For this baseball fan, few seasons can top 1982, when the Milwaukee Brewers won the American League pennant and lost to St. Louis in the 7th game of the World Series. I lived in Milwaukee then, but the closest I got to one of the games was watching the Goodyear blimp float over our neighborhood on the way to County Stadium.
As the Brewers have clinched the National League Central title and return to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, I’ve been wondering: which team was better? Here’s a position by position analysis, based on what I’ve seen and stats for the 2011 and 1982 squads from BaseballReference.com.
Catcher – Ted Simmons or Jonathan Lucroy. Have to go with Simmons, who hit for more power.
First base – Cecil Cooper or Prince Fielder. Fielder gets the nod with an edge in power that’s not nearly as great as fans who never saw Cooper play might realize.
Second base – Jim Gantner or Rickie Weeks. I’ll go with the latter.
Third base – Paul Molitor or Casey McGehee. Go with the Ingiter. Not even close.
Shortstop – Robin Yount or Yuniesky Betancourt. No brainer: Yount.
Left field – Ben Oglivie or Ryan Braun. Braun is having a monster year and I’ll go with him. But again, the stat spread isn’t all that wide, which gives you an idea of how much power the ’82 team had.
Center field – Gorman Thomas or Nyjer Morgan. Two very different styles here. If I were manager, I’d start Stormin’ Gorman, who was the heart of the ’82 team.
Right field – Charlie Moore or Corey Hart. Hart, by a lot.
Starting rotation: ’82 or ’11 – The won-loss records are remarkably similar, but the ERA of the current team is much better. There’s not a top-of-the-league starter on either edition.
Bullpen: ’82 or ’11 – This is one area where my selection is a little shaky, because I haven’t followed the ‘pen closely this year. The difference-maker here is Rollie Fingers. I don’t care that John Axford has 45 saves to Rollie’s 29. With the season on the line, I’d call Rollie.
So what do I conclude? With a better pitching staff, I think this year’s team has a better chance to win it all than the ’82 team did. That, of course, doesn’t automatically translate to a world championship. Heck, it doesn’t even mean the Brew Crew will get past the first round. But it will be fun to watch.
Side note: “Harvey’s Wallbangers” ripped the cover off the ball most games and led the league in home runs. Thomas also had a Herculean strikeout total of 143.
Thomas was the only ’82 Brewer to strike out more than 100 times, however. On the present team, Fielder, Weeks, McGehee and Hart each have more than 100. And Lucroy and Braun are close with a couple of games left to play.
I don’t know what that means, other than that the Phillies’ starters will be licking their chops if they play Milwaukee.