Each season from the early days of the relocated Seattle Pilots through to the modern Miller Park era, we apply McLeam's Formula to the roster and cook up the player who represents the Brewers as the Face of the Franchise that year.
1988 Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finished 8th in winning percentage in 1988, and the 8th ranked player in WAR was pitcher Paul Mirabella.
Paul Mirabella was a middle reliever for the majority of his career. Aside from one season as a starter with the Blue Jays, from 1978 to 1990 Mirabella provided pretty mediocre middle relief for the Rangers, Yankees, Jays, Orioles, Mariners, and Brewers.
"When I first broke in, I threw pretty hard. But when I became a reliever, I changed my ways a little bit, becoming more of a sinkerball pitcher. I enjoyed relieving because you knew you had a chance to pitch almost every night."
Often players who have only average ability and struggle in different roles and venues have one season where things go right, the ball bounces in the right direction, and they manage to put everything together. For Mirabella that season was 1988, his second year with the Brewers.
The '88 team actually had a pretty good pitching staff, it was the lineup that let the team down. 35-year old Jim Gantner was in the middle of his no-HR streak, Joey Meyer and Jeffrey Leonard were replacement-level players, and although Yount and Molitor were both hitting above .300, they couldn't carry the team by themselves.
On the flip side, the Brewer rotation was anchored by Teddy Higuera in his prime, followed by Bill Wegman, Chris Bosio, Don August, and Juan Nieves. The bullpen star was Dan Plesac, and his setup guys were the terrific tandem of Chuck Crim (right) and Mirabella (left).
He got 4 saves that season, but Mirabella got those mostly by accident. He was middle relief by design, and without being forced to be the only option and not overworked, he flourished. His 1.65 ERA was the second best as a Brewer who pitched at least 60 innings, second only to Rollie Fingers' 1.04 in his 1981 MVP/Cy Young season. Mirabella was especially effective as the season went on, and allowed only one earned run after August 9.
The Brewers finished 1 game behind the Tigers and two games back of the Red Sox, and it would be the closest the Brewers would get to the playoffs for the next 20 years. It was pretty much the last hurrah for Mirabella too. He was back with the Brewers in 1989 but threw only 15 bad innings. After the season he was old enough to pitch in the Senior League, and pitched well enough that he came back for one last season with the Brewers after that.
1988 FotF: This was a strange team. In '87 they were dangerous and ambitious, but in '88 they were just tedious. The offense wasn't very good, the fielding wasn't good, but the pitching was way above average. You can't have it all, I guess, but what they had this season was just enough to remain competitive, and Paul Mirabella couldn't ask for anything more than that. It was a season good enough to escape criticism, and a strong late-season rally meant that they were bad enough to stay out of contention most of the season. Like Mirabella, there's not even any good quotes or trivia to go with it, and the season slipped off quietly into memory.