Monday, February 16, 2009

Guide Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

If there were any rhyme or reason to things, I'd be starting this string of team previews with some sort of logical beginning. Maybe I'd go in alphabetical order, or count down the teams by projected finish, or something along those lines. But that's not really how I want to do things. Ultimately, this exercise has to interest me asa well as you, and so it only makes sense for me to start off with the team I'm most interested in, my Milwaukee Brewers. To keep a semblance of order, though, I'll post the previews in division order, starting off with the Brewers today and going through the rest of the NL Central throughout the week.

So let's start this off. The preview below isn't meant to be my personal opinion about the team's 2009 season. Instead, it's a summary of what the three main baseball preview magazines are saying. I've included quotes and other information from each of the them - Sporting News, Athlon, and Lindy's. I've also included some statistics about each magazines' success at predictions over the last ten years. Be sure to check out the Team-by-Team Season Preview index for other guide previews over the next few weeks.

I've decided to refrain from providing my opinion because, while I may know enough about certain teams, like the Brewers, to make an educated prediction, I don't feel like I know enough about most teams to make a good guess. In fact, most of my knowledge about some of these teams (like maybe the Pirates or Blue Jays or Royals) will probably come straight from these magazines. Why repeat and dilute the source? I hope you find this interesting. Now, on with the "combined" team preview for the...

Milwaukee Brewers
Last Year: 90 - 72, 2nd Place, NL Central

Since 1999

This YearLast Year
Avg Pred.Avg Finish
Sporting News3
* Sporting News average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 - 2001, 2003 - 2004, 2006 - 2008
** Athlon average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 - 2003, 2006 - 2008

Team Notes

Everyone seems to agree, the Brewers are going to have problems this year. Well, at least that's what the magazines are saying. With the departure of staff aces CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets from a team that barely made it to the playoffs to begin with, the team looks to be in a tough place. On the bright side, Milwaukee does have some of the top offensive players in the NL at three positions: left-field, shortstop, and first-base.
"With a projected rotation of Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, Yovani Gallardo and Seth McClung, the Brewers appear more reliant than ever on a big-swinging lineup anchored by left fielder Ryan Braun and first-baseman Prince Fielder. The Brewers received at least 20 home runs from five players last season, including 37 from Braun and 34 from the slow-starting Fielder. However, they got more than 75 RBIs from only three: Braun, Fielder and right-fielder Corey Hart. (TSN)"
Whether those players and the cadre of young guys who have still to completely fulfill their promise will be enough (Rickie Weeks, I'm looking at you), it's hard to say. Brewers fans can take heart in their front-office, though, who seem to have both the smarts and willingness to make the right moves.
"Doug Melvin has done a marvelous job of turning a doormat into a playoff team since taking over as general manager in 2002, when Mark Attanasio bought the club from the Selig family. The road ahead could be even more challenging, though, after Melvin was ordered by Attanasio to fire manager Ned Yost with 12 games remaining last season and then lost respected scouting director Jack Zduriencik, who was hired as Seattle's GM. Ken Macha was an interesting choice as manager. He has consistently been lauded for his baseball acumen but was criticized during his four-year stint with Oakland for a lack of communication skills, which could be a problem in one of the tighter-knit clubhouses in the game. (Lindy)"
In the end, though, it's all about how the team will balance their pitching and offense.
"While there are serious questions about the starting pitching and bullpen, not many teams boast the kind of potent young bats the Brewers have at just about every position. With Sabathia in the Bronx, the Brewers are likely to take a step back unless they discover some unexpected help on the mound and find more ways to score runs other than relying on the homer. (Athlon)"
Hopefully, the Brewers have already found that "help on the mound" in their own Yovani Gallardo.
"Difference Maker: With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets off to greener pastures, right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo - who made all of four starts last year - will be counted on to fill the role of 'ace' of the thin Brewer pitching staff. Stepping into big roles is nothing new for Gallardo, who started Game 1 of the NLDS last year after making only one September start, having missed most of the season with a torn ACL. The 23-year old Gallardo has the stuff and the temperament to deliver - he was 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA as a rookie in 2007. (Athlon)"

Spotlight Quote

From the "Beyond the Box Score" section of the Athlon:
"Brains and Braun: As if being an All-Star, signing the biggest contract in franchise history and starring in an iPhone commercial weren't enough for Ryan Braun, the young slugger also stepped up as one of the team's most vocal leaders, issuing blunt wake-up calls to the team after sweeps at Boston and Philadelphia."


tHeMARksMiTh said...

I have to agree. The Brewers have the offense, but they did absolutely nothing to bolster that pitching staff (okay, they added Hoffman, but they desperately need starting pitching). With the Cubs being so good, it will take some minor miracles for the Brewers to win the division and maybe even the Wild Card.

The Common Man said...

I think these magazines (and Mark, sorry dude) are underestimating the Brewers pitching. Four of their starters seem to project to be around league-average or better. Bush, Parra (who should benefit from another year of experience), Gallardo, and Looper (who looks like an excellent signing from where I sit). Suppan may bounce back to league-average, or remain an innings sponge in the #4 hole. Call me crazy, but I still think they sign Sheets to an incentive laden deal (can you incentivize post-season appearances like you can games pitched appearances, I wonder?) with an eye toward the second half and adding depth.

In my mind (sorry to jump the gun to the Cubs preview, lar), Chicago's taken a big step back. Dempster is unlikely to repeat, and Harden probably won't make it through the year unscathed. Bradley's a great hitter, but may not hold up all season. The trade of DeRosa means that Fontenot and Theriot have to prove they weren't flukes, because there's no one backing them up. And the downgrade on the backend from Wood to Gregg is going to be huge.

lar said...

I know that I said in the post that I would try to keep from adding my opinion about the teams to each preview, but I'm finding it hard to do that with the Brewers. Maybe I shouldn't I have started out with them? Hopefully, adding something in the comments down here will be enough, though I might end up putting a little something in the post itself...

Anyhow... I'm actually disappointed in what these magazines (and other porgnosticators) are saying about the Brewers. Yes, they took a pretty significant hit when CC and Sheets both flew the coop (and without giving them the 4 draft picks the Brewers weren't counting on), but the plan never included those two in the first place. The pitching is obviuosly weaker without them, but it's not was weak as it seems.

Gallardo is a stud. If he were on a big market team *cough*New York Yankees*cough*Boston Red Sox*cough*, he'd already have been anointed as the best young pitcher in baseball. His injury history doesn't scare me much. He tore is ACL when a Cubbie slid into his knee on a play at first base. Can't fault a guy for that. He'll fit in well at the top of the rotation.

Manny Parra should also be better this year. He was a very solid contributor last year, until he hit a wall in late August. Having that extra year of experience and conditioning should help a lot. Bush and Looper should be consistent guys. They're not going to win 16 games or anything, but they'll be consistent, strong guys at the back of the rotation. Who knows what's going to happen with Suppan? At the worst, he's a #4 or 5 starter (making $12million). If that's the case, he'll still be a better #5 starter than pretty much everyone in the league.

We all agree the offense will be solid. Prince should rebound some from a slow year. JJ will continue to contribute from shortstop, and may actually on the verge of a big year. He seems to be improving steadily, and he's reaching a prime age. Braun is going to be great, and Cameron will provide his interesting mix of good defense, great power, and a lot of strikeouts. Corey Hart should have a good year, provided he can get past the bad vibes his arbitration hearing will stir up. He had a great first half last year (deserving of his all-star selection, I think), but he stunk it up royally in September. I don't expect that to happen again.

To wrap this up before it gets too much longer, I think the Brewers will be fine this year. They won 90 games last year and while their pitching may be worse this year, it won't be *that* much worse, and it should be offset some by their offense. New management should help too (Yost really kept those guys wound up). I expect them to once again finish second in the division, and spend the late-season fighting it out with the Phils and/or Mets for the Wild Card. The final weekend of the season has the Brewers hosting the Phils. I can't wait to go to those games and see Gallardo beat Hamels to wrap up the playoffs.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Well, they have some names, but I have a hard time getting excited about them. Looper's FIP was 4.56 last season, Suppan's 5.51 (after 4 seasons sitting in the mid-4's), and Bush's was 4.93. I'm not sure you can really count on any of those guys to give you that much help. To me, they all seem to be 4 or 5 pitchers. Gallardo is a stud, and I like him a lot. Parra's pretty good, too, and I expect he'll do well. But after those two, I don't like the rotation much. Especially with the Cubs' staff and offense, I don't really think they have much of a chance at the division. As for the Wild Card, they'll have more of a shot, but they have to get some big years from that rotation.