Eighty days. That's all that separates us from official regular season baseball. Think about it! That's one simple trip around the world using 19th century vehicular modes of travel everyone! With that in mind I'm continuing my look back at past Brewers seasons. Obviously the 1980's Brewers are up this time.
The 1980 season was right in the middle of a pretty strong stretch for the Brewers. It's kind of odd going in reverse order because I can't really talk too much about the prior seasons, as that's part of upcoming articles. But the Brewers in 1978 and 1979. Then as we established in my last two articles, the Brewers in fact made the postseason in '81 and '82. As you know by now, that wasn't to be in 1980.
They still had a decent season though. They finished with an 86-76 record which slotted them in third place behind the Orioles and Yankees. Those were the other two top teams from 1981 as well. The Orioles were second in 1982. And in fact, if you'll remember from my 1982 Brewers article, the two teams were tied going into the final game of the season. And on top of that, they were playing each other.
So there must have been an element of a heated rivalry during this time span. I've noticed some of the BCB commenters were around during these years. Maybe they can confirm that? I was yet to be born so I have no idea what it was like to be a fan of these teams at the time.
The Yankees and Orioles each won 100 or more games that year. That's more than any other team. The Royals took first in the AL West with 97 wins. The NL West champs were the Astros with 92 wins. And it only took 91 wins for the Phillies to lock up the NL East. Clearly, much like today, the Brewers were in the best and toughest division in baseball.
The 1980 Brewers had a pretty talented team. Three of their position players were worth over 6 fWAR that year! Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper were each tied for the top of the group with 6.6 fWAR. Robin Yount wasn't far behind with a 6.1 fWAR.
To give that some kind of context, the 2011 Brewers had one player with a 6+ fWAR and that was Ryan Braun with his 7.1 fWAR season. Prince Fielder was second with 4.7 fWAR. And Corey Hart was third with 3.8 fWAR. Just to twist the knife a little bit, the 2015 Brewers didn't have anyone with a fWAR above 2.8.
The 1980's Brewers had depth too. They had two players with WAR in the mid-3's and two with an average WAR around 2. So that's 3 superstar caliber players, 2 borderline All-Star caliber players, and two more solid average players. That's really good.
The pitching staff wasn't quite as stacked. Moose Haas and Larry Sorensen were the only average or better starting pitchers. Bill Castro appeared to be quite a relief ace. Despite any loud peripherals he was able to log a sub-3 ERA and FIP in 84 innings. Actually looking at all the peripherals it's easy to see how different the game was back then. Haas' 5.21 K/9 and 14.3 K% was best on the team. And it worked too. He had a 4.0 fWAR season which is an All-Star caliber performance.
I have to wonder how differently things would have gone for the Brewers had they been in a different division. They had a really good team. They just happened to play in the division with the best two teams in all of baseball. The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?