Now that we’ve had a month to absorb the finality of the 1982 season and dust off the painful ending, it’s time to take a balanced look at what went right and what went wrong. We’ve gotten our pencils out and are going to grade three main categories: Offense, Starting Pitching and Relief Pitching. Under each section, we will grade players individually. Today we’ll start with pitchers. An average result will be a C, so such a grade should be the typical expectation. We will not grade more loosely or harshly based on expectations.
Additionally, note that we will not grade players who are no longer with the team (like Randy Lerch). Minimal number of plate appearances to receive a grade is 100 and pitchers must log at least 25 innings pitched. Anyone else will be given an Incomplete grade.
Despite the big names of Pete Vuckovich, Don Sutton and Mike Caldwell, the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation was very average until Don Sutton arrived. In fact, one could argue that the Brewers were not a playoff caliber team without Don Sutton on it. The Brewers’ starting pitchers were at or a bit above the league average in several key categories: complete games (fifth with 34), shutouts (seventh with six) and quality starts (fourth with 84). They also led the American League in wins (76) and innings pitched per games started (6.7). While the Brewers had difficulty finding consistency at the back end of the rotation, the Sutton-Vuckovich-Caldwell trio was one of the best in the game, and the starting five finished as one of the better groups in the AL.
Overall Grade: B
While the starting rotation got a boost near the end of the regular season, the bullpen took a major hit when Rollie Fingers went down. The Brewers could not replace the 1981 AL Cy Young and MVP winner. In fact, not close to adequately, as the bullpen threw several key games down the stretch to make the regular season conclusion much more interesting than it should have been. While the relievers were a surprising bright spot in th ALCS, it’s quite possible the Brewers are World Champs with a healthy Rollie Fingers in the World Series. Jim Slaton was a rock in the bullpen, but otherwise a Fingers-less relief corps was far below average. And while Fingers would make this group a B- by himself, it’s all about how the team finished.
Overall Grade: D+
Don Sutton, SP
Sutton was everything Harry Dalton could have asked for when he pulled the trigger on a late season trade with the Astros. In seven regular season starts with the Brewers, Stutton went at least seven innings in all but one, when he went 6 2/3. The Brewers won five of his seven starts, including all of his final four. It was Sutton who stopped the bleeding in Baltimore on the final day of the season, where Vuckovich and Caldwell could not. Sutton’s regular season ERA was a shiny 3.29. If that trade was not made, the Brewers would not have made it to the postseason.
Pete Vuckovich, SP
Vuke just wins games. In 30 starts, he won 18 and lost only six. His 3.34 ERA was lowest of any regular starter on the team, he led the Brewers with 105 strikeouts and was second in complete games (9) and innings pitched (223 2/3). While he never made it easy on himself by walking an excessive number of batters, Vuke will also be remembered for his big 11-inning complete game win over the Red Sox in a crucial game in the final month in Boston. Then again, he’ll also be remembered for not winning another game from that point forward through the end of the postseason.
Rollie Fingers, RP
This evaluation is nearly incomplete since Fingers missed the final month and change due to an injured forearm. It’s difficult imagining what the Brewers could have done with a healthy Rollie Fingers. Rollie was on his way to another fantastic season, posting a 2.60 ERA and 29 saves before being lost for the season. Fingers was leading the league in saves at the time of his initial injury, and is still the premier closer in the game when healthy. Fingers only gets a minus here because of factors outside of his control, as we wonder what could have been.
Mike Caldwell, SP
The unsung hero on this staff. Pete Vuckovich gets the attention as the Cy Young winner and Don Sutton as the savior, but Mike Caldwell was the team’s iron man. He led the Brewers in starts (34), complete games (12), shutouts (3) and innings pitched (258), and was second with 17 wins.
Jim Slaton, SP/RP
Slaton was used as an all-purpose pitcher for the Brewers in 1982, used in high leverage situations out of the bullpen as well as an occasional spot start. His 3.29 ERA was the best of any reliever not named Fingers, and other than a blip in his final regular season appearance in Boston, Slaton was solid from August on while his bullpen-mates were coughing up games regularly.
Moose Haas, SP/RP
Haas was solid overall, but imploded in June (6.96 ERA) and August (5.49 ERA). Still, Moose finished strong with a 2.22 ERA in September and October, and was also solid in the postseason. Haas was third on the team in innings pitched (193 1/3) and second in strikeouts (104). Yet, his lack of consistency kept him from being a dependable pitcher for the Brewers.
Dwight Bernard, RP
Bernard’s final 3.76 ERA isn’t bad, but he was worst when the Brewers needed him most. He actually had an ERA of 2.92 on September 2, but then fell apart. Bernard allowed 10 earned runs in his final eight regular season appearances, which covered most of the final month. Harvey lost confidence in Bernard and used him sparingly from that point forward.
Doc Medich, SP
A late season addition for the Brewers from Texas, Medich was not what the doctor ordered. Hoping he’d be a stabilizing force as a veteran starter in the rotation, the Brewers signed Medich and let go of Randy Lerch. Medich (5.00 ERA in 10 starts) wasn’t any better than Lerch (4.97 ERA).
Jerry Augustine, SP/RP
He’s been a Brewer since 1975, but Jerry Augustine was not a fan favorite in 1982. While injuries may have contributed to and shortened his season, Augustine was ineffective and did not play a major role on this staff. A May 11 start against the Royals resulted in 12 earned runs on 15 hits in five innings, and was used primarily out of the bullpen from then on. Augustine was a non-factor after the All-Star break, partly due to injuries and partly due to ineffectiveness. In his final 12 innings pitched, Augie allowed 14 earned runs.
Jamie Easterly, RP
Like Augustine, injuries and ineffectiveness limited Easterly’s role on the Brewers in 1982. He started well, posting a 3.27 ERA through June. But as seems to be the case with many of the Brewers’ relievers, Easterly fell apart when the injury to Fingers required production. Easterly allowed six earned runs in two appearances against the Yankees in September and his ERA ballooned to 5.27. He was a mop-up man from then on.
Pete Ladd, RP
While Ladd wasn’t spectacular in his 16 regular season appearances (4.00 ERA) in 1982, he did show glimpses of what may be to come, particularly in the ALCS when he retired 10 batters in a row.
Chuck Porter, RP
Porter spent most of his 1982 season in Vancouver, but is expected to have a much larger role on the Brewers in 1983.
Doug Jones, RP
The 25-year-old rookie allowed five hits and three runs in his only 2 2/3 innings pitched with the Brewers this season. It’s unlikely that he has a long term future with the club.