Why Upgrading Our Bullpen Was The #1 Priority

I've seen numerous comments both from baseball analysts and (especially) posters on Brewers forums, like the fine one we have here, that have indicated that an upgrade at Short-Stop was and/or still should be the Brewers #1 priority before the trade deadline and the playoff push.  I find this assertion to have its foundations in an unusually simple-minded basis, especially when contrasted to hard facts and recent evidence to the contrary.  Please compare the statistics for these two players, who I will reveal after the stats:


PLAYER A - .237 BA, .598 OPS, 20 extra base hits, 30 RBI


PLAYER B - .241 BA, .601 OPS, 19 extra base hits, 25 RBI


I think it would be fair to say that those sets of statistics are fairly identical.  Now, if you follow the Crew as closely as I do, I probably don't need to tell you that PLAYER A is good ol' Yuniesky Betancourt.  PLAYER B is the starting Short-Stop for the San Francisco Giants, Miguel Tejada.  Now, the reason why I compare these two players is I want to illustrate that, while I would not be opposed to an upgrade at SS, it is far from the top priority for this team.

Betancourt and Tejada are almost identical in their value (or lack thereof) to their respective teams.  The records for those teams are 49-43 (Brewers) and 52-40 (Giants).  The following is certainly just my opinion, but the Brewers have three position players (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks) who could be considered absolutely more valuable than the Giants most valuable position player this season (Pablo Sandoval).  After that, I would argue that the Brewers have two more position players (Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan) that are more valuable than any of the other position players on the Giants roster.  My point is that even though the Brewers have a far superior group of eight starting position players, the Giants still have a better record.  Thus, it can be argued that the problem most in need of an upgrade lies elsewhere.

While I hate to admit that I would still take the Giants starting rotation over the Brewers, this is an area that has been a strength for both teams, and according to some stats might even go in the Crew's favor.  While the Giants starting 5 has a higher quality start percentage (64% to 58%) and have given up fewer runs per 9 innings (3.8 to 4.5), the Brewers rotation has a much more impressive W-L record, sitting at 37-23, compared to the Giants 32-28.  Not to take anything away from some of the fine starts we've seen this season from the Brewers rotation, but I find this discrepancy another indication of the Brewers far superior offense.  Not very often do you see a SP with a 5.45 ERA and a 7-3 record (looking at you Zack Greinke), or a SP with a 3.87 ERA and a 4-9 record (poor Madison Bumgarner).

So what do (now did, after the K-Rod trade) the Brewers need to upgrade?  What is (was) the #1 priority for this team to get better before a playoff push?  I should only have to cite one statistic: 20 bullpen losses.  The Brewers bullpen alone has lost 20 games for this team already.  The Giants bullpen has only lost 12 games, which is actually very bad for them (they only lost 15 games all of last year).  If you want more statistics, how about the Brewers save percentage (63%) versus the Giants (73%), despite the fact that our official closer's percentage (John Axford, 92%) is superior to the Giants closer's percentage (Brian Wilson, 87%).

While it might seem arbitrary that I chose the Giants as the team to compare the Brewers to, I did it for two reasons.  First, as addressed above, they are an excellent example of a team with an awful offense and a good record, which is due to a pitching staff that features an above average rotation and an above average bullpen.  The other is that their blueprint clearly works, as it led them to last year's World Series title, which might have surprised the same simple minds that think upgrading a more than sufficient lineup is the top priority.

Allow me to officially congratulate Doug Melvin on addressing, well before the trade deadline, the team's #1 concern and priority in putting them in place for this year's title.  And I know we can all agree that it will be a delight to never again see Kameron Loe in the 8th inning.

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