|2007 Season Postmortem: The Milwaukee Brewers|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on November 17, 2007
Batting Average – Corey Hart, .295
Home Runs – Prince Fielder, 50
Runs Batted In – Prince Fielder, 119
Runs Scored – Prince Fielder, 109
Stolen Bases – Rickie Weeks, 25
Wins – Jeff Suppan, 12
Strikeouts – Dave Bush, 134
Innings Pitched – Jeff Suppan, 206.2
Earned Run Average – Jeff Suppan, 4.62
Saves – Francisco Cordero, 44
Prince Fielder hits the home runs and drives in the runs, so he does all the things “main stream” MVPs are doing, hence he should be an easy choice. However, the Brewers also have newly crowned rookie of the year Ryan Braun, who comes close to his teammate in terms of OPS with 1.004 (to the Fielder’s 1.013). Braun also plays a slightly more challenging position at third base, which usually counts for something. Then again, Braun has been a liability with the glove and Fielder, although he does not look like it, is doing an o.k job. In the end, we do give the award to Fielder, because Braun just missed being eligible for the batting title by 20 plate appearances or so. All this team MVP talk doesn’t matter anyway, what matters is that the middle of the Brewers’ order is in great shape for years to come.
Team Cy Young
Only Jeff Suppan and Dave Brown are going to show up on the leaderboards, but the Brewers’ ace has always been Ben Sheets. And when he was healthy, he pitched pretty well: 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 2.89 K/BB ratio, although his 6.75 K/9 rate was the lowest since his rookie season. Sheets problem has never been performance, but health and he again made only 24 starts in 2007, which probably cost the Brewers some October baseball.
Luckily, another pitcher is emerging in Milwaukee: Yovani Gallardo. The 21-year old was stellar (3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.24 K/9, 2.73 K/BB) in 17 starts and three relief appearance), but will first have to prove that this was no fluke next season (although he is highly regarded).
What Went Right
The Brewers came out of the gates scorching with a 17-9 record on May 1st while all other clubs in the NL Central struggled to get to .500. Then, when they finally hit a dry spell, all other teams in the division played poorly, too, and the Brewers were able to keep their comfortable lead intact. Next, they got hot again and on July 1st, when the Cubs finally got back to .500, the Brewers still had a comfortable 6.5 game lead.
What Went Wrong
After July 1st, the Brewers only had a 36-43 record. The main reason for these struggles was the starting pitching. The team only had 49 starts from pitchers with an ERA better than 4.60, while enduring 79 starts from pitchers with ERAs worse than 5.00. The offense simply could not compensate that. Of course, the Brewers’ subpar defense might have something to do with this as they committed the fourth most errors in the NL (109).
Most ironic moment
This moment will probably be remembered more by Padres fans than by Brewers fans, but anyway: September 29th, the Padres need one more win to secure the wild card. They play the already eliminated Brewers in Milwaukee and lead by run in the bottom of the ninth inning. All times saves leader Trevor Hoffman is on the mound for San Diego. He struck out Prince Fielder and Lance Nix, but allowed a double to Corey Hart, who is still on second. At the plate, with two strikes already on him, stands Tony Gwynn Jr., son of Mr. Padre and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, and he lines a triple down the right field line to tie the game. The Brewers eventually win the game in the 11th inning and the next game, too, forcing the Padres into a one game play-off against the Rockies, which they loose in dramatic fashion again.
Up and Coming Player
Braun and Gallardo, the Brewers’ best prospects, have already graduated to the majors (summa cum laude). Next, there are a few raw (Jeremy Jeffres, Mark Rogers) or fragile (Will Inman) arms and outfielders (Cole Gillespie, Lorenzo Cain) who are looking good, but none is close enough to the majors to help much in 2008, expect maybe for Inman if he stays healthy.
What the Team Should Do in the Offseason
The Brewers could use an league average starter or two, but there are hardly any available, at least on the free agent market, so it’s more likely they are taking a few fliers and hope that pitching couch Maddux can work some magic. With Geoff Jenkins departing, they could also use another outfielder, but their in-house options are probably not much behind the market options. For a team that came so close to the play-offs, the Brewers should probably stay relatively passive and count on improvements from the young regulars and just add a little more strength to the bench.