Milwaukee Brewers 2013 season. April 1st-September 29th. Actually more like April 1st-May 31st if you're into 'details' but for the sake of argument let's at least say they were watchable in the second half of the season. Now the question is what to make of the 74-88 finish that saw their playoff chances die quicker than Blue in a KY Jelly wrestling match with a 6-22 May. And therein lies the central question on this team, the month of May. Were they just a bad team, or where they an okay team that just had a terrible month. Or were they a championship team that had a terrible year? Alright I'll grant you it's probably not he last one, but I don't think it's the first one either. That being said there's plenty of reason for hope next season. I don't think we need a Jon Taffer/Dalton Roadhouse* type of rescue, so instead let's make a 'Pro's and Cons' list like I'm a 16 year old girl trying to figure out who to ask to prom.
- Jean Segura. Sure he tailed off at the end of the year and the average slipped under .300 but this guy is a legit franchise shortstop. Hits for average, plays above average defense, stole 44 bases and might single handedly save Doug Melvin's career in Milwaukee. Especially if Hellweg pans out. Honest to God think about the fire he might be under if Segura turned out to be Ronnie Bellard version 2.0.
- Carlos Gomez. When he signed his 3 year extension I put on Facebook that it was a bargain for a guy that, if he plays to his potential, could be an MVP. I had friends telling me to 'stfu' and '#cray' and all sorts of stuff that I'm making up for the purpose of this blog. But after a year that saw him steal 40 bases, bat .285 and play Gold Glove defense in center field while smacking 24 bombs, I'd say we're closer to MVP than people thought we would be. Again, another trade master stroke by Melvin. Looked like we were trading trash for trash in the Gomez/Hardy deal, but both players took off afterwards. Basically everyone won in that deal. Except the Twins considering Hardy took flight after he left Minnesota and landed in Baltimore. So they missed out on a franchise shortstop and a franchise center-fielder. But other than that everyone won.
- Starting pitching. I know this will raise some eyebrows but hear me out. Gallardo seemed to right the ship after his hamstring injury and if he can return to form that is a solid #2 going into next year. The Lohse signing paid off. Guy was as consistent as it gets. Now I know a lot of people are down on him because he only finished 11-10, but if you base your opinion of pitchers based on win/loss record you probably shouldn't have opinions on pitchers. It'd be like not reading a book because you don't like the color of the cover. The peripheral numbers are outstanding and no one gave us a better chance to win every 5 days than Lohse. Peralta seems to be developing and no one is happier about that than Martin Maldonado who will always have a job as long as Peralta is serviceable. Marco Estrada might be the most underrated pitcher in the NL Central when he's healthy and Thornburg appears to be more what they expected when he was our #1 rated prospect and less what they saw at AAA this year (0-9 record, 6 ERA). I know I basically said the same stuff about Fiers and Rogers last year and we saw how that turned out but I think these guys are more legit. Why? Because if they're not we are staring down a LONG decade.
-Yuni B played 130 games. Nuff said.
- First base is an absolute DISASTER. Halton played okay, Francisco is the Dominican Russell Branyan and basically everyone we plugged in over there was a monumental failure. My guess is Hart is back on an incentive-laden deal which is fine by me. I'd rather have a Corey Hart Fathead out there than watch Francisco swing like he's a newborn giraffe learning to walk.
-Bullpen was a mess again. Kintzler was solid, Henderson looks decent as a closer, but Gonzalez was a nightmare, Axford never regained his 2011 form and a host of others were just never consistent. Granted they were overworked like a 12 year old Chinese kid in a Nike plant, but still, Melvin has to do a better job of assembling this unit. We're still longing for the days of Latroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito and that should tell you something.
- Ryan Braun. Obviously as lot of what happened this year falls on our best player being suspended by MLB for 65 games. And because of that a lot of what happens next year will depend on how he rebounds. He's trying to repair his image with Habitat for Humanity gigs and AIDS Walk drop ins (I hear he ever wore the ribbon ). But honestly all we really want is for him to play 155 games, hit .315 with 35 bombs and 100 RBI and have clean piss.
All in all a bizarre year in many ways. But when you consider we have young, franchise players at shortstop, centerfield, and catcher you have to feel decent about a bounce back in 2014. 2011 was the most fun I've ever had watching late season baseball and two years is too long without playing relevant games in October. I think we see a 90 win team next season. And I don't expect our playoff odds to be the same as Mr. Blutarsky's grade point average by June. Here at Strange Brew, we don't just drink the Kool-Aide, we make the Kool-Aide.
*It is a damn shame that Bar Rescue wasn't a show when Roadhouse came out. Could you imagine Taffer bringing in Dalton to help bouncers?
PS: Dale Svuem after he got fired from Chicago yesterday: