It was a great ride, Milwaukee. The most regular-season wins in franchise history, the best home team in baseball, an entertaining squad on and off the field...and yet there's an empty feeling after losing to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers' NL Central rivals, in the NLCS.
There's a feeling that somehow we gave this one away, that the better team came away empty, that the Brew Crew shot itself in the foot with uncharacteristically poor play.
And indeed, glaring mistakes abound in the final analysis of how the pennant was lost.
The most obvious problem was the atrocious defense. Rickie Weeks and Jerry Hairston Jr. each committed three errors in the series. The Brewers defense as a whole made a total of nine errors, an average of 1.5 extra outs for St. Louis per game.
Giving the opposition that many second chances (the errors led to a total of five unearned runs) is no way to win a postseason series, and the Cardinals took full advantage of the shaky Milwaukee defense.
Starting pitching was supposed to be a strength for Milwaukee, but it turned out to be a disaster.
After ace Shaun Marcum lost in Game 2, it was already obvious that the starting pitching would have to drastically improve. But ace Yovani Gallardo allowed four runs in just five Game 3 innings, losing to Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. In the end, only Randy Wolf was able to come through for the Crew, giving the Brewers their only quality start in the six-game series.
Will the Brewers return to the playoffs in 2012?
Terrible starting pitching doomed the Brewers to needing a ton of runs on offense. The Brewers bats, while not terrible, weren't able to come through with the quantity of scoring demanded by the lack of pitching effectiveness.
A lack of road hitting also hurt the Brewers. While Milwaukee did manage to eke out one road win, winning 4-2 in Game 4, for the most part they weren't able to do much away from Miller Park. They scored just eight runs in three games on the road compared to 18 tallies in three home contests.
Finally, the Brewers allowed Pujols to beat them up in a major way, something the Brewers knew they needed to stop but couldn't. Pujols went 11-for-23 and slugged .913 with two homers, four walks and nine RBI. If you can't stop—or even slow down—a team's best hitter, odds are you're not going to be very successful.
Will the Brewers have a chance to redeem themselves and return to the playoffs in 2012 and make another deep playoff run?
The team's core is returning, with the major exception of Prince Fielder (more than likely), so there is certainly hope. Only time will tell how the Brewers follow up the winningest season in franchise history. Spring training can't arrive soon enough for Milwaukee!