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Opening Day Countdown: 53 Ws in ‘94

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As we continue to countdown to Opening Day, let’s take a look back at the Brewers weakest season in franchise history. Why be so positive, right? As the Brewers record for the 2016 season is projected at 71-91, fans may not have much to look forward to, but it’s important to remember it could be a whole lot worse. But, then again, there was a good reason that in 1994 the Brewers only got to 53 wins.

Their full record in ’94 was 53-62, so right off the bat you know something was wrong. ’94 was one of many years of an MLB strike (1 in 8 work stoppages in 22 years), so you know there were more teams than just the Brewers that can say they had their least amount of wins in that season. Not only was the full season cancelled, but the entire post-season too. So, it was a little more than just bad. But, then again, we weren’t the Expos. So, let’s not complain too much.

Looking at the names on Baseball-Reference’s top ’94 WAR stats, you know it was an odd year, as some of the top 5 names are not all that familiar to Brewers fans:

  1. Ricky Bones – 4.0
  2. Cal Edred – 2.8
  3. Jose Valentin – 2.5
  4. Bob Scanlan – 1.9
  5. Bill Wegman – 1.8

The players most familiar on the list for Brewers fans – Edred, Valentin, and Wegman had interesting notes to add to their WAR numbers.

First, during an Eldred’s 14 seasons in the big leagues, this was his 3rd highest WAR number as he’d outdone himself the past two years with a 4.5 in ’93 and 4.2 in ’92. He’d gotten in a career high of 36 starts and 258 IP in ’93 and hoped to come close to at least a 4.0 WAR as he’d only pitched 25 starts and 179 IP in ’94.

This was only Valentin’s rookie season, so he outdid himself plenty of years to come. But, he finished only 9th in AL Rookie of the Year voting with 1% of the votes. It’s hard to argue against the winner, Bob Hamelin, with a .282 BA, 24 HRs, and 65 RBIs, but hard to believe Valentin only got 1% of the vote with a 2.5 WAR with 11 HRs and 46 RBIs. But, more than likely voters looked down on the basics of his average of .239 and threw him to the side as players like Rusty Greer of the Rangers had 10 HR, 46 RBIs and was voted 3rd for RoY, but had a .314 AVG.

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Bill Wegman was on the downfall as he’d impressed the Brewers in ’91 with a 2.84 ERA (4.4 WAR) and 3.20 ERA (4.7 WAR) in ’92. But, he was on the decline being 5th with a 1.8 WAR as he’d only have one more season left in him as he’d be calling it quits in ’95 at the age of 32.

’94 was Bones’ only All-Star year as 3.43 was by far his lowest ERA as a starter as in ’92 the closest he came was a 4.57 ERA. Fans hoped for a bit more as years went along as they saw Gary Sheffield become very productive and Bones was a part of the deal to send him off to the San Diego Padres after 4 seasons in Milwaukee. Scanlan played for the Brewers for 3 seasons from 1994-1995 and came back in 2000. His WAR was by far his best in ’94 with the Crew, 0.7 above his 1.2 with the Cubs in ’92.

Although, ’94 isn’t most interesting year to remember for the Brewers and fans weren’t the most upset that it had to end early, it’d still be interesting where some stats would line up if it indeed were a full season. At the time Vaughn, Nilsson and Jaha were the familiar names to fans with their power numbers as a losing team was of no surprise and going to a game to a see few bombs was one of the few highlights during the season. But, for pitchers like Bones, it would’ve been fascinating to see how far he could’ve gone for the full ’94 season had there been no strike as only 5 other Brewers pitchers (Bosio, Navarro, Wegmen, Eldred, McDonald) had a 4.0 WAR or above in the ‘90s.

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