Brewers fans know perfectly well Milwaukee’s bullpen is embarrassing, pathetic, and the No. 1 reason why the team will not be contending for a second consecutive National League Central division title. Everybody that cares about or is professionally involved with the team is frustrated and temperatures are certainly rising in the clubhouse.
On Saturday, manager Ron Roenicke unconventionally lost his cool in a room full of reporters who were badgering him about the decision to go with Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford in Friday’s loss to the Houston Astros. Both relievers are prime suspects for the lost season and everyone and their mother questioned Roenicke’s thought process of putting them in the game, especially after Jim Henderson recorded two saves against the division leading Cincinnati Reds.
“Give me some options,” the fiery Roenicke said in response to questions about the bullpen. “You harp on me about this, but you don’t have any options for me.”
The sad part about it is Roenicke has a point. Give him a reliever with the MLB record for most saves in a season and a closer who saved 49 consecutive games and you would think last year’s success would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Rodriguez and Axford have never been anywhere near last season’s form and Roenicke is taking the full blame because everyone else he puts it gives up runs too. There is not a single reliever on the team who can record outs on a consistent basis, so what is a manager supposed to do?
When I said Milwaukee’s bullpen could be the worst ever at the end of the 2012 season I meant it. The Brewers bullpen currently has a minus-6.95 win probability. The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen of 2010, statistically the worst of all time, finished that season with a minus-8.37 win probability. With six weeks to go on the year, the Brewers could potentially eclipse that mark with ease, especially if Rodriguez and Axford are continuously asked to pitch.
At this point, Milwaukee is better off shutting down Axford, Rodriguez, and other relievers to make way for the younger guys to see who can help the team next season. Rodriguez will certainly not be in a Brewers uniform next year, therefore it makes zero sense to put him on the mound. He was the one who decided not to pitch well so now he will have to deal with the possibility of his career being over. It is not Milwaukee’s job to give him an audition on the mound for other teams looking to sign a reliever next season.
The Brewers can still pitch Axford but Roenicke should restrict him to the seventh inning. Other relievers deserve a chance at the closer job whether they are currently on the big league roster or still in the minors. Either way, the bullpen better get their act together otherwise, they may very well be out of a job next year. Also, they can still prevent becoming the worst bullpen of all time so that should be an additional incentive.