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Other Valuable Brewers: LaTroy Hawkins

When looking for a challenge, LaTroy Hawkins pitches with his feet.
When looking for a challenge, LaTroy Hawkins pitches with his feet.

When it was first announced that the Brewers signed LaTroy Hawkins two years ago, reactions ranged from apathetic to upset. People weren't upset because Hawkins was a bad pitcher, but because he didn't seem that great for the money (two years, $7.5 million) he was signed to. It didn't help that Hawkins was then injured for much of 2010 and only pitched in 18 games. It doubly didn't help that, in those 18 games, he had an 8.44 ERA. And it triply didn't help that he was injured at the beginning of 2011, as well.

But Hawkins returned and had a hell of a season, with arguably his best performance since 2003, when he was a member of the Twins. His strikeouts were down from his prime, but Hawkins kept to form as far as not walking many batters. And that home run rate! That sexy, sexy home run rate! Hawkins allowed just 0.19 HR per nine innings en route to a 2.76 FIP and an even better 2.42 ERA. Once he returned from injury, Hawkins pitched in a total of 52 games for the Brewers and was a huge part of the outstanding front of the bullpen that contained Hawkins, John Axford, Takashi Saito and, later, Francisco Rodriguez.

In fact, of National League relievers with at least 40 innings pitched, Hawkins was 15th in FIP--just behind Rodriguez, and several spots behind Axford. Hawkins was also 18th in ERA and had the fifth best GB%.

By WPA, Hawkins' best game came on July 17 against the Rockies in a game Hawkins narrowly missed out on being the MVP of. After Shaun Marcum allowed a home run to Jason Giambi, he walked Troy Tulowitski with the Brewers leading 4-2. Marcum was pulled in favor of Hawkins and Hawkins promptly forced Seth Smith to ground out. Hawkins was actually the one to field the ball and made a great heads up play to get the lead out at second base. Hawkins then forced a flyout before allowing a single Eliezer Alfonso that put runners on the corners. It would be no matter, though, as Hawkins forced another ground ball (this one by Jonathan Herrera) that Rickie Weeks snagged and tossed to first to secure the final out of the inning.

Hawkins may have cost a pretty penny for a relief pitcher, but with the results he put up and his ability to solidify a bullpen it turned out to be a pretty good deal. At least, it did when he actually played. Hawkins contract has run out, though, and he is now officially a free agent. He made $4 million in 2011 and the Brewers don't have a whole lot of payroll to play around with. The odds don't appear to be in favor of Hawkins returning to the Brewers in 2012, but at least he will have left us with fond memories in 2011.

Fond Memories like this, in the playoffs: