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Brewers’ Great Start Fizzles Into ‘There’s Always Next Year’

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Sep 28, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Logan Schafer (1) tosses his cap to fans after the final game of the season against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. The Cubs beat the Brewers 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I walked into my office on Friday, May 2 and turned on my computer. After logging in, I pointed my browser to MLB.com to check on the latest National League standings.

After scoping out the Milwaukee Brewers record, I wrote ’20-9′ on my whiteboard with a red dry erase marker.

My friend Dean walked in and asked me what the number was. I told him it was the current record of the Brewers.

He asked why was it written in red. I explained that was because they had lost the previous night (8-3 to the lowly Cubs). I told him, ‘Green for a win, red for a loss.’

And so it went, that between 6:30-6:45 every morning, I could count on a half-dozen of my co-workers to peek their heads in the door to check out the previous night’s results. Early in the season, there were more smiles and ‘Go Brewers’ than there were frowns and head shakes.

Late in the season, that would change dramatically.

Here are the month-by-month records:

[table id=1 /]

Prior to the season, the media ‘experts’ were projecting Milwaukee to win anywhere from 82-85 games and finish third or fourth in the National League Central. After the 20-8 start, my group of ‘experts’ were projecting a ‘for sure’ playoff appearance and a possible World Series slot.

Hmmm.

As the table above shows, the Brewers just could not string together good months and allowed St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and to a lesser extent, Cincinnati, to ‘hang around’ near the top of the standings as the league took its All-Star hiatus.

The Brewers held a precarious one game lead going into the break, thanks to a 2-10 July to that point.

Early in the season, everyone was playing well and with a nine-game winning streak in early to mid-April, the Brewers looked like world beaters.

The team averaged 4.0 runs/game in March/April, but the pitching was so stellar (3.3 runs allowed/game) that it seemed impossible for the Brewers to lose. The .714 winning percentage projected out to 115 wins over a full season, so yeah, they did seem invincible the first four weeks of the season.

Then reality hit.

In May the runs scored vs. runs allowed were the same (4.3), so the 13-15 record made sense.

The Milwaukee bats caught fire in June, as the team averaged 5.4 RPG, while the pitching staff allowed 4.5 RPG. That allowed the team to win 18 of 28 games in the month.

The Brewers hit their first cold streak in July.

On July 11, Jean Segura learned that his nine-month-old son had died, causing him to miss a handful of games. The team suffered along with their young shortstop, as they dropped to 9-16, scoring fewer runs than they allowed (3.5 vs. 3.9).

Milwaukee bounced back in the first 19 days of August, winning 11 of 17 games and holding a 2 1/2 game lead over St. Louis.

Then the wheels fell off.

On Wednesday, August 20th, the Brewers held a 3-2 lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the top of the sixth, only to see the pitching staff implode and give up five runs in that frame and end up on the short end of a 9-5 score.

The season went downhill after that.

The team finished the month of August (after the Blue Jays loss) with a mark of 2-8.

The final month of the season didn’t start any better, as Milwaukee Scouting Director Bruce Seid passed away due to an apparent  heart attack on Tuesday, September 2. The whole team was saddened by the loss, but none more than players that he had drafted–Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson, and Jason Rogers.

“I lost one of my biggest fans,” said Davis, who was in Seid’s first draft class as scouting director in 2009. “He was my biggest promoter. Coming out of college, he was on my bandwagon.

“Every time I saw him, he’d always have something positive to say about me. I need more of that. He actually knew my family and my dad, had relationships with them. It’s a tough loss.”

Milwaukee lost eight of nine to start the final month, dropping from second (one game behind) to third place, six games out of first.

The next week offered some hope, as the Brewers won five of six to cut two games off the lead, but then promptly dropped a trio of games and the season was, for all intents and purposes, over.

The Crew ended the season with a final month record of 9-17, finishing eight games behind first place St. Louis.

I write this on the final day of the regular season, disappointed that the great start by Milwaukee did not translate into a playoff appearance. As I watched Craig Coshun, Davey Nelson, and Jerry Augustine sign off and say ‘See you in April,’ I realized that the season IS over.

So what happened?

In all honesty, I think the fast start was an aberration. It seemed like Milwaukee could do no wrong—on offense, defense, and pitching.

Yes, the Brewers had a good team, but was it really a 90-win team? I thought they would win between 85-87 games and be on the border line of making a wildcard spot.

They had a golden opportunity to run away from the rest of the Central when the Cards lost Yadier Molina for seven weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb, but the Cardinals hung tough, staying within two games.

Pittsburgh lost Andrew McCutchen for two weeks and the Brewers were able to extend their lead over the Pirates by five games, but McCutchen’s return coincided with the Brewers swoon and allowed Pittsburgh to run past the Brewers and eventually turn that into a wildcard spot.

The Brewers relief pitchers saw tons of action in the first few weeks and likely were worn down and struggled in the last half of the season.

As a group, relievers pitched in 89 games in the first month and had a WHIP of 1.04. They would not perform that well again until the final month, but by then the Brewers were on life support and it was too late.

The hitters, as a group, performed well in the first half but had a terrible September, with a season-low OPS of .641.

Manager Ron Roenicke made some bad decisions, mostly with his pitching staff. He seemed to leave starters in too long, usually resulting in additional hit and runs. The relievers would get roughed up as well and often Roenicke seemed like the antithesis of Sparky Anderson’s ‘Captain Hook.’

Like I always tell my daughter, you win as a team and you lose as a team. The Brewers certainly did that this season.

Owner Mark Attanasio held a 20-minute press conference on Saturday and displayed an uncharacteristic burst of anger in discussing his team’s play during the second half of the season. He intimated that changes will be made.

I say good for him.

The Milwaukee Brewers did a lot of good things this year, but making the playoffs wasn’t one of them.

That needs to change.

But hey, there’s always ‘next year.’

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