The Milwaukee Brewers' season ended on Wednesday with a common theme seen throughout the season—the bullpen blowing a sizable lead.
Milwaukee's failure to reach the playoffs cannot be placed solely on the bullpen, although they definitely deserve the blame. At times, Brewers' bats seemed invisible and the starting pitchers threw batting practice to the opposing team. For much of the season, it wasn't pretty.
As soon as Zack Greinke was traded, the Crew turned it around. Post All-Star Break, the Brewers were nine games above .500. They were 1.5 games out of the second wild-card spot with a week to go, but their efforts fell short.
This season didn't live up to expectations and was overall a disappointment. But let's not be negative Nancys. Let's see the brightness in a dark season.
Here are three positive takeaways from Milwaukee's 2012 season.
Milwaukee's core of young pitching really showed its worth this season.
Mike Fiers was absolutely lights-out before ending 2012 poorly. The rookie should absolutely be in the starting rotation next season.
Wily Peralta proved why he was once the Brewers' top prospect. He even had Ryan Braun wondering why he isn't the top prospect in all of baseball (via Brewers.com). Peralta should be a dominant No. 2 starter behind Yovani Gallardo in 2013.
Mark Rogers stayed healthy this season. That is a feat on its own. Besides his good health, Rogers posted a 3.92 ERA with a 3-1 record in seven starts for the Brewers. If he can continue to avoid injury, he can be a solid starter.
Jim Henderson swooped in and saved the bullpen from their troubles. After watching multiple 1-2-3 innings by Henderson, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford found their stuff again. With K-Rod most likely gone, Henderson will be the new setup man.
Although he didn't pitch much for the Brewers this year, Tyler Thornburg showed promise, along with Brandon Kintzler and Josh Stinson.
Milwaukee's pitching staff will be filled with young arms in 2013. From what they showed this season, they'll be difficult to figure out.
Norichika Aoki should win the National League Rookie of the Year Award hands down. But he won't. He won't even finish in the top three, which is a travesty.
The Brewers signed the former Japanese star to be a role player with the occasional start. He turned out to be a diamond in the rough.
Aoki hit .288, belted a surprising 10 home runs and drove in 50 RBI. He also racked up 30 stolen bases. Not bad for a rookie campaign.
Milwaukee may have found its future right fielder. With Corey Hart's move to first looking to be permanent, Aoki will continue manning right field.
In a season full of disappointment and despair, Aoki gave Brewers fans a boatload to cheer about.
Ryan Braun has had yet another MVP caliber year. If Milwaukee would have made the playoffs, Braun would be named the best player in the National league for the second consecutive year.
Braun led the league in home runs (41), finished second in RBI (112) and third in batting average (.319). He also swiped 30 bases. Putting up numbers like these after the departure of Prince Fielder and his tumultuous and annoying offseason is just nonhuman.
The former MVP is the best hitter in the National League and proved it again in 2012, while silencing his doubters. Some people will always view him as a cheater, but nobody can deny the fact that his skill with the bat is uncanny.
Ryan Braun was, by far, the brightest spot this season.