Sunday, April 26, 2015

Brewers Off to Worst Start in Franchise History

On August 25th, 2014, the Brewers were 1-1/2 games up on the St. Louis Cardinals and approaching their 5th straight month in first place in the NL Central.  Since that day, the Brewers are a league worst 13-37, including a 4-15 start in 2015, which is the worst start in the 45+ year history of the franchise.  The more you dive into their awful start, the more depressing it is.  In nearly every category, in all aspects of the game, the Brewers are near the bottom.  They are 25th out of 30 teams in hitting, 27th in slugging, 27th in team ERA, have allowed the 2nd most homeruns, and are 28th in fielding percentage.  The Brewers have one regular hitting over .300 and one starting pitcher with an ERA under 5.00.  And just to throw gas on the fire, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Scooter Gennett are all on the disabled list.  No matter how you slice it and which way you try to twist the statistics, the Brewers are just an embarrassing team.

When analyzing the team, most Brewer fans and local media personalities are quick to point to how the Brewers did not make any large-scale changes to the team following last year's collapse.  The management's line of thinking seemed to be that hey, we were in first place for 150 days with this team, it doesn't make sense to try to improve it or mess with it in any way.  I can honestly understand both of those viewpoints.  However, I would argue that the Brewers should not have tried to add any pieces, nor remain status quo, but rather take this opportunity for a good old-fashioned rebuild.  I know the term "rebuild" makes most casual baseball fans cringe, especially around Milwaukee where the team was so bad for 10-15 years.  But I think the intelligent well-informed fan knows that most teams, particularly of a market the size of Milwaukee, need to hit the reset button every so often.  Had the Brewers not been so horrible in the late 90s/early 2000s, they never would have been able to draft players like Geoff Jenkins, Bill Hall, JJ Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun in early rounds and go on a couple of playoff runs.  The window of those draft picks has closed and all of them except Braun have moved on, and even he is starting to descend from the peak of his abilities.  Eight-plus seasons of being competitive with a "win-now" attitude in the front office, while certainly exciting for the franchise and the fans, has completely depleted the farm system and made the team's outlook beyond 2015 extremely murky.  Another way to put this - the only "big prospects" to make an impact at the major league level that were developed in the Brewers farm system since Ryan Braun's debut 8 years ago have been Jonathan Lucroy, and potentially Jimmy Nelson.  There are certainly times where trading major prospects for an impact player makes sense, and there are certainly times when signing a big free agent makes sense.  If you have a young core of guys and need to fill in a few holes, or need an extra arm or bat for a playoff push, for instance.  The Brewers did both of these things in 2008 and 2011 with much success.  But they are at the point now where they are being forced to sign a bunch of old free agents to inflated contracts and call up low to mid-ceiling prospects to be regular players, not only to be competitive but realistically just to fill the 25-man roster.  In a lot of cases like third base and starting pitcher, they literally have no other options.  While Aramis Ramirez and Kyle Lohse have been mostly serviceable, the Brewers should never have been in the position where they even needed to sign those players, particularly for three years.

I don't want to make it sound like I am making a snap judgment on this team based on their start - that should only serve to further validate my opinion.  On the contrary, I have been wanting the Brewers to rebuild since after the 2012 season.  After Greinke, Marcum, and Fielder left that offseason, it made no sense to keep the facade going.  Instead of doing what they would have done in 2004 and trade away their high-value players like Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks for top prospects, they went out and signed Ramirez and Norichika Aoki, re-signed Gomez and K-Rod, and decided to make another run at it.  That decision has now left this team at a crossroads, and how the team proceeds from here might determine its future for the next decade.  There is a lot of money coming off the books next year, Carlos Gomez is coming off two all-star seasons and still improving, and Ryan Braun is still only 31.  Jonathan Lucroy is becoming one of the league's elite catchers and still makes practically no money by today's standards.  Jean Segura looks to be back to his all-star form.  The Brewers front office could look at these positives, and use all that money to go buy more players, and that certainly might work in the short term.  But there are only so many short-term bandages this team can affix.  The more logical way to sustain success would be to trade Gomez, Segura, Braun, pretty much anybody with any value whatsoever.  Even some of their expiring contracts should be on the table at the trade deadline if they can get anything more than a can of pine tar for them.  Using the undoubtedly blue-chip prospects they get in exchange, coupled with some of the promising talent in the low levels right now like Kodi Medieros, Tyrone Taylor, Orlando Arcia, and Clint Coulter, could put the Brewers in position to be competitive in 2-3 years for another long window, just as they were from 2007 all the way through last year.  If the front office is not willing to have the foresight to sustain a couple years of short term pain for long term gain, I seriously will have lost faith in them.  I will always be a diehard Brewers fan, but it shouldn't take an armchair manager with a blog to see something more clearly than somebody who gets paid to do this for a living.

Brewers 4-15 (3 @ Reds, 3 @ Cubs)
Reds 8-10 (3 v. Brewers, 4 @ Braves)
Twins 8-10 (3 v. Tigers, 4 v. White Sox)

Erik - 2 (+1 worked)

Peter - 6

No comments: