The Brewers Bullpen Races To The Bottom | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

The only way Thursday’s loss to the Cubs could have been more crushing would be for the Brewers to actually be in contention — for those ready to believe in fairy tales, perhaps that belief was even beginning to manifest itself. A Brewers victory would have pulled the team within 7.5 games of the Wild Card.

But there are two reasons it still wouldn’t have mattered — the Brewers trail four different teams (Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Arizona as well as the leader St. Louis) — and any dreams of a Cardinal-esque storm to the Wild Card would require the bullpen to actually, you know, close leads down the stretch.

The bullpen had been doing it’s job as the Brewers rattled off an 8-2 stretch over the past 10 games heading into Thursday’s debacle at Wrigley Field. Then, as soon as Shaun Marcum started cramping up, everything headed directly toward the toilet (or maybe a Wrigley urinal trough).

Livan Hernandez, Manny Parra, and Fernando Rodriguez combined to give up eight hits, five walks and nine runs in two full innings of work. Even with the help of admirable scoreless appearances from Jim Henderson an Jose Veras, the Brewers bullpen combined for a shocking -1.164 WPA. In one game.

Perhaps this isn’t the worst bullpen ever. I certainly would argue it has more talent in it than most historically bad ones. But there’s no doubt it has been one of the most costly to a team in recent memory.

A while back, I put together a custom report on FanGraphs showing the win probability for all team bullpens dating back to 1974. The link will take you the last page; the worst of the worst when it comes to blowing leads and costing their teams ballgames.

The Brewers were starting to crawl their way out. At one point they were down below a -7 WPA, good for 11th worst in the last 38 seasons (with a month to go). Prior to Thursday’s disaster, they were back to -6.3, only the 19th worst mark, and not even the worst in club history (1976, -6.9, headed by Tom Murphy’s 7.36 ERA in 15 games).

For more on WPA, click here.

Now they’re back “up” to a -7.47 WPA, ninth worst since the data exists on FanGraphs. With another month to go and little relief to be seen either from the active roster or from September call-ups, the climb could continue. Can they reach the ultimate worst mark, the 1999 Royals and their -10.94? Doubtful. But we’ll watch them try.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Luke says: August 31, 2012

    I have spent this entire season not frequently second guessing Roenicke’s bullpen decisions, but I am definitely wondering why he kept Hernandez and K-Rod in so long and didn’t bring in Loe or Axford at all. Were they unavailable?

  2. Badgerinmaine says: August 31, 2012

    What’s WPA?

    • Jack Moore says: August 31, 2012

      It stands for Win Probability Added. The simplest way to put it is the number of wins added by the events that happened while a pitcher was on the mound (or a hitter at the plate).

      More here:

      • Badgerinmaine says: August 31, 2012

        Thanks. I’d never heard of it before.

  3. Badgerinmaine says: August 31, 2012

    Luke–I don’t know about Loe but Roenicke said Axford wasn’t available after pitching in the previous two games.

  4. Badgerinmaine says: August 31, 2012

    I took a look at the worst bullpen on that chart: the 1999 Kansas City Royals. My gosh, they make the current Brewers bullpen look a staff of Mariano Rivera clones from his prime. They used 24 different pitchers in relief (!). Their lead relief ace, Jeff Montgomery in his final season, saved 12 games and had an ERA just under 7 with a WHIP just over 1.8. 13 of the relievers they used had an ERA over 6, including a short stint by our old Brewers pal Glendon Rusch. You should probably sign a waiver before looking at their numbers, but here’s the link:

  5. Ron says: August 31, 2012

    Just read on Brewers web site no takers for Marcum or K-Rod, I would keep pitching Marcum and cut loose K-Rod, your paying him now to lose games so what would be the difference if you let him go now to open roster spot?

  6. matt says: September 3, 2012

    I saw the Brewers were something like 51-9 when leading after 8, which is bad, but was curious if anyone had a place to find out their (and everyone elses) when leading after 7, and 6.


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