30 Clubs in 30 Days: Milwaukee Brewers

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageA year after their most successful season in three decades, the Milwaukee Brewers faced the reality of a world without Prince Fielder in 2012. The offense, which actually improved in run production thanks to the improvement of developing youngsters, was let down by a disappointing pitching staff that had the Brew-Crew out of playoff contention by the middle of the summer.

The lineup, which was quite well-balanced, was led by MVP candidate Ryan Braun (.319-41-112) and first baseman Corey Hart (.270-30-83). The evolution of Carlos Gomez (.260-19-51) and Jonathan Lucroy (.320-12-58) were also keys to Milwaukee scoring 776 runs, good for the most in the National League.

Their pitching, however, lost a lot going into 2013. Gone is Zach Greinke, dealt to Anaheim last July. Also moving on is Shaun Marcum (7-4, 3.70), Randy Wolf (3-10, 5.69), and Marry Parra (2-3, 5.06). Milwaukee will try to replace these arms internally with Michael Fiers (9-10, 3.74), Chris Narveson (1-1, 7.00), and Wily Peralta (2-1, 2.48). Marco Estrada (5-7, 3.64) is another hurler who gained valuable experience in 2012 that will be relied heavily upon this season.

Five Year Review:
2012:  83-79
2011: 96-66
Lost in NLCS to Cardinals, 4-2
2010: 77-85
2009: 80-82
2008: 90-72
Lost in NLDS to Phillies, 3-1

2012 Team MVP: OF Ryan Braun: The 2011 NL MVP has been the best player in Milwaukee for years now and 2012 was no different. From the moment he stepped onto the diamond at Miller Park, the 29-year old superstar was a fan favorite. His .324-34-97 line in 2007 earned him rookie of the year honors. Last season’s .319-41-112 mark, which would be a career year for most, was just another in a long line of successful seasons for Braun. Without him in the lineup, the Brewers are just another mediocre team. With Braun, Milwaukee must feel that they have a chance in every game that they play.

2012 Team LVP: LHP Randy Wolf: One would be hardpressed to find a more disappointing starter than Wolf. Signed to a three year contract prior to 2010, the former Phillies’ southpaw was as advertised his first two seasons as a Brewer (26-22, 3.93 in 67 starts). But, it all came crashing down in 2012. Wolf went two months in between his second and third wins, going 0-4, 5.42 during that span. In games he started, the Brewers were 7-18, the worst mark of any pitcher on the team. Amazingly, Wolf’s strikeout and walk ratios were improvements over the previous year. However, his BABIP was an astounding .344, a whole .051 point difference from his career average of .293. Wolf was released by Milwaukee in late August before inking a deal with Baltimore. He went 2-0, 5.28 in five games with the Orioles and was not tendered a contract this offseason.

Key Acquisitions:

INF Donnie Murphy (Miami Marlins)
RHP Burke Badenhop (Tampa Bay Rays)
LHP Mike Gonzalez (Washington Nationals)
LHP Tom Gorzelanny (Washington Nationals)

Key Departures

C Yorvit Torrealba (Colorado Rockies)
1B Travis Ishikawa (Baltimore Orioles)
OF Nyjer Morgan (unsigned)
RHP Livan Hernandez (unsigned)
RHP Shaun Marcum (New York Mets)
RHP Francisco Rodriguez (unsigned)
RHP Jose Veras (Houston Astros)
RHP Kameron Loe (unsigned)
LHP Manny Parra (Cincinnati Reds)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

CF Norichika Aoki – .291-9-53, 23 SB
2B Rickie Weeks – .250-21-64, 11 SB
LF Ryan Braun – .305-34-108, 23 SB
3B Aramis Ramirez – .281-25-91
C Jonathan Lucroy – .276-12-59
RF Carlos Gomez – .244-16-56-31 SB
1B Alex Gonzalez – .241-9-37
SS Jean Segura – .268-6-43, 22 SB

RHP Yovani Gallardo – 13-10, 3.72
RHP Marco Estrada – 11-9, 4.02
RHP Michael Fiers – 10-9, 3.83
LHP Chris Narveson – 7-8, 4.64
RHP Wily Peralta – 7-7, 4.42

RHP John Axford – 3-3, 3.39, 29 SV
LHP Mike Gonzalez – 3-2, 3.76, 2 SV

2013 Outlook

The Brew-Crew managed an NLCS berth out of their two-year dance with Greinke and Marcum. Now, the de facto ace becomes Gallardo. After him, all bets are off. The Brewers’ rotation is comprised of a handful of no-name hurlers looking to create some buzz for themselves. It just might work. But, I would not bet my life on it. Peralta, the organization’s best prospect, should develop into a strong #2 or #3 starter. The rest of the bunch could go the way of Gallardo or Manny Parra, a former top prospect who was released this offseason.

The Brewers’ lineup should be strong again. Although, I have a real problem with the team believing that former defensive-minded shortstop Alex Gonzalez can hold down the fort at first for a few months until Corey Hart is healthy. Gonzalez was never much of an offensive catalyst, and he is currently penciled in at the most offensively critical position on the diamond. Other than Gonzalez, though, the Brewers do not have many holes in their lineup. Assuming Braun, Ramirez, and Lucroy are healthy, the Brewers should once again be in the upper-half of the NL in run production.

Overall, I like the Brewers to sit right around the middle of the pack in the NL once again. Their offense is rivaled by few. But, the pitching staff is weaker than it was to open the season last year. They also have very little experience, a critical factor for any successful rotation. In the end, I foresee the Brewers winning between 78-84 games, and finishing in the middle of the pack in the NL Central.

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