Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 NL Central Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

by: Jon Davis
Staff Writer

Today we look at the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew will look to rebound from a disappointing fourth place finish in 2013. They started 2013 by going 14-11 in April, but after going 6-22 in May the Brewers season was all but over. They finished 2013 with a 74-88 record and 23 games back in the Central. The biggest storyline for Milwaukee last year was Ryan Braun's suspension. For the second time Braun was suspended for PED's, but in 2013 he was not so fortunate and missed the final 62 games.

They did manage to upgrade the rotation recently by signing Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in Brewer history, a four year 50 million dollar deal. Garza will be taking the spot that last year saw eight different pitchers combine to cover. Unlike last year where they had three spots up for grabs in the rotation, this year the Brewers seem to have the starting five set barring injuries, with Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Although youngsters Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson performed very well last year.

On the other side the Brewers also did not make many changes. They addressed the outfield glut by dealing Norichika Aoki to the Royals. Then in an effort to get better production at first brought in Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, this was after losing Corey Hart to the Seattle Mariners. Overall the lineup seems pretty well set and mostly the same as last year, with a potential platoon at second between Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks, and a definite platoon at first with some combination of Mark Reynolds, Juan Francisco and Lyle Overbay.

The Brewers definitely upgraded the rotation from last year, but was wasted money in my eyes as Garza's spot could have been filled internally, by either Thornburg or Nelson. Offensively, if the Brewers upgraded it is not by much. A full season from Braun will be beneficial, assuming he is the same player he was given that, we assume anyway, he is PED-free. Overall there is optimism in Brewer land but given that they would have to leapfrog three teams a division title is unlikely, but maybe they make a run at the wild card.

Lets look at the Brewers offseason and some numbers from last year.

Notable Additions: Matt Garza (TEX Free agent, signed 1/26), Mark Reynolds (NYY Free agent, signed 1/17), Lyle Overbay (NYY Free agent, signed 1/20), Francisco Rodriguez (BAL Free agent, signed 2/7), Zach Duke (CIN Free agent, signed 1/15), Will Smith (Trade w/ Royals)

Notable Losses: Corey Hart (SEA), Norichika Aoki (Trade w/ Royals), Yuniesky Betancourt (Japan), Burke Badenhop (Trade w/ Red Sox), Mike Gonzalez (FA)

Youngsters to watch this season: RHP Tyler Thornburg, RHP Jimmy Nelson, RHP David Goforth, RHP Taylor Jungmann, RHP Johnny Hellweg, RHP Michael Blazek, RHP Hiram Burgos --- Anyone notice a pattern?

Manger: Ron Roenicke
2013 payroll: $92.7 Million (18th in MLB)
Avg. home attendance: 31,248 (16th in MLB)

2013 records:
Overall: 74-88
Home: 37-44
Road: 37-44
Vs. NLC: 34-42

Notable 2013 stat rankings:
Runs - 19th (640)
HRs - 16th (157)
SBs - 3rd (142)
ERA - 16th (3.84)
BAA - 18th (.255)
WHIP - 14th (1.29)
Errors - 28th (114)

Projected Lineup:
SS Jean Segura
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Jonathan Lucroy
1B Juan Francisco*
LF Khris Davis
2B Scooter Gennett*

(*Denotes Lefty hitter in potential platoon)

Projected Rotation:
RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Wily Peralta

CL Jim Henderson

Best Case scenario: For the Brewers, the best case scenario starts with some combination of the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds taking big steps backwards this year. With that they need three things. First, they need the rotation to stay healthy and productive. Second, they need Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez to duplicate their success from last year & Braun needs to return to expected form. Lastly, they need more production from spots four through eight. Final record: 91-71 (2nd place in NL Central)

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles to stay healthy and/or to be productive. While Gomez and Segura take steps back after breakout seasons last year. Ryan Braun struggles to regain his form that had him in the yearly MVP discussions, which leads to questions of whether he was ever that good, which in turn leads to more pressure and it all just snowballs for the Brewers. Luckily for them there is still the Cubbie cushion, which is the only thing that most likely keeps them out of the NL Central Basement. Final record: 69-93 (4th place in NL Central)

I think more so than any other team in the division and maybe all of baseball the Brewers need a good start to 2014, and the same goes for Ryan Braun.

And in case you missed yesterdays preview...

NL Central previews
Monday 2/17: Chicago Cubs

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