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Monday, February 21, 2011

MLB Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Sausage races, cheap beer, and no world championships. That's what Milwaukee does. Will 2011 be the year of the Brewers? Perhaps. They certainly have a better chance than the Royals.

Wisconsin is still aflutter from its real team. It might be awhile before they remember that they have a baseball team too. Apparently even their marketing department is confused, as apparently their manager is actually an Angels bench coach.

But let's be real, who doesn't like the Brewers? When a team has never won even a pennant, it's pretty hard to dislike them. Also hard to dislike a team when one of it's old logos was this:

I admit freely: that makes me smile.

So, the Brewers. In case you forgot, last year they finished 77-85, 14 games behind the Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the offense didn't click early enough last season, and the pitching staff was, in a word, poor. They finished 26th in the majors in ERA last year. They also had the unfortunate circumstance of playing in a division where the Cardinals were very dominant, and the Reds were not far behind. They also took a few lumps early when Trevor Hoffman coughed up a few games. However, they improved their pitching staff this year, and didn't lose much offense, I think this year they may be posed to be that blue to challenge the red.

The middle of the order will once again be a pretty scary place. Prince Fielder (.261, 32, 83), Ryan Braun (.304, 25 HR, 103 RBI) , Corey Hart (.283, 31, 104), and Casey McGehee (.285, 23, 104) can all mash. If Ricky Weeks (.269, 29, 83) stays healthy again and can drop his strikeout total, he'll be one of the league's best leadoff men. Jonathan Lucroy (.253, 4, 26), Yuniesky Betancourt (.259, 16, 78), and Carlos Gomez (.241, 5, 24) aren't quite as studly, but aren't bad fits in the lineup either.

The pitching staff became much better over the off-season, as the acquisition of Zack Greinke (10-14, 4.17) even after a down year makes everything a lot better. Yovani Gallardo (14-7, 3.84) had something of a down season in the win column, but still hit the 200 strikeout plateau. Workhorse Randy Wolf (13-12, 4.17) will be the a solid number 4 starter. The Brewers also went out and picked up a promising young arm in Shaun Marcum (13-8, 3.64). Their fifth starter, Chris Narveson (12-9, 4.99) is a solid and upcoming young player as well. Finally, closer John Axford busted on the scene, following in Trevor Hoffman's wake. His mustache is one of the greatest currently in the game.

So, in a walnut, here are your 2011 Milwaukee Brewers.

C Jonathan Lucroy
1B Prince Fielder
2B Rickie Weeks
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3B Casey McGehee
LF Ryan Braun
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Corey Hart
SP Zack Greinke
SP Yovanni Gallardo
SP Shaun Marcum
SP Randy Wolf
SP Chris Narveson
CL John Axford

Best Case Scenario:
After a so so start in which the bullpen loses 6 games in the first month of the season, the Brewers make an early season trade with the A's for Brian Fuentes (For their first round draft pick and Jake Ordozzi) which helps them right the ship. They finish the All-Star break 7 games behind the Cardinals and 4 behind the Reds. Realizing they need to jumpstart the car if they want any chance of postseason, they sign Aaron Rodgers to a one month contract. Rodgers, or "Goliath" as he is nicknamed, becomes a force in the bullpen, and fills the hole left by an ailing Weeks. In one month he pitches 20 innings out of the bullpen, hits 8 home runs, and drives in 22 runs. The NFL lockout occurs and Rodgers elects to stay with the team for the rest of the season. On September 20th, the Brewers, Reds, and Cardinals are all within one game of each other for two playoff spots. The Brewers sweep the Pirates at home to win the Wild Card one games ahead of the Reds. Unfortunately, the lockout ends and Rodgers has to leave as the Brewers fall to the giants in the divisional series.

Worst Case Scenario:
They start the same, without making the trade for Fuentes, and end up 9 games back on June 1. Betancourt and Weeks start making errors and the bullpen starts coughing up more and more games. With hopes fading and the NFL already having settled on the new CBA, the Brewers bet the farm, trading 3 of their top 5 Prospects and Wolf for Kevin Gregg, All-Star Justin Duchscherer, and Frank Francisco in order to shore up the pitching staff. This, plus amazingly entertaining Sausage races, get them within 4 games of the Wild Card on September 1st, but then three things happen. One, football season starts, Wisconsin forgets about the MLB to watch the sinewy Adonis that is Aaron Rodgers; Hot Link and Bratwurst are caught with concealed weapons in a Minneapolis Night Club, suspending Sausage races for the rest of the season; and Francisco, Duchscherer, and Marcum go down hurt. Come the last series against the Pirates they are already mathematically eliminated, and a sweep still puts them two games behind the Reds.

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