With two Sundays remaining in the MLB regular season, I bring you part two of a three-part season ending series called, “The Good, The Bad, and the Future.” Last week, I harnessed every ounce of optimism I had to find good in one of the worst Brewers seasons in recent memory. This week, the gloves are coming off. It’s time to talk about the bad, and if we’re being honest, the only difficulty I had while writing this article was deciding when to stop writing.
This one is personal. I love Opening Day, and as an over-emotional baseball fan, I’ve always been a believer that Opening Day can be indicative of how the remainder of the season is going to play out. Think it’s a stupid theory? Take a look at the past two years. In 2014, Carlos Gomez ripped the first fastball thrown all year for a screaming leadoff double. The crowd went wild; what a start! Only Gomez got greedy, and tried to stretch a clear double into a triple, and was thrown out by two steps. How eerily similar was the Brewers season to that Opening Day leadoff at bat?Screaming hot start, disappointing and inexplicable end.
While the Brewers went on to win their Opening Day game in 2014, they stole the joy of Opening Day from me and 44,000 other fans this past April. The game was over before it even started, as Kyle Lohse allowed four runs in the top of the first to silence the Miller Park crowd. The Brewers would go on to lose 10-0, and I would go on to lose $80 at Potowatomi. Safe to say, it was my least favorite Opening Day ever, and it was only going to get worse from there.
Nobody deserves more share of the blame of the Brewers lack of success than the starting pitching. From top to bottom, the starting rotation was wildly inconsistent and never gave the offense a chance to sustain success on a weekly basis. Brewers starters ranked third worst in the majors with a whopping 4.84 ERA, second worst in quality starts with just 61, and forth worst in walks allowed with 316. Kyle Lohse’s Opening Day performance set the tone for his worst season as a major leaguer, leading the majors for the entire season in home runs allowed before being shut down in August. Matt Garza put up a whopping 5.63, and put up a major league hissy fit after being rightfully shut down to give some young arms a chance to pitch in September. Wily Peralta started the season on the DL and never hit his stride. Jimmy Nelson, while tossing some impressive starts, didn’t take the giant step forward many fans were hoping for this year, and ended the season on the DL after taking a line drive to the head. The Brewers (wisely) traded away their best starting pitcher in Mike Fiers, who proceeded to rub salt in the collective wounds of Brewers fans by tossing a no hitter in his second start as a Houston Astro.
The Brewers starters were downright awful, which I have to label as surprising in my book. Remember, it was the starting rotation that was keeping the Brewers alive last September as the bats went silent for the last 45 days of the season. The one bright spot of the entire rotation was Taylor Jungmann, who rode a 3.64 ERA to a 9-7 record after making his much anticipated transition to the big leagues. Unfortunately, pending a miracle string of free agent acquisitions, it’s likely going to be the same story for the 2016 season as well. The Brewers will rely on young arms and an expensive whiny brat (Matt Garza, $12 million dollar salary next year) as they continue with their full scale rebuild.
It’s difficult to say for certain, but I’m willing to bet very few teams were as consistently banged up this year as the Brewers. Right off the bat, perhaps when they needed them the most, the Brewers lost Jonathan Lucroy for the entire month of May, and Carlos Gomez for two weeks in April. By the time their All Stars returned, the Brewers were 15.5 games out of first place. They then lost Wily Peralta for three months, and Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun both cited lagging injuries as the reason for their slow starts.
Two weeks ago, the baseball gods put an exclamation point on the miserable year with a line drive straight to Jimmy Nelson’s head. Nelson avoided serious injury in the short term, but was shut down for the remainder of the year and now has five months to think about that pitch before taking the mound again. A week later, Ryan Braun was also shut down for the remainder of the year amid injury concerns.
I’m not trying to say this was a playoff team if they had stayed healthy; they were destined to be awful from day one – but they would have kept things a bit more interesting had they been able to stay healthy through the All Star break. It’s important to note that the Brewers lost the BEST players on their bad team at the most important part of their season. They never had the chance to hit their way out of some losing streaks in April and May; it all came crashing down at once. Injuries are a part of the game for every team, but perhaps no team had their season derailed earlier than the Milwaukee Brewers, and they were never able to recover.