2014 Best Case Scenario: The Relievers


Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brandon Kintzler at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The off-season is the best time to be a Brewer fan. Oh, the optimism! Best Case Scenario is an opportunity to dream in “what ifs” and see what happens when the Brew Crew catches all the breaks. This Brewer cocktail is made up of two parts dreaming big and one part reality. Feel free to shake your head and pour over ice.

We have finally reached the relievers. This has been the most volatile area the past years. In 2011, the John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez combo was a big part of their success. In 2012, not so much with John Axford; a year of meltdowns, blown saves, and then once again finding his rhythm. What would 2013 bring? John Axford is no longer on the team, enough said. If anyone is going to create a documentary on this I suggest “Anti-Stress Relief: The John Axford Files.”

Jim Henderson (Closer) 2013 WAR 1.4, Projected 2014 WAR 2.0

I believe Henderson begins and deserves to start 2014 as the closer. In 2013 he stepped in for Axford, converting 88 percent on save opportunities and held opposing hitters to a .200 average. I don’t expect Henderson to be lights out all the time, but believe he can be effective. Of course, given the history of recent fireman for the Brewers, I do expect a short leash. Should Henderson become erratic the Crew may go bargain shopping or take a close look inside at other possibilities.

Brandon Kintzler (Setup Man) 2013 WAR 1.2, Projected 2014 WAR 2.0

Kintzler was Mr. Consistent for the Brewers in 2013 (as consistent as it gets for baseball in Milwaukee anyway), appearing in 71 games with an ERA of 2.69. As the setup man, Kintzler needs to focus on the eighth inning and continuing to keep the pressure on Henderson, letting him know (through effectiveness) he is ready for a shot at closing.

Tom Gorzelanny (Token Lefty) 2013 WAR .4, Projected 2014 WAR 1.0

It’s hard to be a lefty in the Brewer organization because a lot is expected of you. If 2013 established anything for Gorzelanny and the Brewers it was that the bullpen is where he best fits this team. For most, ten starts was enough of a sample to tag him as a middle-reliever or situational lefty.

Alfredo Figaro, Donovan Hand, Rob Wooten (Born to Relieve)

Similar to Gorzelanny, both Figaro and Hand were given opportunities to start in 2013. How did this work out? Expect these three to begin 2014 in the pen.

Mike Fiers, Johnny Hellweg, Hiram Burgos (Something to Prove)

Measuring prospects is always a moving target and these three all fall into the “youth with something to prove” category. For Hellweg and Burgos the bullpen should be a good opportunity to display their talent while Fiers will try to locate his magic hat from 2012.

Last season started with inconsistency, but finally stabilized. Henderson and Kintzler were a big part of this and have earned the opportunity to start 2014. How confident am I they will succeed? I would guess a mid-season turnover is right around 50/50.

With a positive WAR of 5.0 from the bullpen, my best case scenario has the Brewers at 92-70, good for a Wild Card, most years. We’ve covered the outfield, middle infield, corners, starting pitching, and relievers. Taking into account dreaming big (and keeping some reality in check) what do you think?

Anyone agree? Disagree? What is your best case scenario?