In 1978 the Brew Crew finally arrived and lifted themselves out of "Expansion Team" status. With pitching guru George Bamberger at the helm the team's normally poor pitching was elevated to average status. For most teams that would mean an average finish, but not for a team with a lineup as potent as Milwaukee's. Top to bottom the Brewers had the most consistent lineup in the AL. They led the league in runs scored and homers. The core group was all under 30, except for veterans Sal Bando and Larry Hisle. Bando, an Oakland A's castoff, provided a sound glove at third and smart veteran leadership. Hisle hit .290 with 34 homers and 115 RBI's. Centerfielder Gorman Thomas might have only hit .246, but he smashed 32 round trippers. Smooth fielding first baseman Cecil Cooper hit .312 and scooped up a lot of errant throws from rookie sensation Paul Molitor, who was not really your prototypical second baseman. The true star in the making was 22 year old veteran shortstop Robin Yount, who by 1978 was in his 5th major league campaign. Yankee killer Mike Caldwell (22-9, 2.36) finished second in the Cy Young balloting. At the age of 29 this crafty lefty finally came into his own. On most normal years his effort would have been enough to win, but in 1978 Ron Guidry posted a season for the ages. Funny how things work out like that. 22 year old Lary Sorensen (18-12, 3.21) looked to be one of the best #2 starters in the league. A pair of 25 year old lefties, Jerry Augustine and Bill Travers won 13 and 12 games respectively. Milwaukee's Achilles heel was their bullpen by committee. The righty half of their lefty/righty closer combo, Bill Castro was lights out (5-4, 1.81, 8sv), but his lefty counterpart Bob McClure (2-6, 3.74, 9sv) was shaky at best. Setup men Eduardo Rodriguez (5-5, 3.93) and Randy Stein (3-2, 5.33) will force the starters to hang on way past the point of fatigue.
In any case the Brewers were on the upswing, and fast. Still 93-69 was good enough to finish in 3rd place in the strong AL East, 6 1/2 games behind the Bronx Bombers.
No this isn't a photo of Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter. It's a rookie panel photo of Willie Mueller, who pitched in all of 5 games for the Brew Crew in '78. Mueller's 1-0, 6.39 record was nothing to write home about, so he was send packing to Triple A. He would return for 1 final shot, which equaled 1 game in 1981. After 2 more horrible seasons in the minors he was finished.