Deep into August, the Milwaukee Brewers are 10 games under .500 and 18 games out of first place in the National League Central. A year ago at this time, they stood atop the division, 10 games ahead of St. Louis, which went on to win the World Series.
Much of the blame for this state of affairs has been pinned on the Brewers' corps of relief pitchers, which has blown 23 saves this year, worst in the majors. When presented with a save opportunity - such as entering the game with a lead of three or fewer runs - Milwaukee relievers give up the lead 47% of the time.
Some baseball people believe the blown-save statistic is overblown. After all, a reliever can take the mound with a four-run lead in the ninth, load up the bases, surrender a grand-slam home run, and not be tagged with the dreaded "BLSV" in the box score. He blows the game, even if his outing doesn't fit baseball's definition of a save opportunity.
But it's as good an indicator as any for why the Brewers are so bad this year. Take John Axford (please, suffering Crew fans will add). In 2011 he led the National League with 46 saves, blowing just two opportunities. This year, he's blown eight saves, causing him to lose his job as closer to Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, who happens to hold the major league record for saves in a season with 62 for the Angels in 2008. K-Rod has blown six saves of his own this year.
Using last season's pace, Brewers relievers should have only blown 14 saves at this point, which would put the team over .500, a promotion from lousy to pretty good.