Ryan Braun struck out to end the ninth inning of a forgettable 7-0 shutout loss to the Houston Astros.
With that at-bat – and many others in the loss – went the hope of the Milwaukee Brewers, slim as it was, of making the playoffs.
It’s not difficult to imagine that this is the end the Milwaukee Brewers have suffered, considering the lowly first half of the season. But even still, Milwaukee had plenty to play for and play through for the rest of the year – showing a lot of heart and effort despite being written off by the beginning of September.
It should be easy, now that there is officially nothing to play for, to sit and gripe and pound the keys in disgust over a season essentially wasted. The last thing I want to do is spend the winter griping over the ‘year that got away’, but instead take an objective view on the season before time and emotion gets the better of us.
First, it should be important to remember that the Milwaukee Brewers cannot finish the season under .500. Small though it is, a moral victory is a moral victory. 2012 was built around a lot of moral victories, among them:
- Receiving high-caliber prospects in return for Zack Greinke
- Yovani Gallardo producing another 200 strikeout season
- Ryan Braun and his incredible year statistically
- The amazing early performance of Mike Fiers
- Wily Peralta‘s great starts
- Corey Hart being reborn at first
These were, and still are, very good things that happened throughout the season, and every one of them show reasons to be hopeful looking forward into 2013. As are the continued improvement of Jean Segura at shortstop, the future or Norichika Aoki as a Brewer, and the installment of Marco Estrada as a member of the starting rotation.
So, those are just a few of the things that went right for Milwaukee this season – what went wrong?
Well, for starters, there was a multitude of injuries in 2012 that no doubt effected the
caliber of play on the field. Mat Gamel‘s early season-ending injury, while it did provide the opportunity to allow Hart to step up his play at first, put an early damper on the season and de-railed his career for a short time. Same goes for Alex Gonzalez, who was a steady defensive hand that showed promise as part of a lineup in Milwaukee. He was lost to soon, and the dependence on Cody Ransom and Cesar Izturiz was a definite drop-off in performance for the middle infield.
And one can’t forget the loss of Chris Narveson – even though the rookies who would take over in the rotation as the season went on would end up performing well, the loss of a veteran pitcher is always a difficult blow for any team.
In terms of the players who did remain healthy, there were many offensive struggles. Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart had trouble early, and their slow climb back to productivity left holes in the lineups, crippled rallies, and left a poor taste in fans’ mouths for the better part of the year. Considering the two stars came off banner years the year before, there was simply no figuring out what – if anything in particular – was causing the struggles.
And we cannot leave out the bullpen. It was, to say the very least, one of the most disappointing relief corps performances in recent memory. John Axford could not retain a rhythm until the last month of the season, Manny Parra imploded regularly and off-season trade recipient Jose Veras was inconsistent at the very best. Francisco Rodriguez could not find the plate for most of the middle part of 2012, and it seemed there was no end to the foul-ups that could happen in the back-end of games.
But, looking fairly, the relievers were not the only ones who faltered, just the most glaring. Despite leading the National League in runs scored, the team posted just a .426 winning percentage in one-run games, and won only seven of 18 games that went into extra innings. This is not simply a relief problem, but also a problem of converting runs when runners are in scoring position, and making the most out of opportunities.
The Milwaukee Brewers go into the last three games of the season hitting .257 with RISP. That certainly doesn’t tell the whole story of a disappointing season, but it definitely points it in a direction. Missed opportunities is the moral of this team’s story. You need look no further than the last week to tell you that.
But there is one thing to be happy about this season as the schedule draws to a close – the Brewers gave us an incredible run down the stretch, and played some remarkable ball in the process. The team gave a good fight, and refused to sit down despite at one point being 12 games below .500. There is something to proud of in the way this team played towards the end of the year, and there is real reason to believe that 2013 will give us better results.
And it’s only 183 days before the Brewers can start a new march to the playoffs.