2012 Player of the Year: Milwaukee Brewers

Mike McGinnis

The Milwaukee Brewers featured some really good players in 2012. Maybe more than you might guess. Ryan Braun was Ryan Braun, and Aramis Ramirez filled in brilliantly for Prince Fielder. But if you check under the radar, you'll also find Jonathan Lucroy and 30-year-old rookie Norichika Aoki. Still, the Brewers won only 83 games this year. And therein lies our story ...

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There are two obvious possibilities here: John Axford and Rickie Weeks. Axford was ... well, you might reasonably argue that John Axford cost the Brewers the Wild Card postseason berth that ultimately went to the Cardinals. After all, if Axford had pitched like everyone expected in the first half of the season, the Brewers would have won more games and the club quite probably wouldn't have traded Zack Greinke to the Angels. The Brewers finished only five games behind the Cardinals.

Blogger Perspective: Brew Crew Ball

by Kyle Lobner

Fair or unfair, when many Brewer fans look back at the 2012 season the first player they're going to remember is John Axford. On an individual level, Axford embodies three aspects of the 2012 team: high expectations, disappointment and hope.

Axford entered 2012 as one of the game's elite closers. He led the NL with 46 saves in 2011, finishing by converting 43 in a row. By all appearances, he was coming off the first full season of a long, successful run in Milwaukee.

Then the season actually began, and things immediately went downhill. Axford's first appearance of the year was a non-save-situation meltdown where he couldn't finish a ninth inning. His long save streak ended shortly afterward and 2011's unhittable closer was gone, replaced by a guy who blew six saves in 12 opportunities in June and July and lost his job.

For all of Axford's struggles, though, he showed some flashes of brilliance. He converted 19 of 21 saves to finish the season, striking out 35 batters in his final 30 appearances. The skills that made him one of the game's best relievers are still there. No one should be surprised if he turns things right back around next season.

Similarly, the Brewers' run toward respectability at the end of this season has many fans wondering if it's a sign of things to come. Nearly all of the key contributors from a team that was red-hot in August will be back, creating hope most of us didn't have when this team was 45-56 in July.

For more Brewers coverage, please visit Brew Crew Ball.

Ah, but one might say almost exactly the same things about Rickie Weeks.

The Brewers' second baseman entered 2012 as one of the more consistent players in the majors. In the previous three seasons, his OPS+'s were 125, 123, and 121.

Granted, one thing about Weeks' performance was terribly inconsistent: his playing time. While he played 160 games in 2010, injuries limited him to only 37 games in 2009 and 118 in '11. So maybe it was foolish to count on him for too much in 2012.

Still, you had to imagine that if Weeks were healthy enough to play, he would play well. And while he wound up playing 157 games this season, for too long he didn't play well at all.

On the 29th of April, in the Brewers' 22nd game of the season, Weeks went 0 for 3 and his average fell to .193.

It wouldn't cross the Mendoza line again until the 26th of July. The Brewers lost that game anyway, and fell 10 games below .500 (44-54). The next day, the Brewers traded Greinke to the Angels.

From the 1st of August through the end of the season, Rickie Weeks hit almost exactly like Rickie Weeks was supposed to hit, with a .268/.337/.456 in 58 games, with 21 extra-base hits.

Better late than never? Well, Weeks' late-season performance didn't really do the Brewers much good, and in fact it presumably cost them a few slots in next June's amateur draft.

Looked at another way, though, this was really good news for the Brewers. Because they owe Weeks at least $22 million, and perhaps as much as $32.5 million, over the next three seasons. If he had played as poorly in August and September as in the previous four months, there would have been some worried Brewer executives this winter.

They're still probably worried; that's just the job. But at least they may reasonably guess they will not have to worry about Rickie Weeks in 2013.

In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.

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