The Brewers bullpen was a disastrous mess in 2012, a fact which the front office made no bones about. So what did the money-tight organization do? They went out and improved their laughingstock of a bullpen by trading for Burke Badenhop and signing Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez, both at a very reasonable price.
September 4, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Michael Gonzalez (51) pitches in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. The Nationals defeated the Cubs 11 – 5. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Let me start off by saying I absolutely love left-handed specialists, which is exactly what Gonzalez is. Having a left-handed specialist as part of the bullpen arsenal is virgin territory for Milwaukee. You can include Mitch Stetter in that category but I refuse to. Although he was lethal against lefties at times, Stetter battled injuries during his time in Milwaukeee and was never as effective as bullpen gurus expected him to be. With that being said, Gonzalez will be much appreciated in Milwaukee.
Gonzalez, 34, left our nation’s capitol and became the final addition to Milwaukee’s revamped bullpen when he signed a one-year deal worth $2.25 million. Gonzalez will join Gorzelanny as the team’s only left-handed relievers. He owns a career ERA of 2.94 in nine big league seasons that launched in Pittsburgh in 2003. For the Nationals, Gonzalez posted a 3.03 ERA but was most noticeably suffocating against lefties (.179/.257/.269), as a lefty specialist should be.
He mainly focuses on a four-seam fastball and a slow-moving slider, but also mixes in a change-up and a sinker. He managed only 39 strikeouts last season but he’s mainly known as a contact pitcher rather than a blow-it-by-you flamethrower like Aroldis Chapman. So settle down Brewers fans; there are other ways to get batters out.
Gonzalez will only be used against left-handers when Ron Roenicke decides to play the matchup card. Now, I know what most Brewers fans are thinking. Why did the Brewers throw $2.25 million down the drain by signing a guy who can only get left-handers out? Well, for one thing, Milwaukee pursued Mike Adams and Sean Burnett in free agency but quickly found out the two relievers were above their pay scale. Second, by signing Gonzalez, they have a perennial lefty in the bullpen which is a signifcant advantage, especially late in the game. This was money well spent.
Gonzalez will have uber-amounts of success in Milwaukee and soon we will all forget about the Bullpen Crisis of 2012.