Last Sunday, while nobody was watching, the Brewers were quietly eliminated from postseason contention with their 84th loss. As we wrap up the 2015 baseball season and prepare for the long winter off-season, I will use the next three weeks to recap one of the most dismal years of Brewers baseball to cover the good, the bad, and the Future of the Brewers organization. I encourage all readers to suspend reality for a moment, put on a “glass half full” attitude, and come along for the ride as I somehow find the good in a 90+ loss season.
The 2014 Brewers team that broke the hearts of every baseball fan in Milwaukee had a significant hole in their lineup at first base. Many, myself included, believed that if the Brewers could fill the hole at first base they could replicate the success of 2014, and perhaps make a run for a wild card spot. While I was not sold on Adam Lind at the start of the season, if you would have told me he would hit .288 with a .371 OBP, I would have guaranteed the Brewers a playoff spot.
Obviously, I’m an idiot; but that should not take away from what Lind has done for this team. The 31-year-old avoided missing significant time due to injury, and led the team in on base percentage. He committed just four errors all year, something the Brewers desperately needed after the dismal tandem of Mark Rodgers and Lyle Overbay last year. Overall, Lind exceeded expectations in his first year as a Brewer. Assuming the Brewers remain in rebuilding mode for the next couple of years, Lind will make an excellent trade candidate at next year’s deadline should he keep this up.
The Brewers Front Office
While I’m not about to sit here and give virtual pats on the backs to owner Mark Attanasio and the Brewers front office, it’s refreshing to see them finally embracing the full rebuild the team so desperately needs, and committing to an environment of accountability in the locker room. I’ve covered both topics in depth this year, but it’s worth recapping the positive moves the Brewers made this year to position themselves for future success. In no particular order:
- The firing of Ron Roenicke (better late, than never)
- The hiring of Craig Counsell, who I believe is the right manager for this type of a team
- Sending a struggling Scooter Gennett to the minors for three weeks
- Completing five trades at the deadline to secure prospects and free up salaries
- Along the same lines, but worth singling out: trading Carlos Gomez, who was a fan favorite.
- Shutting down Kyle Loshe and Matt Garza
- Allowing Doug Melvin to “step down” and beginning the search for a new GM
It’s no secret that the Brewers are years away from being contenders in the toughest division in baseball; however, the moves made by the front office deserve to be commended, even if it’s going to take a significant amount of time for them to pay off.
The Bullpen, for the first 75% of the season
If you’re willing to take September and August out of the equation, the Brewers bullpen put up serviceable numbers that make you wonder how good they could have been if the Brewers were a winning ball club. They led the NL with a 9.2 strikeouts per nine inning ratio, and had a 3:1 strikeouts to walk ratio. Francisco Rodriguez did not blow a save until August 30th; that is absurdly good. Only the Giants blew fewer saves than the Brewers in the NL all year.
Things definitely took a turn for the worse in September, but it’s hard to expect a bullpen to continue to perform at a high level when they are being used as frequently as this group was. That being said, a number of Brewers relievers produced solid seasons that went unnoticed due to the lack of success from the team as a whole. Look for Will Smith, Michael Blazek, Jeremy Jeffress, and Francisco Rodriguez to return to the bullpen next year in similar roles, hopefully with similar numbers.
The Polish Sausage
A local favorite who has always embraced the role of the underdog, the Polish Sausage entered the 2015 season with high expectations, and he did not disappoint. As of August 30th, the Polish accumulated 23 wins during the 6th inning traditional racing of the sausages. With a seven game lead over the second place Italian Sausage entering the month of September, Polish had all but guaranteed himself the 2015 title. 2014 Title winner, El Chorizo, summed it up best this afternoon in his post game interview after yet another Polish victory. “I don’t know man, there’s something different about P(olish) this year. The guy trains hard, and races harder. I don’t think anyone expected this type of production from him. You’ve got to respect a guy like that.”
First of all, I still wish Braun wasn’t a Brewer. All personal biases aside, Braun turned in his best season since his suspension for PEDs in 2012. He batted .287 with a team leading 25 home runs, and also stole 24 bases. Compare that to his 2014 numbers of .266, 19 bombs, and 11 stolen bags. Braun took a step forward, which the Brewers definitely needed. Whether you like him or not, Brewers fans need to accept that Braun is likely going to be in Milwaukee for a long time. While one man cannot carry a baseball team on his back, Braun returning to MVP form could speed up the rebuilding process significantly.