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A visit from the ghost of Brewers slumps past

 

Since last Saturday, the Brewers have crossed the plate just 12 times. That's 12 runs in nine games - a legendarily bad total. In fact, the Brewers have just finished the single worst nine-game offensive stretch in the history of franchise: Since 1970, no Brewers team has scored as few as 12 runs over any nine-game period.

But this obviously isn't the first time the Brewers have gone into hiding offensively; this franchise has a long, storied history of ineptitude. I found a few of the worst Brewers hitting stretches of varying length and thought I'd provide you with a little flashback.* If there's a moral of the story, it's that things have been a lot worse than they are now. This year's team is so much better offensively than many of the others on this list, it's ridiculous. Putting together this post was kind of therapeutic for me in that way - I hope it's the same for you to read.

*I found this by going back through Baseball Reference manually, so there very likely are some stretches I missed. If someone has B-Ref ninja skills, feel free to correct me.

Worst four-game stretch: 2 runs, Aug. 4-8 and Aug. 12-16, 1998. Record: 0-4

This Brewers team actually accomplished this feat twice in the span of two weeks. The team was miraculously two games above .500 when the first slump began, and by the time the second was over, they were 7 games under and well on their way to a fifth-place finish in the NL Central.

Opposing "aces": A few legit studs - Randy Johnson during his insane run with the Astros, Kevin Brown in his prime, and a 23-year-old Matt Morris. But also Sterling Hitchcock and Kent Mercker, who combined to give up 1 run in 16 innings.

Egregious lineup inclusion: 34-year-old Darrin Jackson actually batted cleanup in one game. He finished 1998 with a Yuni-esque slash line of .240/.276/.373.

 

Worst five-game stretch: 5 runs, at least four different times. Most recently: Sept. 4-10, 1991. Record: 1-4.

Like this year's slump, this stretch came with an actually good lineup (Molitor and Yount, plus a young Greg Vaughn and randomly rejuvenated Willie Randolph). Unlike this year, it came at the end of the season and started when the Brewers were 9 games out.

Opposing "aces": Three of these games were against the Angels, who came at the Brewers with the solid combo of Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott. Their other Brewer-killer, though, was the estimable Joe Grahe, who held the Crew to 1 run over 9 innings to bring his ERA to 5.07.

Egregious lineup inclusion: Franklin Stubbs played first base for three of the five games, on his way to a .229/.297/.368 line for the season. The other real dead weight in the lineup was a pre-Coors (and possibly pre-enhanced) Dante Bichette.

Worst six-game stretch: 6 runs, Aug. 23-28, 1974. Record: 2-4.

The Brewers had some solid pitching during this slump, which allowed them to pick up two wins and only to lose a half a game in the standings. But offensively, this team was bad all the way around.

Opposing aces: No scare quotes on this one, cause, um, holy crap. Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers combined for a two-run outing against the Brewers, and the next day, some dude named Catfish Hunter shut them down, too. Fingers pitched five scoreless innings against his future team over the streak.

Egregious lineup inclusion: So tough to decide. Ken Berry, with his .295 OBP on the year, leading off? Or Deron Johnson and his epic .151/.253/.289 line for the Brewers playing DH?

Worst seven-game stretch: 8 runs, twice. Most recently: Sept. 9-16, 1983. Record, 0-7.
Worst eight-game stretch: 10 runs, Sept. 9-16, 1983. Record: 1-7.

Part of possibly the most devastating collapse in Brewers history. This team led the division as late as Aug. 25, then dropped 18 of 24 to fall to 14 games back within just three and half weeks. This stretch in particular took them from five games down to 11 down in just a week.

Opposing "aces": Jack Morris and Ron Guidry, along with a rookie Mike Boddicker in beast mode. But one run against Bob Shirley, with his sparkling 76 ERA+ that year? (Though a slightly better pitcher, Goose Gossage, actually got the win in that game.)

Egregious lineup inclusion: Not a lot of holes in this lineup, actually. Yount, Molitor, Cooper, Simmons, Oglivie. And Rick Manning. Oh goodness, Rick Manning. 68 OPS+ Rick Manning. .279 OBP Rick Manning. -0.5 career Brewers WAR Rick Manning.

Worst 11-game stretch: 15 runs, Aug. 4-16, 1998. Record: 1-10. (This streak also included what I believe was the previous worst nine-game stretch in Brewers' history, with 13 runs).

See four-game stretch above. The Brewers got shut out five times in the span of nine games. And in one of those shutouts, they allowed 17 runs. These guys were bad.

Special honors for suckitude: The 1976 Brewers, for scoring 58 runs in 26 games.

On Sept. 7, 1976, the Brewers pounded the Indians 17-4, with 20 hits and 12-26 hitting with RISP. The next time they scored more than four runs in a game was Sept. 28, when they lost to the Orioles 7-5. Their record between the Indians drubbing and the end of the season: 4-22.


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