The Brewer bullpen makes me nervous

So, we’re a few weeks into the season now – the Brewers sit even at 12-12, 1 game out of first place in the NL Central. Considering that five players projected to be on the opening day roster have missed time, and the player expected to lead their pitching staff has yet to throw a pitch in the majors this season, that can’t be considered failure.

This guy can't pitch every day...can he?

But before the season started, the Brewers weren’t getting a whole lot of love from a lot of “the experts.” That’s cool, I guess – Wisconsin sports teams (except perhaps the Packers) rarely get any love from national media. It’s to be expected. However, the issue that many of those aforementioned experts brought up when talking about Milwaukee’s shortcomings was the bullpen.  No one considered it a position of strength, and most people predicted it to be below average.  At first, I shrugged these people off.  After all, most of the bullpen’s major contributors last year were either rookies (Braddock, Axford, even Mike McClendon) or failed starters (Kameron Loe, Manny Parra).  This year, LaTroy Hawkins was coming back, we’d picked up Takashi Saito, and all those other guys, minus a below average Trevor Hoffman, would be back.

Unfortunately, at this point in the season, it looks like they might be right. Interestingly enough, there isn’t really one guy to point the finger at. The bullpen, as a whole, has just made me uneasy.  First, it was John Axford – he had a disastrous opening day, and then a few subpar outings after that.  Luckily for all of us in Brewer Nation, Axford has looked like a different pitcher his last four outings, much more like the excellent pitcher from last year than the unsure pitcher from the first week. Additionally, Kameron Loe has been outstanding.

But after Axford and Loe, who have we really been able to count on? Going down the list –

  • Brandon Kintzler has looked great at times, and sketchy at others. He’s a rookie, so I don’t really feel like I can depend on him. Kintzler has given up 5 earned runs in 10.2 innings
  • Sean Green has been extremely iffy. Green had a great spring training, but so far in the regular season has had trouble getting any outs – he has given up 7 earned runs in 9.1 innings.
  • Sergio Mitre has pitched pretty well, but he was the guy on Wednesday – the guy who didn’t make me feel confident that the Brewers could get through the top of the 10th unscathed. And guess what – they didn’t. Mitre has given up 3 earned runs in 9 innings.
  • Zach Braddock’s numbers aren’t too bad, but he has looked sketchy. His fastball velocity is a full 2.5 mph slower than it was last year, and his strikeouts are way down. Braddock has never been particularly good at limiting his walks, but he has always offset that with high K/9 numbers. Not the case this season, as his K/9 is only 6.48 while his BB/9 is 4.32. Braddock has given up 2 earned runs in 8.2 innings.

The other three main bullpen guys I won’t say a whole lot about, because it’s hard to make any judgements. Mitch Stetter is still getting lefties out like mad, but I wouldn’t trust him against any right handed batter in a pressure situation. LaTroy Hawkins has only pitched twice since coming off the DL, and he was bad last year. As a 38 year old, it’s entirely possible that Hawkins is too old to come back from such a significant injury. Takashi Saito is even older at 41 – and more fragile. Saito, the last few years, has been excellent when he has been pitching, but it could be too late for him too.

I’m not really sure what to do about it. Fairly soon, two of these pitchers (perhaps Kintzler and Green?) will probably be back in the minors – one when Nyjer Morgan gets off the DL and one when Manny Parra returns to the majors. Parra was quite good in relief last year, so he might help. Other than that, it looks like Brewer fans kind of just need to hold their breath and hope that LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito return to form (and stay on the field), John Axford stays solid, and Zach Braddock finds his velocity.

Kameron Loe has already pitched in 14 games for Milwaukee, which puts him on pace for roughly 95 appearances. That is clearly not going to happen, so, the Brewers need some middle relievers to step up before we lose more games like the one on Wednesday.

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One Response

  1. Maybe they should trade for liriano and put him in the ‘pen.

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