Sunday, February 13, 2005

2005 Brewers Preview, Part II

2004 Season Review

The Milwaukee Brewers suffered through another tough season in 2004, posting a record of 67 wins against 94 losses, good for last place in the National League Central Division. This marked the twelfth consecutive losing season in Milwaukee.

There were several bright spots for the Crew in 2004. They posted a winning record through the first half of the season and generated a buzz in Milwaukee that hadn’t been seen since in years. At one point in early July, the Brewers had recorded 44 victories and were six games above .500, third place in the division, within striking distance of the wild card, and only seven games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ben Sheets had one of the best years of any starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. He was flat out dominant, perhaps recording the most impressive season by a Brewer pitcher in club history. Sheets finished fourth overall in the majors with a 2.70 ERA. Had he received any run support from his teammates, his 12 – 14 record would have been much more impressive and would have garnered him more recognition in the Cy Young award voting at season’s end. Ben Sheets set a club strikeout record of 264 K’s in 237 innings pitched, good for a 10.03 K/9 ratio. His WHIP was also phenomenal – 0.98.

Doug Davis also opened many eyes with a steady performance as the #2 starter behind Ben Sheets. Davis was a waiver wire claim by Doug Melvin late in 2003 from the Toronto Blue Jays. Melvin has had previous experience with Davis from their days together in the Texas Rangers organization. Insiders were skeptical to see if Davis could perform at the high level he displayed with the Brewers at the end of the 2003 season. He matched that performance, and then some. Davis finished the season tied with Sheets at 12 wins, was second on the team with 207 innings pitched, and had a 7.21 K/9 ratio. It should also be noted that the duo of Sheets and Davis finished first in the majors among teammates with quality starts.

Relief pitcher Dan Kolb also finished his first full season as the club’s closer. All he did was set a new club record for saves, notching 39, good for eighth in the National League. Kolb displayed outstanding control – allowing only 15 walks over 571/3 innings. Taking the advice of pitching coach Mike Maddux, Kolb did not fully exert himself during each appearance. Instead of throwing high 90’s heat, he relied on a low 90’s sinker that displayed much more movement and did not tax his fragile arm as much. This forced him to pitch to contact instead of trying to overpower everyone, which resulted in a meager 3.30 K/9 ratio. To demonstrate how dominant Kolb was at times with this new approach, he allowed only one extra base hit prior to the All Star break.

Another pleasant surprise was the play of first baseman Lyle Overbay. After coming over in the much debated Richie Sexson trade during the prior off-season, Overbay was handed the first base job immediately. He did not disappoint. In his first full major league season, he posted a batting average of .301, on-base percentage of .385, slugging percentage of .478, and an OPS of .863, good for 44th in the majors. He collected 174 hits, added a triple, and put up 16 home runs over the span of 579 at bats in 159 games. Overbay also showed a knack for discipline at the plate, drawing 81 walks. Oh, and it should also be mentioned that he led the entire major leagues in doubles with 53, no small accomplishment for a player in his first full year of big league ball!

Brady Clark also managed to turn some heads and gain the respect of Ned Yost as being a gritty, scrappy ballplayer. Clark finally was given the opportunity to play everyday as the Brewers’ starting right fielder for the majority of the year for the first time in his career rather than being a bench player or Triple-A castoff. Although not showing much power offensively, Clark managed to post a robust .385 on-base percentage.

Those were the main pleasant surprises for the 2004 Milwaukee Brewers. Everything began to unravel after the All Star Break. The Brewers posted the worst second-half record in MLB history for a team with a winning record at the Break. To say the wheels completely fell off would be quite the understatement. After the All-Star break, the Brewers were a wretched 22-53, winning only six games in 27 attempts in August. The club struggled home with 94 losses, matching 2003’s loss figure, for a .416 winning percentage.

The main cause for the downward spiral was the anemic offense. The team finished dead last in team batting average at .248. The offense also ranked 28th out of 30 teams in OPS, which stands for on-base plus slugging percentage, the benchmark statistic for measuring a player as well as a team’s offensive value. The team finished with a pathetic mark of .708, only five points from finishing dead last behind the Montreal Expos.

Other key stats that point to the lack of offense show that the Brewers finished ties for last in MLB with a paltry 135 home runs and next to last in runs scored with 634, finishing ahead of only Arizona. But the most glaring statistic was the Brewers batting average of .221 with runners in scoring position. To illustrate just how poor the team was in this category, the next closest team, the Expos, finished 18 points ahead of the Brewers. The club’s mark of .221 also represented the worst mark for any club over the previous three seasons.

Centerfielder Scott Podsednik also had a disappointing second year for the Crew. He batted only .244, down from his .314 mark as a rookie the previous year. He posted just 85 runs and 156 base hits, which are poor numbers for a leadoff man, especially considering he had 640 AB’s in 154 games. Podsednik also struck out way too often, 105 punch outs, which shows a lack of contact and concentration at the plate for a leadoff man. Not every statistic was considered to be a down year for Scott – he did set a club record by stealing 70 bases.

Another key player the Brewers were counting on to have a huge year in 2004 was Geoff Jenkins. Unfortunately, he didn’t live up to his potential or monstrous contract. Milwaukee expected him to provide a much needed source of power in the middle of the lineup. He did lead the team in runs with 88, 27 homeruns, and 93 runs batted in. Without digging deeper, those would look like a fine year for most players. But the 27 homers represented one less than his 2003 year total, and it took him an extra 130 at bats to accomplish it in 2004. His on-base percentage was a measly .325, not the number one looks for in a clean up hitter. This can be attributed to a lack of patience – only 46 walks in 617 at bats, resulting in a walk every 13.4 at bats. Jenkins also led the team with 152 strike outs. Also, just like Podsednik, his batting average also slumped severely, falling from .296 in 2003 to .264 in 2004.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home