2010 Brewers Reflection: What Happened?

As the 2010 baseball season winds to an end, it is time to check on how this season has gone and take a look at a few burning questions that are likely to be answered between the end of the season and the beginning of 2011.

It seemed that it was just yesterday that the Brewers ability to contend hinged on an x-factor of whether Rickie Weeks could stay healthy and effective. While Weeks has played very well this year, this has not stopped the Brewers from being non-players in the pennant race and getting lapped by the Astros for 3rd place in the central.

However, like they say, the best laid plans sometimes go to waste and unfortunately the same can be said about this season. While this team is clearly talented, that talent has not translated to success as the Brewers have been hovering between 5 and 12 games below .500 for pretty much the entire season.

Before moving on to the burning questions for the off-season, it is time to hand out some awards (both good and bad) for the season.

Note: All stats through 9/17

MVP (Hitter): Prince Fielder .270/.404/.893 143 OPS+

This one was more of a judgment call than anything else. While several of the Brewers hitters had solid seasons, none of them really stood out above the pack. Corey Hart was in consideration but he did most of his damage within a limited part of the season.

Ryan Braun had a solid season by normal standards but he did go cold for a long stretch and his power numbers were down this year. Prince Fielder had a solid season hitting another 30 homers, drawing lots of walks and playing day in day out despite getting hit by a pitch seemingly every other day. While I know RBIs is a slightly outdated stat and not the best way to measure performance, it’s still a bit concerning that he’s gone from leading the NL in RBI to being 5th on his own team in RBI in 2010. However, in the end I used OPS+ as the tie-breaker and Fielder outperformed his team-mates in this metric.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee, Corey Hart

Photo of Brewers Closer John Axford by Icon SMI

MVP (Pitcher): John Axford 8-1, 2.19 ERA, 21 Saves, 183 ERA+

The competition for this award was sadly a lot weaker than the competition for the above award. In a related story, the Brewers are in 4th place.

While it may not seem logical to give the award to someone who was in Nashville until May, Axford has a strong case.

The first two months of the season were known for many things, one of those being blown saves. While Trevor Hoffman has had a great career (not to mention a solid 2009 season), 2010 was not his year. By May, it was clear the Brewers needed a new closer but no runaway candidate to step-up.

This is where John Axford comes in. In addition to single-handedly bringing the handlebar mustache back into style, it turns out that he’s a pretty good closer as well. While the decision to have Axford close games came too late to salvage the season, he turned out to be one of the few bright spots on a pitching staff that struggled in 2010.

Honorable Mention: Yovani Gallardo, Kameron Loe, Joe Inglett

Photo of CF Carlos Gomez by Icon SMI

LVP (Batter): Carlos Gomez .239/.291/.357

Before discussing this choice, I have to start out by admitting this choice is a bit biased as I wasn’t a big fan of the trade that brought him here (I thought they could have gotten more for Hardy) and  I’ve never been completely sold on him being an everyday player.

Still, I was willing to keep an open mind and at least give him a chance. While he brings some assets to the table (blazing speed and defense) there were simply too many holes on the offensive side of the equation. While I can (somewhat) overlook the low batting average and lack of power, the one thing I could not overlook was how often he swings at pitches that aren’t even close to being strikes (in full disclosure, this is one of my biggest pet peeves). While he’s still very young and could overcome these struggles, the bottom line is his performance in 2010 was not very encouraging.

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Alcides Escobar

LVP (Pitcher): Jeff Suppan 0-2 7.84 era 51 ERA+

Many deserving recipients but why give this to someone who got released months ago and now pitches for St. Louis. This is more of a “lifetime achievement” award for the work Suppan has done since signing with the Brewers prior to the 2007 season.  While there are other worthy candidates for the LVP, I can at least think of something positive to say about their performance (for either this year or during their time with the Brewers).

(Dis) Honorable Mention: Trevor Hoffman, Manny Parra

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