the pitching staff and was rewarded with the franchise record for wins and a deep run in the post season. Ownership tends to keep GMs with that sort of record around. I think this is wise and proper.

      As noted above, this isn’t a joke or a disaster of a team; it is a club that has been undone by a bullpen that was excellent last season. In fact, they have enough pieces in place to have a puncher’s chance of contending next year (although that will take a retooling of the pen and the likely addition of a veteran starting pitcher).

      Playoff appearances where there was none in the past and a stadium that is full most night suggest that Doug Melvin has had a successful tenure in Milwaukee, particularly given the payroll constrains he has often operated under.

  3. Chris says: July 30, 2012

    Excellent thoughts. I think you are spot on. And thanks for knowing the difference between “Bipolar” and “Schizophrenia.” Many writers would have gone with the latter when the meant the former.

  4. Npua says: July 30, 2012

    I just don’t think Melvin really knows how to build a successful World Series team. He either mixes the Brewers good talents with has beens or below average players and pitchers, and then expects the Brewers to contend for a playoff spot and beyond. The Brewers probably should of made the World Series last year and in 2008, but because of mismanagement by Melvin for not putting together a more well rounded team with actual average or above average role players, the Brewers just couldn’t get over the hump to make it to the World Series in 2008 and 2011.

    • Henry says: July 30, 2012

      Name someone who was available that you would have signed for those years? Everyone seems to forget the budget that the Brewers are working with. It’s not like he gets first pick and can just sign whoever he wants.

      The role players last year (Nyjer Morgan, Axford, K-Rod, et al) were fantastic last year. The undoing of the team was the breakdown of the starting pitching against STL. Not much Melvin could have done about that, nor much he would have WANTED to do considering how well they pitched in the regular season.

    • Stephen says: July 30, 2012

      Jeez, you some of you are like my girlfriend, real good at spending other people’s money. Milwaukee is and always will be a small market team. Meaning for them, making a splash in free agency to get that final piece is not the same as when Cashman does it. Cool info graphic in the NY Times a while back. Of the sixteen WS champs betwwen ’95 and 2010, half had a top three payroll. Baseball has made up its mind that the league is healthiest when the Yankees and Red Sox dominate Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN (ergo no smallest cap). The fact the Brewers can threaten to crash that plan (which they never could for the 15 years prior to Melvin) is going to have to be enough.

  5. Mike says: July 30, 2012

    Brewers have blown more saves already in 2012 (Blown 20 in 40 attempts) than in all of 2011 (Blew 19 in 66 attempts).

    The only reason it is hard to be too optimistic is that the only two guys I can see possibly keeping from this bullpen are Axford and Loe, two guys with a short track record of success. If Those two can return to 2010 setup man/closer form (big assumption), at least 3 more quality still arms need to be found somewhere. Thats too many variables to hope for an elite bullpen, but I think an average one could be salvaged through minor league talent and free agency.

    I am optimistic though, if not for the sole fact that it would be hard for the Brewers luck in 2013 to be any worse.

  6. Dan says: July 31, 2012

    This Henry Character is a typical Cheesehead. Ride players like Morgamn and Rodriguez to the ground because they were o.k. last year. Henry wake up. Rodriguez has the highest Whip of any reliever in baseball and Morgans RBi to abats ratio is the worst in Baseball. This is one of the reasons Milw is 10 games under and 14 games out. This a new year Henry. YOU HAVE TO ADJUST IF THE PLAYERS ARE NOT PERFORMING. There are reasons no one had any interest in these two players in the off season or now. But dont worry Henry There is always Livan Henadez

    • Nick says: July 31, 2012

      Good thinkin Dan. Dunno if we can field a team with only 12 players on it but at least we won’t have those bums KRod Axford Morgan Izturis Veras and Weeks on it anymore!!

    • Henry says: July 31, 2012

      Dan –

      I think you are missing the point. Yes, Morgan has underperformed this year (although, contact-hitting part-time #1 or #2 hitter shouldn’t be expected to have many RBI), as has K-Rod, but how was Melvin supposed to know this before the season started? And at what point do you pull the plug? You can’t take veterans’ poor performance over the first two, three months of the season and use that timeframe along to cut ties with them, when they have a track record of success.

      If I’m a “typical cheesehead” then you’re a typical bandwagon fan. Had Melvin cut Morgan or not re-signed K-Rod given the chance, you would have cried foul, just as you are now after he did sign them and they are under performing. I hate to see what your outlook on the Brewers was during the 90’s.

      It’s small-market baseball. Keep your big pieces in place (Hart, Weeks, Braun, Gallardo) and hope that that particular year’s cheap arms and veterans are enough to put you over the edge, and maybe grab a big piece midseason if need be (K-Rod, Sabathia). Turns out this year is a down year, and those cheaper, transitional players didn’t work out as hoped. Let’s just enjoy the ride, watch the future unfold with the younger players that will get a chance (Fiers, Rogers…probably Peralta later, etc).

      • Dan says: July 31, 2012

        Henry- I appreciate your passion- No I am not a bandwagon fan. Milwaukee is not my cup of tea. My brother played at U.W.M. and works in Milwaukee and sounds like you. I hate to see a team lose player after player to trades and free agency. Melvin did a nice job getting Grienke but to lose him like he did was unfortunate. Losing Prince really hurt this franchise. Rodriguez is finished and needs to go. Believe me ther is absolutely no interest in him in the bigs. Your putting a lot of faith in one of the lowest ranked minor league systems in baseball. They do have a few good core players they can count on but overall the future is in big question. With Houstoun leaving the Central next year to go to the A.L. you better hope some of the young pitchers pan out or it is going to be a really really long year

        • Salsa says: July 31, 2012

          I really don’t understand where you think Milwaukee is going to get all this money from to sign Prince and Greinke. Prince signed a contract for $23M/year, Greinke turned down a contract that would have given him $20M/year. So if you were the Brewers GM, you would allot nearly half of your budget to 2 players? Not to mention the $25M+/year owed to Braun/Hart/Weeks? It’s simply not feasible for a team with Milwaukee’s payroll restrictions to be able to afford all that talent.

          And don’t you think that the Brewers would like to offload K-Rod’s contract? Obviously it wasn’t going to happen after his performance so far this season. But they never figured on him accepting their arbitration offer after the stink he put up last season because of the lack of save opportunities. The thinking was that he would decline arbitration to go elsewhere, and the Brewers would receive their compensatory picks.

        • Henry says: July 31, 2012

          I pretty much agree with everything in Salsa’s post. Yeah, it does stink that they lost Fielder and Greinke. But you make it seem like it was because of some sort of ineptitude on Melvin’s part. It’s not his fault that Detroit backed up a truckload of cash to Prince’s house. Milwaukee can’t afford that. And they offered an extremely reasonable offer to Greinke, which he declined. What exactly is he supposed to do about that?

          Yes, K-Rod needs to go, but would YOU have known that after how he played last year? And given how he played last year, it was reasonable to think that he would rebound after the shaky start to his season this year. That hasn’t happened, and we’ll see what happens now.

          And they have some potentially good players in the minors right now, despite what you might think. Hunter Morris, Scooter Gennett, Logan Schafer, Jean Segura, Jed Bradley…and that’s just off the top of my head. Some of them are a few years away from the bigs, but given that the core of the Brewers is still locked up for one or more years, it’s not a huge concern.

          • Kris says: July 31, 2012

            Losing Prince sucks but what should we have done differently? The contract that Detroit gave him is probably going to hurt them in the long run. In about 2-3 years he’ll likely be limited to a DH role (not an option in the NL) and he’ll be past his prime. Years 7,8, and 9 probably won’t be pretty. It’s not so much that the Brewers COULDN’T afford that. It would just mean we couldn’t keep Braun, who I think we can all agree is more valuable (as much as I love Prince it’s true).

            As for Greinke it didn’t seem like he was interested in resigning with the Brewers. Not much you can do about that. And at 5 years/100 million that’s already a significant risk even for a proven commodity like him. SP’s only start once every 5 games and it would probably be wise to use that money on either position players or re-tooling the bullpen.

            As for Morgan and K-rod… K-rod was a huge part of us getting to the playoffs. I highly doubt we would’ve with Kameron Loe as our set-up man. Re-signing him was a risk but if he pitches like he did last year he’s worth every cent.

  7. Cale says: July 31, 2012

    Some of you guys are ridiculous. You think this is the Yankees or something. Where do you expect Doug to get the money to sign all the best players to win the WS every year? Chris hit the nail on the head. Melvin is doing a heck of a job for a team that was a laughing stock 10 years ago. Do you all forget those 106 loss teams? They weren’t so long ago.

  8. N says: August 1, 2012

    All are coping with the failure of the ’12 Crew, in some fashion.

  9. Cecil Cooper's Love Child says: August 1, 2012

    It’s always the same thing….blame management for a bad season, credit the players for a good season. It’s a team effort folks! Doug Melvin and his group have done great things here. The Marcum/Greinke moves were exactly what we needed to bring balance to our team.

    I think in 2013, the core of our team is more balanced between pitching and position players so he will spend money this winter on a couple of bullpen arms, decide between Gamel/Hart at 1B and maybe look for 1 more top flight SP.

    After those additions/decisions, we will be right in the chase for the 2013 NL Central. I remember the days of not even dreaming of saying that. Thank you Doug Melvin and Mark Attanasio!!!!

  10. Nels says: August 1, 2012

    I can much that the last few of you haven’t said to the screamers here. DM has done an excellent job with what he has and looking at our AA club I’m pretty optimistic as a brewer fan. I think we have 3 to 5 young arms in the SP role that can step up if Peralta feels the need to do so. Estrada’s work has been admirable, but I see Fiers, Thornburg, and Rodgers coming in and doing pretty well next season. That leaves the bullpen…. Our offense has been pretty damn good this year. I don’t even know how much they miss prince. I would like to know what his clutch #’s were last year or his average with runners in scoring position. Maybe I’m misremembering, but it doesn’t seem like it was all that high.

    Over all I think DM has done a good job. He got fans in the seats to pay the bills and up his cash-flow now the young kids need to step up and keep it going

  11. Brian says: August 3, 2012

    I would like to first point out that I am not a DM fan. With that said, I think he has done an admirable job over the past few years. Everybody, including me, felt that FR would decline arbitration and find a new team. When he accepted, it hurt, but it hurt even more when his production flat-lined this season. No takers meant severely overpaying for a horrible set-up man. Regardless, he and the $8 million figure are gone at the end of the year.

    It’s easy to point out the factors behind the Brewers skid this year. Injuries crippled this team early on. When your starting SS, 1B, C AND their backups were all hurt at the same time it makes things tough to say the least. Add in Weeks having a dismal first 2.5 months and the back end of the bullpen floundering, well, you have a sub .500 team.

    This team is not far from competing next year. With the Wolf and Rodriguez deals ($16.5 m) coming off the books, it gives the team flexibility in shoring up the bullpen, adding or keeping a starter (Marcum), or signing a solid corner infielder in the off-season.

    I do look forward to watching the club in SEP and hopefully watching some of the young talent getting a shot and producing. Our farm system is stronger than it was 2 years ago and I look forward to seeing what these players have to offer.

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