Tyler Thornburg has been building a case to be starter in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

The Milwaukee Brewers' 2012 Report Card: Part Four

Here is the final part to the Milwaukee Brewers’ report card. The previous three parts dealt with the intricate parts of the team that really held together. This final part however was the absolute weak spot of the Brewers in 2012. Yes folks, I am talking about the bullpen. Everything was pretty awful about the bullpen except for really mid-August and September. We can look back on some crucial games and see why we lost them or nearly lost some. The bullpen just imploded all the time and it didn’t even matter who was pitching, it was just all around bad, but there were a few bright spots. Here’s the bullpen’s report card: 

Even though 2012 was rough on John Axford, he still managed to get 35 saves. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Closer: John Axford (35 for 43 save opp., 4.67 ERA, 1.44 WHIP  93 K’s, 69.1 IP) C-

Now let’s be honest, a grade lower would be a bit unfair if you look at the Ax-Man’s end of August into September, you’ll notice he had 15 straight saves. With the good does come the bad unfortunately. I think a lot of us were completely taken back from Axford’s 2011 that we didn’t know he had a side that could be lit up like a match. Really, his struggles started right off the bat in the Opening Day game where he gave up two runs in 0.2 innings pitched.

June was by far Axford’s worst month. Three blown saves, three losses, an ERA ballooned at 9.00 and just really could not close out a game to save his life. Despite that though, Axford worked through his struggles as the closer role had expanded to pitchers other than him. Perhaps that was the fire Axford needed to get through the awful first half of the season because once August hit, he couldn’t be stopped. So while he may have blown a season high nine saves, he still managed to get 35 saves.

Jim Henderson may have a role as the set-up man to Axford in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Set-up men: (Francisco Rodriguez, Jim Henderson): D+

Perhaps the reason why this isn’t a D- or lower is because of Henderson. There was so much mystery shrouding how Henderson would do and typically when you get a 30 year-old prospect, it isn’t a good ending. That means they’ve had problems in the minors, typically with command and control and Henderson seemed to stray away from that. Now while he was far from perfect, he still fit in nicely into the bullpen and is a positive that we can take away from this season. A 3.52 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and three saves inside of 30.2 innings pitched isn’t terrible, but it’s far from great for a reliever.

K-Rod on the other hand had so many problems that it’s hard to just to pinpoint one. While some of us originally hopped onto the “put K-Rod into close” ship, we soon found ourselves sinking even further. It’s not that K-Rod is unable to close, but something in 2012 made him hit a brick wall hard. If you want to get on Axford about blown saves, I suggest you wait. K-Rod had seven blown saves and wasn’t even the primary closer. To add to that, he also had an inflated 4.38 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP and declining K/9 ratio (9.92 in 2011, 9.00 in 2012) alongside a rising on base percentage. He just didn’t have his best stuff and probably would struggle again in 2013. No love lost here if the Brewers decide to avoid re-signing him.

Brandon Kintzler provides a stopgap in this bullpen. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Mid relief: (Brandon Kintzler, Kameron Loe, Jose Veras) D-

For Kintzler, he spent most of 2012 injured, but still found himself up with the club in September. The thing about Kintzler is despite pitching on and off in the majors since 2010, we haven’t seen a whole heck of a lot from him. 38.2 innings pitched between the three years with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Those may not seem like the greatest of numbers, but it’s damage through short work. In 2012, Kintzler seemed to work around that as he only gave up 7 earned runs in 16.2 innings. He’s still a bit of a mystery, but his reliance on his fastball, slider and change-up can help him be of value in this bullpen.

Loe just had his ups, downs and whatever else seems suitable to throw in there. For Loe, he had a time where he was one of the few, if not the only positive piece in the bullpen, but flattened out once September hit. He had a 10.38 ERA in the month and was getting tagged nearly every time he went out. An overall 4.61 ERA in 2012 is definitely nothing to overpay on, but the fact that he held the bullpen somewhat together for the majority of the season says he’s an arm worth keeping for any team. What makes it tougher for the Brewers is that Loe had refused an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville and has elected to become a free agent.

Veras was just bad and now that he’s gone, there’s no need to reiterate how awful he performed.

Guys who might be relief next year: (Tyler Thornburg, Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Mike McClendon) C

These four are pitchers that we really haven’t seen a lot of out of. Thornburg and Peralta may present themselves as starters if the Brewers need to fall back on them, but even having them spot start would be a viable option. We saw that a lot this with Rogers and his versatility between the bullpen and starting is something that the Brew Crew can work with heading into 2013. McClendon though is the most inconsistent out of the four, but is still someone the Brewers called upon for long relief innings. So yes, they get the average grade of a ‘C’ because while they didn’t show us anything spectacular, they still give us hope for our bullpen next year.

Guys who automatically fail: (Manny Parra, Livan Hernandez, Tim Dillard) F- (yes, that bad)

This part doesn’t even need an explanation.  If you watched any Brewers’ games in 2012, or a few years before to watch Parra and Dillard’s blunders, you know you don’t have to be rocket scientist to figure out they were terrible.

Tags: Milwaukee Brewers

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