Milwaukee Brewers' Bullpen Breakdown

Greg BlohowiakContributor ISeptember 29, 2008

The equation is simple. y=mx+b. Ok, maybe not so simple, but for the Brewers' bullpen, they were wishing it was that easy.

Best-case scenario: Let CC pitch complete games for the rest of the way. Realistically, it's more like starting pitchers go six solid innings, then the 'pen takes over.

Throughout the year, the Brewers' 'pen showed dominance, as well as disparity. With a new chapter ready to be written in Brewers history, how will the bullpen write it? Here is a breakdown of some key players in the 'pen, along with some expectations.

First off, I'll start with Eric Gagne. As much as I hate talking about him, I can't deny the fact that he can throw the damn ball...when he wants to. Gagne's biggest strength going into any game is his command with his fastball.

Before his injuries, he could blow the ball past anyone. The command did not necessarily need to be there, but after his bad luck with his arm, his average fastball needs to be accurate.

If he can come into a game and finish his pitches and get ahead of the batters, he will have no problem getting people out. Gagne's biggest weakness in my mind is in his head.

Of course, he is professional and is just trying to get the job done, but he is also human. If he gets down, he gets down. It's really hard on a pitcher when the home crowd boo's you when you get called in from the 'pen.

He will be effective if he can get in a zone and clear his mind after every pitch. Gagne will usually be brought in for the eighth inning, setting up closer Salomon Torres. I expect a good performance from him. He's a veteran with playoff experience; I mean, he probably won't be around next year, so why not give it your all.

Seth "Chucky" McClung is a 6'6", 250-pound force to be reckoned with. As a starter, a spot starter at best, he boasted a fastball with mid-90s velocity. Impressive, right?

Yeah, for maybe four innings, then his command went down the tubes. He is a dip-and-drive type of pitcher that will be utilized in middle relief, most likely after Yovani Gallardo.

Out of the bullpen, Chucky has shown amazing stuff. The ball jumps out of his hand and blows by opposing batters without issue. He is a smart pitcher that tries to outthink the batter, usually to his advantage. His biggest strength is his competitiveness. He will go up against any batter and challenge him with his best stuff.

With a downhill fastball that moves at rates of 97 MPH, it is hard to catch up to. As far as weaknesses go, he has an underdeveloped breaking pitch. It is unknown if it's a cutter, slider, or curveball. The command he shows with those pitches is subpar at best.

If he can master an undeniable breaking pitch, he can be a very good middle reliever that can ease the nerves of many Brewer fans. I also forgot to mention: He can hit.

"We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine."

Brian Shouse, an 82 MPH submarine hurler with nasty breaking pitches needs to come from the bullpen in those special situations. I don't see Dale Sveum bringing in Shouse to face more than one batter.

He is the guy you bring in to put out Ryan Howard on three straight, nasty. late-breaking sliders. This guy has a hard head and won't back down from competition. It's always a good change of pace to bring him in after a overhand thrower.

He is a very good fielding pitcher, who is, believe it or not, very quick off the mound. As long as he completes his pitches and does not hang them in the zone, he will be the man to turn to with two men on with Chase Utley up to bat.

The beast from the east, or west, or Dominican: Guillermo Mota.

This guy is a hurler, and in the recent game against the Cubs, he was coming in throwing 98 MPH consistently. Watching the games and seeing that he is warming up, as a Brewer fan, I gasp.

I have seen the best and worst of Mota. The worst, obviously, is him coming in and giving up a bomb. The best is when he can come in and place his fastball on the black, which sets up his nasty changeup. When the changeup is working, he is almost untouchable.

With Jason Kendall behind the plate, he is arguably the most valuable player for the Brewers, sorry Braun, and I said arguably. He rarely will make bad pitches, as far as calling them. Mota is the type of guy who will come in to start an inning and depending on how it goes or who is up, he will get the whole inning.

In a special case, where he is brought in to face a particular batter, he will be expected to get an out, obviously. He will have to show Sveum that he can count on him to get that batter out.

Throughout the season, he has been like the stock for oil: down, then up, then down once again. I believe, going into the postseason, that Mota is in his upward swing and will show that he is a true major leaguer from the Dominican.

When the closing bell sounds, who will be the one ringing it?

That man is Salomon Torres, a man who won, or was just handed, the closing job very early in the season. In the beginning of his closing tenure, he showed why he was chosen to close games.

He went 16-for-16 in saves early on, obtaining many of those without allowing a runner past second base. This guy can also throw the ball, too. His command is impressive when he is on. At times, it seems like he isn't ready to pitch; he leaves pitches up in the zone and falls behind batters.

The best-case scenario would be to bring him in if they're up by three, then he really can't mess up that badly, but I've seen it happen. I can't lie, he hasn't been pitching his best down the stretch for the Brewers. Luckily, the offense bailed him out and has won their games in the final at-bat.

Might I add that the Brewers led the league in last at-bat wins.

As far as Torres goes, I think he will be effective if he can paint the corners, like he showed early on and in spots, and keep the batters off balance. Mixing in breaking pitches with his 96 MPH fastball will be hard for any batter to keep track of.

If the game comes down to three final outs with a one-run lead, we expect Torres to come in and mow the batters down. If he can keep his hard-headed attitude and be the closer we know he can be, the Brewers will be seeing more headlines.


Of course, there is no way of telling how a bullpen, let alone a team, will do in the postseason. If the bullpen can perform in clutch situations, the Brewers will have success. But if the bullpen does not come through for the Brewers, it will be a long series, and the only taste of postseason baseball will be three bittersweet games.

Let's see if the Brewers' bullpen can strut their best stuff and show the league that they do indeed have horns—horns capable of leading them to the World Series.


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