When you go to the World Series, you wouldn’t expect much to change. But when you fall one win shy of taking the title, you need to examine every aspect of the club.
Well, except shortstop. The Crew is set there. And first base. The Brewers are set there as well. And third. Second, too. Also catcher.
OK, OK, so the Brewers have few if any holes in a lineup that led the majors in homers (216), RBI (843) and runs (891) and nearly every other offensive category. When your No. 9 hitter bats .295, things are good.
As for the pitching, the offense covered a lot of the deficiencies on the mound, especially the thin pen and Rollie Fingers’ injury. Throughout the season, the defense was adequate. There are no defensive wizards like St. Louis’ Ozzie Smith, but no complete hackery in the field either. They could use more speed in the outfield, but they cover the angles well enough.
Yet, the Crew can’t expect everything to go as well as it did in 1982. It was historic in nearly every manner possible which is why the Brewers need to look at what they have and see how they can improve in 1983.
As for the infield, there is little room for improvement. We noted earlier that Jim Gantner hit .295 and he was the weak link at the plate for that group. With Paul Molitor at third, Robin Yount at short, Gantner at second and Cecil Cooper at first, the Brewers have the best infield in the majors. They could be together for another five years.
The Brewers do need to shore up their bench. Don Money had a great season (.284), but he’s 35 years old. Roy Howell didn’t provide much pop off the bench. The Crew needs to find a regular DH instead of platooning Money and Howell. They also need to find one decent backup infielder. Ed Romero is fine for spot duty, but you don’t want him playing long stretches if, god forbid, one of the regulars goes down.
At catcher, Ted Simmons is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on him. The Crew is set for another three or four years here, but need to develop a backstop for the future. Ned Yost isn’t it.
The outfield is also pretty much set with Ben Oglivie in left, Gorman Thomas in center and Charlie Moore in right. Benji is 33 and, although he hit 34 taters, his bat looks slow as he hit .244. Gorman played hurt for the last part of the season. While Moore may have Roberto Clemente’s arm, he has Roberta Flack’s bat. Mark Brouhard is the heir apparent in right, but his bat has to wake up. The Crew could use another solid left-handed bat in the outfield as well as Marshall Edwards is 29 and slight at the plate.
Pitching is where the biggest improvement needs to be made. As Loomer noted in his pitching grades, the rotation hadn’t solidified until Don Sutton arrived. Now, they have Sutton, an innings-eater in Mike Caldwell and Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich. The Crew rotated through Jim Slaton, Moose Haas and Bob McClure at the bottom of the rotation, but they could use another solid lefty at No. 4 and let Haas anchor the bottom of the rotation. Doc Medich has retired.
If the Brewers are able to re-sign the free agent McClure, a former starter, he could work as a long reliever, as could Slaton. It would also be nice to see a fireballer in short relief. If Rollie Fingers can return to full health, the Brewers don’t need a closer. If not, they need to look at getting some help. Ladd performed well in the ALCS, but blew up in Game 2 of the World Series. He did strike out 12 in 16 innings.
But that’s about it. The great thing about this team is it’s built to win for another two to three seasons. A couple tweaks here and there, and next year at this time, we could be talking about the Crew’s first World Series championship.