The one disaster that really sank the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2012 was their disastrous bullpen. Heading into 2013, the organization was fully aware of the problem and pretty much cleaned house in the ‘pen with the exception of a few relievers.
Now a season later, where does the current Brewer bullpen sit?
First of all, looking at who the Brewers kept from last year’s bullpen, there was a clear cut reason. John Axford, Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler were the players left over after the organization cleared out everyone else. Heading into 2013, Axford was coming off of a 2012 to forget, but the latter half of the season he was dominant, racking up 15 saves in a row from mid-August on while being pretty untouchable out on the mound. This season however, Axford once again finds himself in that mid-relief role with Henderson at the helm for the Brew Crew.
Henderson has been absolutely lights out as a closer, but spent some time on the disabled list this season, temporarily handing his job over. This season, Henderson has a low ERA of 1.83 with 17 saves and hasn’t allowed an earned run since July 11 in Arizona. Kintzler, the third and final piece from last year has also been tremendous in his roles, with an ERA of 2.50, a record of 3-0 and finds himself as one of manager Ron Roenicke‘s most trusted relievers with the multiple innings he can pitch.
Beyond those three, the Brewers had to bring in new life that wouldn’t only be decent, but could work together as a whole. The main problem last year was it seemed like a domino effect, one player would have a meltdown and it subsequently fell upon everyone. This season, the story has been different in the bullpen as the overall success has been apparent as they rank fourth overall in the MLB with an ERA of 2.88.
The additions of lefties Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny were needed to add some depth to the ‘pen. While Gonzalez has had his individual struggles, Gorzelanny’s performances have been the boost that the pitching staff needed. Originally, Gorzelanny was used a mid-reliever but soon found himself in the rotation as a starter, a role in which currently holds with success. Gorzelanny may find himself back in the bullpen soon, but his 2.51 ERA on the season is an absolutely gem for this team that was struggling in the relief area last season.
Another addition that Milwaukee put in the bullpen was right-hander Burke Badenhop. Like Kintzler, Badenhop has been one of Roenicke’s top relievers, making 50 appearances on the season. Badenhop holds a 3.78 ERA with one save and is also an innings eater for Milwaukee.
Alfredo Figaro had also been a bit of a surprise early for the team as he was completely dominant in the month of April, but was battered in May and June. Since then, Figaro’s done an all right job and still helps out this newly shaped bullpen.
In a season that has had so many call-ups, two players in particular have been impressive. Rookies Donovan Hand and Rob Wooten were both older prospects in the Brewers’ farm system, but since being called up they’ve done well. Hand has been versatile between starting and relief, something that Brewers never really got out of any other pitcher aside from maybe Tyler Thornburg.
Since making his debut, Hand is an unlucky 0-4, but don’t let that fool you as he has an ERA of 3.93 (only cause of rocky starts as of late), but he finds himself back in the bullpen. As for Wooten, he’s pitched in nine games, some of which were multiple innings of relief and has yet to give up an earned run.
Heading into next season, it’s hard to imagine that the Brewers will have to get a new arm into this bullpen. They’ve been efficient, consistent and overall, a much better looking group of players than last year’s disaster. The starting rotation may have had its problems earlier and the offense has been hit or miss, but the bullpen remains to be one of Milwaukee’s strong suits this year.