posted 8 years ago
MILWAUKEE -- As the Brewers prepared for their first postseason series in 26 years, general manager Doug Melvin took a glance at the team's regular-season statistics. Three facts stood out.
No 14-game winners. No single reliever with 30 saves. No .300 hitters, at least among the regulars.
"How many 90-win teams can say that?" Melvin asked.
Since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995, the answer is none. The Rays came closest in 2008, when James Shields and Edwin Jackson had 14 wins apiece but no player had 30 saves and no regular hit .300.
The '99 Mets also came close, with no 14-game winners and no 30-save man, but five .300 hitters. New York won the National League Wild Card that season.
So did the '08 Brewers, led by Ben Sheets' 13 wins, Salomon Torres' 28 saves and left fielder Ryan Braun's .285 average. They finished 90-72, crossing the 90-win threshold for the first time since the 1992 Brewers went 92-70 under Phil Garner.
Midseason pickup CC Sabathia certainly did his part in '08, notching 11 wins in only 17 starts after a July 7 trade from Cleveland. Torres would have almost certainly crossed the 30-saves barrier had he been handed ninth-inning duties from the start of the season instead of taking over from Eric Gagne in mid-May. And Braun may have hit .300 -- he was batting .301 as late as Sept. 8 -- if not for a back injury that affected his swing over the final six weeks of the regular season.
It was a team effort that carried the Brewers to the National League Wild Card and their first postseason games since the 1982 World Series. The Brewers took an unusual path to get there, charging to the front of the Wild Card pack with a 20-7 August but then slumping at the start of September.
A 3-11 start to the month cost manager Ned Yost his job, and the Brewers then lost four of their first five games under interim skipper Dale Sveum before getting hot over the final week to win a spot in October.
The euphoria was short-lived. The Brewers lost in the NL Division Series to the Phillies, three games to one, and were eliminated from postseason play.