10 Best Pitching Seasons in Milwaukee Brewers’ History Many Forget
10 Incredible Milwaukee Brewers' Pitching Seasons
Let's clear this up first: Bob Uecker has never actually pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, but that picture of him throwing batting practice was too sweet to pass up.
As for the list, there are a myriad of factors that cause amazing seasons to be overlooked or pushed to the backs of our minds. For some, it's simply a matter of so much time passing by that the images are lost. Some may be too young to have ever learned about certain eras in Milwaukee's history.
For others, it's the unfortunate reality that some guys pitched their best when the team was average or completely awful. Finally, it may be that a pitcher had multiple fantastic seasons, but that "best" one always stands out.
Regardless, there had to be some guidelines to count these seasons as being misremembered or overlooked, though the hardcore Brewers fans might actually recall a few.
First, it had to have happened at least three years ago since most of us can rack our brains that far back with ease. Secondly, these seasons couldn't have occurred when the team made the playoffs. It's fairly simple to remember the phenomenal stats from a postseason run, and the Brewers have only four such years.
Unfortunately for John Axford, he's probably the one exception to the rule of remembering greatness in a playoff season. Fans quickly forgot his incredible 2011 campaign when he converted 43 straight save opportunities thanks to a 1.95 ERA (243 ERA+). He finished the year with a team-record 46 saves.
Other than those guidelines, it's a mix of starters and relievers from each of the Brewers' first four decades. Some dominated for full seasons, others were lights out for half and a few simply posted mind-boggling numbers.
How many do you actually remember?
10. Ken Sanders (1971)
Ken Sanders was ridiculous, tossing 136.1 innings in 83 relief appearances. He saved 31 contests and had a microscopic 1.91 ERA. His record was just 7-12, but he had a 1.064 WHIP and a 180 ERA+. On the road, opponents hit just .203 while his ERA dropped to 1.28, helping Sanders even earn some MVP votes.
9. Bill Wegman (1991)
With a 2.84 ERA (fifth in the AL), Bill Wegman led the Brewers staff to a winning season. Wegman went 15-7 in 193.1 frames, and despite striking out only 89 batters he put up a 1.117 WHIP and a 142 ERA+ on the year. Though he was right-handed, he also held lefties to just a .307 slugging percentage.
8. Tom Murphy (1974)
This was a fascinating year for Tom Murphy, appearing in 70 games (66 finished) as a reliever and racking up 123 frames. He walked more batters than he struck out, including 18 intentionally. Still, he notched 20 saves, had an ERA of 1.90 and a stunning 189 ERA+. Murphy held hitters to under a .300 slugging percentage and even won 10 games.
7. Jeff D'Amico (2000)
"Big Daddy" stepped up his game in 2000, with an ERA of 2.66 and 101 strikeouts in 162.1 innings. Jeff D'Amico was unbeatable in July, going 5-0 with a 0.76 ERA and 0.881 WHIP. He posted a 1.90 ERA on the road and held those hitters to a .209 average. His 171 ERA+ for the season is good for fifth in team history among qualified pitchers.
6. Derrick Turnbow (2005)
A reliever who came out of nowhere, Derrick Turnbow’s 2005 was lights out, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 1.084 WHIP while converting 39 saves (third-most in franchise history). Opponents hit .199 with a .309 slugging percentage as he owned a ridiculous 247 ERA+ for the season.
5. Cal Eldred (1992)
Officially his rookie season, Cal Eldred made his first start on July 19 and sparked the Brewers' staff. Eldred went 7-0 at home with an unbelievable 0.76 ERA in eight starts. He allowed just five runs and an OPS against of .486 at County Stadium. Overall, Eldred was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, 0.987 WHIP and allowed a .207 opponents' average, helping him to a 217 ERA+ and a fourth place finish for Rookie of the Year.
4. Doug Jones (1997)
Throwing slow, slower and slowest, Doug Jones had a phenomenal season. At 40-years-old, he tallied 36 saves with a 2.02 ERA and 0.884 WHIP. His stunning 9.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio was easily the highest in the American League and best of his career. Jones boasted a career-best 242 ERA+, held opponents to a .242 OBP and .301 slugging percentage and even earned a few MVP votes.
3. Teddy Higuera (1988)
Most remember Teddy Higuera's 1986 campaign where he finished second in the Cy Young vote, but 1988 was better overall. He had a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00 for the season. His 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio was a career high as was the 162 ERA+. Higuera gave up just 45 extra-base hits in 227.1 frames on the year. He held opponents to a .193 batting average and .505 OPS at home.
2. Mike Caldwell (1978)
Mike Caldwell was the runner-up in Cy Young voting in 1978, finishing behind a stellar Ron Guidry (25-3, 1.74 ERA). The workhorse southpaw tossed 293.1 innings boosted by an astonishing 23 complete games and six shutouts -- both franchise records. Despite all those frames he only struck out 131 guys; however, his ERA was 2.36, he won 22 games and posted a 1.064 WHIP for a 160 ERA+ in 34 starts.
1. Ben Sheets (2004)
Playing for a 94-loss team, this may be the greatest season by a pitcher in Brewers' history. Ben Sheets was untouchable as he tossed five complete games and racked up 237 innings while walking only 32 batters. On the flip side, Sheets struck out a franchise-record 264 hitters (second to Randy Johnson that year) to help net a 2.70 ERA, 0.983 WHIP and an amazing 164 ERA+.
His 8.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best in baseball by more than a one-and-a-half point margin. Sheets also had a franchise-record 18-strikeout performance against the Atlanta Braves that season as he struck out 141 hitters and walked only 11 at Miller Park.