Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

My Final Take on the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers Season

with one comment

The 2013 season for the Milwaukee Brewers was one of intense disappointment, yet with some glimmers of hope for the future.  The play of the “baby Brewers” (Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, et. al.) down the stretch was extremely enjoyable, and the starting pitchers finally rounded into form in late July to help them along.

So, without further ado, here’s my take on the Brewers’ high points, low points, and “huh, what were they thinking?” points of 2013.

The high points:

Brewers CF Carlos Gomez’s many highlight-reel worthy catches made watching the Brewers far less painful after Ryan Braun ended up getting a 65-game suspension.  Gomez had his best overall season, batting .284 with 24 home runs, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team.  Gomez has a legitimate chance to win a Gold Glove award for his work this past season; if he wins, he’ll be only the second Brewers OF to win (Sixto Lezcano was the first, in 1979) and will be the first Brewers player to have done so since Robin Yount in 1982.

Brewers SS Jean Segura, in his first full-time major league season, performed extremely well with the exception of his running the bases backward (see below).  Segura played well defensively at short (committing only 15 errors in ’13 versus 10 in ’12 in a much smaller sample size) while batting .294 with 12 HRs, 49 RBI, and 44 SBs, and was named to the 2013 All-Star team.

Note: Segura was easily the top first-year player in major league baseball during 2013, but is not eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award because he played too many innings for the Brewers during the 2012 stretch run.

The Brewers bullpen was the best in the league for most of the 2013, slipping only in August and September due to their season-long heavy workload.  The best of the bullpen were Francisco Rodriguez, who notched his 200th overall save before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, Jim Henderson (5-5, 2.70 ERA, 28 saves in 32 chances) and setup man Brandon Kintzler (3-3, 2.69 ERA, 26 holds, 77 innings pitched).  Kintzler’s success story is remarkable in two ways: One, he sustained an injury last year that resulted in him getting designated for assignment in late June — fortunately for the Brewers, every other major league team passed on Kintzler and they kept his rights and contract.  And two, it wasn’t so long ago (four years, to be exact) that Kintzler was just a regular guy, pitching in one of the independent leagues to keep his baseball dreams alive and driving a limousine to support himself.

Finally, the outstanding pitching of starter Kyle Lohse (11-10, 3.35 ERA, 20 quality starts in 198 2/3 innings pitched) needs to be discussed.  Lohse was signed right before the season started, so it took him a few months to get into his regular season form.  But once he did, Lohse became the ace of the Brewers staff while mentoring many of the Brewers younger pitchers.  Lohse’s record is deceptive due to exceptionally poor run support during June and July, which caused Lohse to get a substantial amount of no-decisions rather than wins.

Lohse’s best game was that wild win in Atlanta just one week ago, where he pitched a complete game shutout while giving up only two hits and throwing only 89 pitches.  This particular effort was noteworthy because of the game’s odd start — Carlos Gomez hit a home run, then was impeded from scoring by Atlanta Braves C Brian McCann.  An altercation ensued, punches were thrown (by bench player Reed Johnson, mostly), Gomez and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman were both ejected while McCann and Johnson were inexplicably allowed to continue onward.  A lesser pitcher than Lohse would’ve allowed himself to get thrown by all this drama; instead, Lohse concentrated on what he had to do — and did it brilliantly.

The low points:

Oh, brother.  Must I even say it?  (Yes, I suppose I must.)

Obviously, the suspension of Brewers LF Ryan Braun was the biggest, baddest low point of the entire 2013 season.  (See my blogs here, here and here for further details.)  Braun is the best player the Brewers have; he’s a former MVP, has been named to the All-Star team several times, and was also a former Rookie of the Year.  So when his season was cut short due to a 65-game suspension (after having significant time on the disabled list for a thumb issue), it couldn’t help but adversely affect the Brewers.

Once Braun had to admit that he’d lied about ever taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), he was excoriated in the court of public opinion.  This was due to the fact that before the scandal broke, he had been seen as what the best of baseball is supposed to be about — a clean game played by clean players on a clean field.

(Yes, that’s hyperbolic for a reason.  I’m getting to that.)

As you might expect, no one is as perfect as all that, most especially not a major league baseball player.

When Braun finally had to admit that he’d lied about taking a performance-enhancing substance (believed now to be some form of quick-acting testosterone), all Hell broke loose in the media.  Jeff Passan was possibly the worst offender, writing several columns about Braun that showed that Passan viewed cockroaches above Braun — way, way above — and making a major journalistic mistake late in August when he failed to check his sources before again excoriating Braun, then having the sources roundly deny his allegations.  But other respected writers like Christine Brennan and Bob Nightengale also were extremely critical of Braun (though they didn’t make Passan’s sourcing mistake), mostly because they seemed to feel a sense of personal betrayal that usually is only felt by fans, not by reasonably impartial journalists with major reputations to consider.

Nothing else — no, not even the Brewers woeful 6-22 record in May — came close.

But because there were obviously many, many other low points to consider, I’ll name just a few:

  1. The revolving door at first base due to Corey Hart’s knee surgeries was a major key to the Brewers’ failures, both defensively and with regards to driving in runs.  None of the replacements did particularly well, with Juan Francisco being perhaps the worst of the lot due both to his slipshod defense and his propensity for swinging wildly at balls in the dirt.
  2. The infield defense was suspect, partially due to the gaping hole at first base.  When utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt ends up playing 137 games (including numerous stints as a defensive replacement at first despite never playing the position in the majors prior to this year), that’s a sign of desperation right there.
  3. Second baseman Rickie Weeks’ season (.209, 10 HRs, 24 RBI, 7 SB in 10 attempts with 105 Ks in 399 plate appearances) was abhorrent.  Weeks has lost what little defensive range he ever had, lost the vast majority of his speed on the bases along with his bat speed, lost most of his power . . . in some ways, it was almost a blessing that Weeks tore his hamstring because nearly every Brewers fan was calling for Weeks’ head due to Weeks’ $11M contract.  It’s even money that Weeks will lose his job to rookie Scooter Gennett in 2014.
  4. The starting pitching in the first two months of the season was Godawful.  (‘Nuff said.)
  5. John Axford’s early meltdown as the Brewers closer was both surprising and sad.  While Axford eventually rebounded as a setup man (allowing only one ER from May 15 to July 27), he never got close to sniffing the closer’s job again due to the joint performances of Rodriguez and Henderson before getting mercifully traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.

And the “huh?” points:

The first one is obvious — what on Earth was Jean Segura thinking back in April when he first stole second base, then “stole” first base and tried to steal second again?

For that matter, why did Segura make so many baserunning mistakes early in the season?  It seemed like he was always getting thrown out at third, or at home, or trying to stretch a double into a triple . . . granted, Segura’s fast and smart, and he did eventually learn from these mistakes.  But it was really difficult to watch him make these mistakes over and over in the first three months of the season before he finally caught on.

That gets into the second “huh” — that is, so many Brewers got thrown out on the bases that I was tempted to send them all to baseball re-education camp.  (Sample re-educator dialogue: “Now, children, you don’t want to make the first out by getting thrown out due to carelessness.  Pay attention to what the other team is doing, children!  Don’t let your mind wander so much!  Don’t run yourselves out of innings!  You’re old enough to know better, really!  Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!”)  There was no excuse for this, either, aside from the whole “youth and inexperience angle” that was trotted out time and time again for Segura — and as he was far from the only offender, and as the others on the team were much older than his own twenty-two years, I just didn’t understand this at all.

Why did the Brewers re-sign Alex Gonzalez, anyway?  Yes, he was and is a quality individual; yes, he probably was a good role model for the younger players.  But after a year on the disabled list, Gonzalez had lost his hitting stroke and was never able to regain it, and was released midseason.

Everything else from the 2013 Brewers season falls into the realms of what might have been.  To name just two burning questions:

  1. What would’ve happened had Corey Hart not played on his bad foot during the tail end of 2012, when the Brewers were desperately trying for the second Wild Card spot?  Hart’s injury to his plantar fascia was the same one suffered by Albert Pujols of the Angels this year, and the Angels quickly put Pujols on the season-ending DL.  Had the Brewers done the prudent long-term thing and shut Hart down rather than taping him up to the point his bad foot was immobilized and it was hard to watch him move around in the field or bat, would Hart have ended up needing not one but both of his knees surgically repaired in 2013?
  2. What would’ve happened had Braun told the truth in 2012?  If he’d have served a 50-game suspension then, would he have been treated like Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon rather than the pariah he’s become?  And would it have made any difference whatsoever to the 2013 Brewers’ record?  (It surely would’ve made a difference to the Brewers players — not to mention Brewers fans.)

So here’s to 2014, Brewers fans.  And let’s hope that for all our sakes that Braun will rebound, that Hart will be re-signed and have a monster season, and that if Weeks is still the starting second baseman at the start of 2014 that he actually deserves to be.

Advertisements

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] year, the Brewers had an underwhelming year, to put it mildly. While youngsters just up from AAA like Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl helped […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: