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Milwaukee Brewers 2014 End-of-the-Season Wrap-up

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Folks, I waited a few extra days to post my end-of-the-season wrap-up for the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, mostly to see if the Brewers would show some sense and fire manager Ron Roenicke. But as they haven’t — yet — it’s time to fish or cut bait.

Here’s what I thought of my 82-80 2014 Milwaukee Brewers:

PITCHING

  • Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54 ERA, 198 1/3 innings pitched) was robbed. He left with the lead six more times than he has wins; if the Brewers had won even three more of those games, he’d have had a 16-win season. Lohse was Milwaukee’s most consistent starter, and threw a 2-hit shutout gem late in the season when the Brewers were still (barely) in Wild Card contention.
  • Wily Peralta (17-11, 3.52 ERA, 198 2/3 innings pitched) was a bit overrated. Peralta improved in his second season, no lie, but unlike Lohse and the other starters, Peralta’s games featured better offensive support and better relief pitching . . . so Peralta didn’t have as many no decisions as Lohse.

These were the Brewers two best season-long starters.

“But what about Mike Fiers, Barb?” you ask. “Wasn’t he great, too?”

Yes, he was.

Fiers was Milwaukee’s best pitcher down the stretch and helped keep the Brewers in contention long past their sell-by date. But Fiers (6-5, 2.13 ERA, 71 2/3 innings pitched) wasn’t brought up for good until August, which is why he’s not listed above with the two best Brewers pitchers.

“What about Yovani Gallardo (8-11, 3.51 ERA, 192 1/3 innings pitched) and Matt Garza (8-8, 3.64 ERA, 163 1/3 innings pitched)?” you ask.

Mostly, Gallardo and Garza both had better seasons than their records indicated. Both, like Lohse, were victimized by poor run support throughout the season and hit-or-miss relief pitching that often wasted their quality starts.

These five pitchers should be in the starting rotation for 2015.

Now, as for the relievers?

  • Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez (5-5, 3.04 ERA, 44 saves in 49 opportunities) was excellent at the start of the season, had an odd July, and a decent rest of the season. The home run ball was a bit of a concern at times, and K-Rod lived up to his nickname of “twenty minutes of terror,” but he’s a quality closer and at thirty-two is already tenth on the all-time save leaders list with 348.
  • Will Smith (1-3, 3.70 ERA, 78 appearances, 30 holds) was overused; prior to his overuse, Smith was a legitimate All-Star candidate and was K-Rod’s set-up man for the first three-fifths of the season.

Everyone else (with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang as a conspicuous exception) was competent and unexceptional over the long-term, though several (Zach Duke and Tyler Thornburg in particular) had some great stretches here and there that made me sit up and take notice.

HITTERS

Here, I’m going to break it into the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good:

  • Jonathan Lucroy (.301, 13 HR, 69 RBI, and a league-leading 53 doubles) had a breakout season. Deservedly a starting All-Star, Lucroy will garner some MVP votes; unlike most of the other Brewers hitters, Lucroy is willing to take a walk and patiently waits until he gets his pitch. Lucroy is not the world’s fastest runner, but he also makes very few baserunning mistakes and is perhaps the smartest — and toughest — player on the team.
  • Scooter Gennett (.289, 9 HR, 59 RBI) did very well against right-handers and exceptionally poorly against left-handers in his second season in the bigs. Gennett’s main problem is that he strikes out way too much and takes far too few walks; he needs to learn some plate discipline from Lucroy.
  • Carlos Gomez (.284, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 34 SBs) did reasonably well and was a deserving All-Star. However, he swung at everything and anything — especially toward the end of the season — refused to take walks, and made some bad outs on the basepaths down the stretch. The epitome of a “high risk, high reward” player, Gomez must learn to keep his head in the game.

The bad:

  • Mark Reynolds (.196, 22 HR, 45 RBI) would’ve been acceptable if he’d just have kept hitting at his pre-All-Star levels (.205, 14, 33) because his defense at first and third was stellar. But his production fell off, his strikeouts mounted, and he had some odd mental lapses that contributed to the Brewers losing games down the stretch that they should’ve won. Reynolds should not be back in 2015.
  • Jean Segura (.246, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 20 SBs) had a great final thirty days of the season, batting .327 during that stretch, or he’d have been in the “ugly” category. And his defense continues to be way above average. But considering Segura was an All-Star in 2013, his first full year in the bigs, 2014 was a step backward. (Mind, players are only human, and Segura lost his son right before the All-Star break. That assuredly accounts for why much of his second half was abysmal.) Let’s hope in 2015, Segura gets back on track.
  • Aramis Ramirez (.285, 15 HR, 66 RBI) has decent numbers, but they are somewhat deceptive.  Down the stretch, Ramirez showed that he was tired, old, and slow — and while his defense at third was still adequate or better, he cost the team numerous runs because he simply could not run (possibly due to a lingering injury, possibly due to his age). He’s due $14 million if the Brewers pick up his contract option next year, and I’m not at all sure Ramirez is deserving of such largesse — especially considering his anemic performance (.212, 1 HR, 5 RBI) down the stretch.

The ugly:

  • Ryan Braun’s thumb injury sapped him of his power stroke and caused Braun to alter his overall hitting mechanics. None of this helped Braun’s overall numbers (.266, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SBs). In addition, like Ramirez, Braun’s final thirty-day performance was dreadful (.200, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Braun has had cutting-edge thumb surgery since the end of the season, and much is riding on it; only time will tell as to whether or not Braun can regain his power stroke.
  • Khris Davis (.244, 22 HR, 69 RBI) was a major disappointment. He struck out way too much, walked too little, his defense remains a work in progress and his arm is quite weak. Ideally, Davis projects as a DH in the American League, though if he’s willing to learn how to play first base and shows some aptitude for the position, Davis might be OK there instead.

Everyone else was either mediocre or competent in some ways but not others (for example, Lyle Overbay did quite nicely as a pinch hitter and can still field at first base, but otherwise showed that he’s ready for retirement).

PROGNOSIS

Simply put: The Brewers could not hit down the stretch, which cost them any chance at the playoffs. The pitching was competent and sometimes brilliant; the hitting was OK at the beginning of the season and dreadful at the end, while the fielding was for the most part steady and unspectacular.

To improve in 2015, the Brewers need a brand-new manager of the firebrand type — Ozzie Guillen, say. Or Mike Maddux, who definitely let it be known when he was upset with his pitchers during his stint as the Brewers pitching coach years ago. Or even Dale Sveum, who certainly mixed it up in his playing days and was willing to chew his players a new one in private . . .

Anything but Roenicke, who is too quiet and reserved to manage this bunch of huge, overpaid egos. He should’ve kicked some butts and taken some names during the Brewers woeful 1-13 stretch in September, and allowed at least some of his frustration to show through so fans understood he wasn’t happy with how his team was playing.

As it stands, Milwaukee was not consistent in how it’s handled Roenicke’s tenure, either. Ned Yost was fired back in September 2008 because his team was on a losing streak. Yet Roenicke’s Brewers were on a bigger losing streak, and the Brewers did not make a move.

But they had better. Because Roenicke, while a quality human being and a good baseball man, is not the right fit for this team.

Anyone who watched Milwaukee stumble down the stretch should know that.

AWARDS

Pitcher of the year: Francisco Rodriguez (Runners-up: Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta)

Brewers MVP: Jonathan Lucroy (No one else was even close.)

Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Fiers (Runner-up: Zach Duke)

Rookie of the Year: No award.

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