Lesser Brewers: Zach Braddock

Hopefully, Braddock will be back to doing this next season.

We've nearly exhausted our list of 2011 Brewers but still have a few remaining, including Zach Braddock.

Braddock came up in 2010 and really helped light a fire under a bullpen that was a nightmare through much of the year. He would end up pitching in 46 games and, along with freshly called up John Axford, gave the Brewers a lot of hope for their bullpen going forward. That year, Braddock had a K/9 just a tick below 11 and a lovely 2.94 ERA to match a 2.90 FIP. He did have a bit of a walk problem, as his control seemed to take a siesta every now and then, but that's almost to be expected with a high strikeout pitcher.

He started off great in 2011, too. Through May 1, he had a 1.93 ERA. An earned run the next day would bring that up to 2.73, but it seemed like he was off to a great start. His fastball was lively and batters looked almost as though they were napping when they faced him. On May 3, though, it was announced that Zach Braddock was placed on the DL to make way for the returning Nyjer Morgan. The reason was a sleep disorder. I think, at the time, many of us believed that it was just an excuse, a fake injury, to move somebody so Morgan would fit on the roster. It did seem strange that the Brewers would do that with one of their best relievers, though. At the very least, it would have been nice if Doug Melvin and co. had slept on the decision.

After a month, Braddock returned to the active roster and picked up right where he left off. He had a 1.93 ERA throughout the month of June. The weird thing, though, was that he only pitched in seven games and 4.2 total innings. He pitched a full inning in only three outings, including one that during a total snoozefest against the Mets on June 7. That may have been his best outing of the year, though, as he struck out the side in the eighth inning of a 2-1 Brewers loss. He was so good, the Mets just seemed to be sleep-walking against him that day.

By the end of June, Braddock had a 2.51 ERA on the season. It seemed almost like a dream to have both him and Axford leading a dominant bullpen for the next few years. Unfortunately, in July Braddock just wasn't his usual lights out self. He gave up earned runs in four of six appearances that month, including multiple runs in three of those contests. He had a 30.00 ERA in July and his season ERA ballooned to 7.27. His season was put to bed on July 14, after giving up four earned runs without securing an out in the seventh inning against the Rockies. The next day, Braddock was optioned.

Braddock wouldn't appear for any Brewers minor league team's the rest of the season, though. On July 22, Tom Haudricourt reported that Braddock was shut down again due to his sleep disorder. His first DL stint hadn't been enough for him to work through his issues, and he would take the rest of the year off to deal with this problem. Since then, there hasn't been a whole lot of information on Braddock.

In all seriousness, I hope that Zach can find a cure for whatever ails him soon. I'm sure many fans feel cheated out of having potentially one of team's best relievers in a very important year for the Brewers. But much more importantly, whatever this issue is, it's having a clearly negative effect on Zach personally. Whether it's debilitating to his physical health, his mental health, or is just an extremely frustrating nuisance, it can't be much fun to go through. For either a fan or a player, one's personal life should certainly come first. Baseball is just a game, and it will still be around as soon as Zach is feeling better. Hopefully, he'll be ready in time for spring training. The team could use a good reliever in 2012 with the potential departures of Francisco Rodriguez, Takashi Saito, and LaTroy Hawkins.

If we're talking about 2011 Zach Braddock, it's important to look past his alarmingly high ERA. For nearly twenty outings, he pitched great. A bad few outings in July, when his sleep disorder seemed to be getting to him, brought his numbers up. He's still an extremely talented pitcher, and will still hopefully continue to pitch well for Milwaukee in the years to come.

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