The 2012 Milwaukee Brewers season has been in the books since Wednesday, but over their final few games I asked fans over Twitter a few questions about the team.
I specifically wanted to know what surprised them, what disappointed them, and what they look forward to in 2013.
The overriding disappointment for the season, not surprisingly, was the performance of the bullpen for four months. Despite not making the playoffs after beginning the season with those expectations, the team has ended the season on a positive note by securing the fourth winning season in the last six years.
"When we looked at where we were and where we finished up and being able to see a lot of young guys going into next year that we have some decisions to make, I think it was successful," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I'm not happy with the season. Nobody's happy with the season. ... They all have a positive attitude about where he finished up and I think that was important going into next year."
Below are some responses from the Tweeps, as well as the Brewers themselves.
Carlos Gomez finished the year as one of five players in the majors this season with 15 or more homers and 30 or more stolen bases, joining Mike Trout, B.J. Upton, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Braun.
In his sixth season in the Major Leagues, Gomez hit .260 with 42 extra base hits – including 19 homers – and 37 stolen bases. He also had an on base percentage over .300 for the first time.
"Now I recognize and now I know what I'm doing," said Gomez, who played in 137 games. "Before, it was just ability. I would just go in and play with my ability. Now, I step out and think about what they're trying to do to me. It's the kind of thing that will make you a better hitter."
After starting the year on the bench, then playing his way out of a platoon role into the everyday starting lineup, 30-year-old rookie Norichika Aoki led the National League with 18 extra-base hits in September, which also tied the September franchise record.
"Looking back right now, I started off coming off the bench and it was kind of a tough situation especially coming from starting every game in Japan," Aoki said through translator Kosuke Inaji. "I'm kind of surprised that I actually chose this route but I've always wanted to play over here and I'm glad I made that choice."
Aoki also was the first NL rookie since Bake McBride (1974) to have four different 10-game hitting streaks while ranking at or near the top of all NL rookies in stolen bases (30), hits (150), runs (81), doubles (37) and total bases (225).
"Nothing was really surprising," Aoki said. "Looking at the numbers right now, I guess it's something that not really expected but I'm not surprised. That's the best that I was able to do this year."
Aramis Ramirez got off to one his patented slow starts, but the 34-year-old not only emerged from it to finish with a .300 average, he had an overall historic season by a Brewers third baseman.
Ramirez's 103 RBI surpassed Casey McGehee's 102 for the franchise record, and it also marked the seventh time in his career he's topped 100 RBI season. He also led the league in doubles (50) and was at or near the top of the NL in extra base hits (80), RBI (105) total bases (308) and slugging percentage.
"Aramis had a phenomenal year. He really did. All the way around," Ryan Braun said. "He played great defense. I really think he's deserving of the Gold Glove this year. Was just incredibly consistent."
The season was just weeks old when first baseman Mat Gamel tore his ACL, moving Corey Hart from the outfield grass to the infield dirt. He gutted out injuries to his knee and foot to play 149 games – his most since 2008 – and hit 30 homers and drive in 83 runs while hitting .270.
In his 103 games at first, he posted a respectable .995 fielding percentage and 7.74 range factor and an above average league range factor per nine innings at 9.29.
"I played well but definitely still wasn't as comfortable as I want to be," Hart said. "It definitely helped that I could go over there and perform, and for me that's big. I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on. I'm pretty excited with the fact I did well and I'm still learning. I'm excited for what lies ahead."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.