The 2011 NL Central champs have given up the 2012 mathematical ghost. Let us honor their memory. Fare thee well, 2012 Milwaukee Brewers ...
What went right
Despite the offseason loss of Prince Fielder to free agency, the Brewers scored more runs in 2012 than they did in 2011 and in fact lead the league at this writing. In a related matter, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has been the most productive hitter in the senior circuit. In yet another related matter, third baseman Aramis Ramirez right now paces the NL in extra-base hits.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy put together an outstanding season, albeit one whittled down by injury. Yovani Gallardo turned in yet another quality campaign, and Mike Fiers positioned himself for some NL Rookie-of-Year support. The midseason trade of Zack Greinke added some much-needed depth to the system, and the Brewers have posted a healthy record of 40-32 in the second half. Hey, they also went 13-4 against the Cubs!
What went wrong
Although the bullpen as a unit made some strides after the break, the overall numbers are grim. In the NL, just the Mets, Astros and Cubs have worse relief ERAs than the Brewers did. The closer role was unstable all season, and manager Ron Roenicke had almost nothing to work with from the left side.
Elsewhere, Randy Wolf coughed up a 5.69 ERA, Cesar Izturis posted an OPS of .582, and the team defense was one of the worst in baseball. While a number of starting pitchers put up strong numbers, no one emerged as a certifiable ace. The Brewers entered the second half five games below .500 and weren't good enough to make up the ground.
MVP: Braun, without question. He won't win the NL MVP this season because of the narrative, but he thrashed opposing pitchers to the tune of .319/.391/.602, and he also tallied 41 homers and 35 doubles. For good measure, he also stole 30 bases. What a season.
LVP: Wolf. As mentioned above, he logged a 5.69 ERA before being released in August (and subsequently being picked up by Baltimore). Of his 24 starts as a Brewer this season, just eight were quality starts. In essence, he gave Milwaukee little chance to win in two-thirds of his starts.
MLB free agents to be: RP Francisco Rodriguez, SP Shaun Marcum, SS Cesar Izturis
Offseason game plan
Revamp the bullpen, add a known quantity or two to the rotation and dig up a shortstop. The last one should be especially challenging. Actually, on the Brewers' budget -- self-imposed or otherwise -- all three should be challenging. Contention is possible, if not likely.
Ridiculously premature prediction for 2013
Ryan Braun reaches 400 total bases, and John Axford shaves two runs off his ERA.