By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 24, 2011 at 4:39 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Another baseball season has come and gone here in Milwaukee and what a season it was. The 2011 Brewers set a franchise record with 96 regular season victories, won their division for the first time in 29 years and advanced to the National League Championship Series before falling to the Cardinals in Game 6. How did this year's team stack up?

Let's start with the manager.

In his first year as a big league skipper, Ron Roenicke was calm, cool and collected from Day 1. His ability to communicate with his players, in comparison to his predecessor, was evident throughout the year. He showed an often unwavering patience with struggling players, giving them a chance to work their way out of slumps, but when a change had to be made – and he had the depth to do so – he didn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

Roenicke was the "dark horse" of Doug Melvin's candidates to replace Ken Macha and while people like Bobby Valentine and Bob Brenley seemed to attract most of the attention, Roenicke proved he was the right man for the job.

Grade – A

And now, on to the team and player grades. For simplicty, only those players who finished the season on the 25-man playoff roster were included in this evaluation.

Players like Josh Wilson, Tim Dillard and Frankie De la Cruz simply didn't have a big enough body of work for a full evaluation.


Offense: As an offensive unit, the Brewers' 2011 numbers were down slightly from the previous year. They scored 721 runs (fifth in the NL) compared to 750 in 2010; the team batting average of .261 was just a point off from 2010; and both their RBI totals and on-base percentage dropped, though home runs were up slightly. Milwaukee finished in the top five among National League teams in all the major categories, impressive when you consider how much of that offense was generated by just a handful of players. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder were again the big boppers with Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan adding in from time to time. The bottom of the order was a black hole, though, and prevented the Brewers' lineup from fulfilling its potential. It's hard to find fault with a top-five offensive club, but improvements will be needed in '12, especially with Fielder expected to be crushing baseballs someplace else.
Grade – B-plus

Defense: You knew it was going to be bad going in and while management tried to soften the blow, nobody tried to disguise the fact that the Brewers were an awful defensive squad. Milwaukee finished sixth in the National League and ninth overall with 111 errors but three Brewers were the NL leaders at their positions. Somehow, the team managed to get to the postseason despite that flaw, but the Brewers' defensive weakness was put on display during their final two losses in the NLCS.
Grade – D

Pitching: After spending most of their 41 seasons known more for their offensive prowess, the Brewers in 2011 were known first and foremost as a pitching team. Roenicke used just six starters in 2011 and that group went a combined 73-43 with a 3.78 ERA; their victory total was the second-highest in the NL, behind Philadelphia and their ERA was sixth in the league. The bullpen, bolstered by the  mid-season acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez was 23-23 with a 3.32 ERA – the sixth-best mark in the NL. The bullpen was lights-out in the second half and a big reason the Brewers won the division. It's hard to find fault with a unit that performed so well compared to a year ago, but it still would be nice to see guys work later into the game on a regular basis. The entire rotation is back next season, but Melvin will need to be creative in reinventing the bullpen, which will be anchored by John Axford.
Grade – A


Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
.252 / 13 / 68
The man Brewers fans loved to hate. What more can be said about Yuni B that hasn't been said? He never met a first pitch he didn't like; no range at short; the place rally innings went to die ... Melvin said that Betancourt's play wasn't as bad as some people thought and during the playoffs, Betancourt hit .310 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs. His play in the field was bad but his 21 errors were third among NL shortstops. He has a $6 million option for next season and considering the lack of available, quality shortstops ... there is a chance Melvin might bring him back for another year.
Grade – D

Ryan Braun, LF
.332 / 33 / 111
Possibly the Brewers' first Most Valuable Player award winner since Robin Yount in '89, Braun put together one of the most complete seasons in franchise history. He was first in the National League with 77 extra-base hits, second with a .332 average, 109 runs scored and 336 total bases; fourth with 111 RBIs and doubles (38) and his 33 home runs were sixth in the league. Moving forward, Braun is the face of the franchise and is signed through the 2020 season. You don't have too many seasons better than Braun's in 2011.
Grade – A

Craig Counsell, IF
.178 / 1 / 9
His best days are obviously behind him but Counsell still had the respect of his teammates and his veteran stature and leadership played an important role in the clubhouse chemistry. Still, the games are played on the field and this was a forgettable season, statistically-speaking, for Counsell, who could retire this winter.
Grade – D

Prince Fielder, 1B
.299 / 38 / 120
What's left to say about Fielder, aside from "goodbye?" The soon-to-be-free-agent once again terrorized National League pitching, leading to his league-leading 32 intentional walks. He once again played all 162 games, and finished in the top three in homers (38), RBIs (120), extra-base hits (75) and total bases (322). That he was able to put up such impressive numbers is an even greater accomplishment when you take into account the lack of protection behind him in the lineup. If this was Fielder's Milwaukee swan song, it certainly was a memorable one.
Grade – A

Taylor Green, IF
.270 / 0 / 1
The Brewers' hottest prospect when he was summoned from Class AAA Nashville on Aug. 27, Green got off to a hot start in Milwaukee, hitting safely in seven of his first eight games. but quickly cooled off. He still wound up on the postseason roster but only saw two at-bats. How he factors into the 2012 plans remains to be seen.
Grade – Incomplete

Carlos Gomez, CF
.225 / 8 / 24
Just when you thought Gomez was finally going to put things together and live up to his potential, he lays another dud early in the season. Luckily, the Brewers had Morgan waiting in the wings and playing well. Gomez, though, was still a valuable part of Roenicke's attack, as the manger loved to use him against left-handed pitching and late in games for his speed and defensive prowess. He seemed to turn things around late in the year and in the playoffs, but deciding Gomez's fate will be a difficult decision for Melvin.
Grade – C-minus

Jerry Hairston, Jr.
.274 / 1 / 7 (with Brewers)
Initially acquired to provide depth up the middle after injuries to Gomez and Rickie Weeks, he went 4-fof-11 as a pinch hitter and overall, hit .274 in 45 games with Milwaukee, filling in at second, shortstop and third base as well as the outfield. Hairston played his way into a starting role when the playoffs started and was one of the team's better performers, posting a .385 average (15-for-39) with six doubles. A free agent this winter, the Brewers would be wise to try to retain his services as the next Craig Counsell-esque veteran utility man.
Grade – B-plus

Corey Hart, RF
.285 / 26 / 63
At some point, we'll need to decide what are acceptable numbers for Hart. He's capable of hitting .300. He's capable of hitting 30 home runs. He's capable of stealing 30 bases. But that's another argument for another day. Hart missed the first 22 games with a left oblique injury and put together a decent season. He went into one of his trademark hot stretches, though, when Roenicke moved him into the leadoff spot July 16. Hart hit .301 the rest of the way with 14 of his 26 home runs and 36 of his 63 RBIs. All in all, a good year for Hart, who still has occasional struggles in right, but plays his position well enough.
Grade – B

Mark Kotsay, OF
.270 / 3 / 31
The Brewers' fourth outfielder was a favorite of Roenicke's, who liked that good things always seemed to happen when he was in the lineup. He was the team leader with 12 pinch-hits and in that role, hit .293 with eight RBI. Over the last 27 games of the regular season, Kotsay hit .383 with a home run. Kotsay didn't wow anyone with his natural talents, but his leadership in the clubhouse, his experience and his his ability to perform when called upon made him a valuable asset.
Grade – B

George Kottaras, C
.252 / 5 / 17
Kottaras was caught between a rock and a hard place when Lucroy returned from the disabled list and the Brewers sent him back to Class AAA Nashville in favor of Wil Nieves. When the team needed some offensive spark, Kottaras was back and in his limited action, he performed well. He was hamstrung by having to face a lot of left-handed pitching during the season. Grade – C

Jonathan Lucroy, C
.285 / 12 / 59
Lucroy's first full season in the majors got off to a delayed start thanks to a broken finger. He got off to a red-hot start but cooled off considerably, though he continued his development as a defensive catcher. At some point, the Brewers will need his offense to catch up with his defense – and Lucroy feels he's capable of that – but for now, the focus is on his play behind the plate. It would be nice to see him develop some sort of rapport with Randy Wolf, but that's for those two to work out. In the meantime, Lucroy is young and has plenty of time to grow into his role.
Grade – C-plus

Casey McGehee, 3B
.223 / 13 / 67
A year ago, McGehee was the team's MVP. Today, he future isn't nearly as bright. A miserable season just got worse and worse for McGehee, who finally lost his starting role when the playoffs opened. McGehee is an incredibly nice guy, not just by baseball standards, but the stat sheets don't reflect personality. McGehee knows 2011 was a failure if you go by the numbers. But considering his recent history, it's doubtful that Melvin would give up on him, especially if he needs to plug a hole at first base.
Grade – F

Nyjer Morgan, CF
.304 / 4 / 37
Acquiring Morgan may have been one of the best moves of the Doug Melvin era. Picked up as insurance if Carlos Gomez couldn't hold onto the starting job, Morgan overcame a pair of early injuries and became a fan favorite in Milwaukee with his hustle on the field, and his style and attitude off it. Behind all the many different personas, though, is a hard-working player who performs well at the plate, though he's no comparison to Gomez defensively. Morgan all but disappeared in the playoffs, but did have the game-winning hit in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Is Morgan the long-term answer in center? Only Melvin knows for sure, but his disappointing 2010 season in Washington looks more like an exception to the norm.
Grade – B-plus

Rickie Weeks, 2B
.269 / 20 / 49
Weeks has had better statistical seasons, but this was his coming-out year as he played well enough to earn a starting spot on the National League All-Star team. Unfortunately, a severely sprained ankle kept him out of 39 games in the second half and even when he returned, he was far from 100 percent. At the time of his injury, Weeks was among the league leaders in runs, total bases, extra-base hits, doubles and hits. After he returned, Weeks hit just .243 and was 6-for-41 during the playoffs. Weeks still struggles in the field – he led NL second basemen with 15 errors – but he has made tremendous strides at his position.
Grade – B-minus


John Axford
2-2 / 1.95 / 46 saves
Funny, there was a vocal group that wanted Axford out as closer after he botched his first five save opportunities. Axford was as dominant a closer as anyone in the National League, converting his final 43 regular season save opportunities and setting the single-season franchise record with 46 saves. In his last 30 appearances, Axford posted a 0.59 ERA with 10 consecutive scoreless innings. SInce taking over as the Brewers' closer in May 2010, he's converted 70 of 75 save opportunities. Some want to find fault in his penchant for putting runners on base, but the final results are all that matters and Axford is as good as it gets these days.
Grade – A

Marco Estrada
4-8 / 4.08

Estrada had the difficult job of filling in for Zack Greinke to open the season, but pitched well enough as a spot starter (3-2, 3.70) that he earned a spot in the bullpen and though he wasn't as effective as a reliever (1-6, 4.38), Estrada remained on the roster for the entire season and the playoffs. He made three August starts in place of Chris Narveson and allowed just three runs in 17 innings of work, likely solidifying his staus with the big league club in 2012.
Grade – C-plus

Yovani Gallardo
17-10 / 3.52
Gallardo took a major step forward in his development, establishing career highs in victories, starts (33), quality starts (23), innings pitched (207.1) and strikeouts (207). He's the first pitcher in franchise history to record 200 or more strikeouts in three straight seasons and finished 2011 on a tear, becoming the first Brewers pitcher to strike out 10 or more in three straight starts. Still, Gallardo struggles with his pitch counts and failed to work past the fifth inning nine times and past the sixth nine times (including the postseason). His walk numbers were way down from last year but he did surrender a career-high 27 home runs. Gallardo is one of the better young pitchers in the game and at 25, he has plenty of room to grow.
Grade – A-minus

Zack Greinke
16-6 / 3.83
The centerpiece of Melvin's off-season rebuilding efforts, Greinke was good in 2011 but whether or not he was great is up for discussion. At home, Greinke was almost perfect, posting an 11-0 record but still was prone to the dreaded "big inning." He improved significantly during the second half, going 9-3 with a 2.61 ERA during his final 16 starts and allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his final 16 regular season starts. Looking closely at Greinke's career numbers and it looks more and more like his 2011 numbers were much more likely than the ones he put up during his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2009. Greinke is great pitcher but he wasn't quite the dominant, no-worries ace many had hoped he'd be.
Grade – B-plus

LaTroy Hawkins
3-1 / 2.42
It took a little while for Hawkins to work his way into the bullpen rotation but when he did, Hawkins performed well. He led the team with 20 holds and at one point went 22 consecutive games without allowing a run. The 15-year veteran is a free agent this winter and unlikely to return.
Grade – B

Kameron Loe
4-7 / 2.42
Loe got off to a rocky start, at least in terms of public perception, but once the bullpen became settled and Loe was able to move out of the set-up spot and into a more traditional middle-relief role, he was much more effective and posted a 1.44 ERA over his last 22 appearances.
Grade – B-minus

Shaun Marcum
13-7 / 3.54
Marcum tied a career high with 13 victories and set a personal record with 200.2 innings of work during the regular season. Early on, he was the Brewers' most consistent starting pitcher and was their best away from Miller Park, where he went 8-3 with a 2.21 ERA during the regular season. Still, his late-season struggles extended into the playoffs, and he was absolutely shelled in his three postseason starts leading many to wonder if he was struggling with an injury at the end. Overall, Marcum's body of work was good but it's hard to ignore his ineffectiveness during September and October.
Grade – C-plus

Chris Narveson
11-8 / 4.45
The goal for a No. 5 starter isn't necessarily to win the game for your team but instead, do what it takes to not lose it. Narveson was very good in that role this year, opening the season with 14 consecutive scoreless innings. The young left-hander recorded 12 quality starts and seems to have solved his problem of getting knocked around in the first inning. He still seems to fatigue early, evidenced by his 5.11 ERA in innings 4-6. Narveson was good; he can be better still, but for what the 2011 Brewers needed from him, he delivered. Grade – B

Francisco Rodriguez
4-0 / 2.86 (Brewers)
6-2 / 2.64 / 23 saves (Overall)
Melvin raised eyebrows when he traded for the Mets' closer during the All-Star game. With Axford already in the fold, many wondered how Roenicke would juggle two closers on the same roster. It may not have been an ideal situation for Rodriguez, who didn't hide his desire to close games, but it worked out well for the Brewers. To his credit, Rodriguez didn't let his displeasure with his role become a problem in the clubhouse and though he had a habit of making things interesting in the eighth inning, K-Rod was spectacular in his 31 games with Milwaukee.
Grade – A-minus

Takashi Saito
4-2 / 2.03
Saito missed 73 games with a strained left hamstring, back problems and an oblique issue and nobody was quite sure what to expect out of the 40-year-old, who was originally slated to be the set-up man for Axford. Saito became something of a sixth/seventh-inning guy and did well, holding opponents scoreless in 25 of his 30 appearances. Signed to a fairly large contract for a man of his age, Saito was good, but not great. Doubtful he's back in 2012.
Grade – B

Randy Wolf
13-10 / 3.69
Wolf recorded double-digit victories for the fourth consecutive season and the eighth time in his career while leading the team with 212.1 innings pitched. As the fourth starter, Wolf was effective though occasionally struggled with his command and couldn't always work deep into games. Those outings, though, were much less frequent than they were last year and Wolf put together a nice year, with the Brewers winning nine of his final 12 starts (7-2, 3.90).
Grade – B