2009 MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW
The Brewers had a huge season in 2008. The Brew Crew jumped out to a great start and then surprised the baseball world by acquiring Cleveland ace CC Sabathia at the trading deadline. Sabathia’s arrival gave Milwaukee two aces (along with home grown Ben Sheets) and spurred the Brewers to a wild card berth and their first playoff appearance in a decade.
Unfortunately, the Brewers ran into some attrition this offseason. Gone are both Sabathia and Sheets, leaving two gigantic holes in the top of their rotation. The Brewers also said goodbye to closer Eric Gagne. To help make up for the losses, the Brew Crew brought in former Padre Trevor Hoffman to close games and also brought in former Cardinal Braden Looper to start. Still, the Brewers have some major pitching holes to fill this season.
The Brewers’ rotation is definitely weakened this year without Sabathia and Sheets, though Sheets is still available on the free agent market. Entering Spring Training, Jeff Suppan (10-10, 4.96 ERA, 31 starts, 177 IP last year) appears to be the number one starter. Uh Oh. Young Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 1.88 ERA, 4 starts) is expected to play a huge role after having a strong 2007 season and then pitching well after returning from injury last year but he hasn’t yet played a full big league season. Manny Parra (10-8, 4.39 ERA, 29 starts), Braden Looper (12-14, 4.16 ERA, 33 starts, 199 IP) and Dave Bush (9-10, 4.18 ERA, 29 starts, 185 IP) all are solid starters and should fill the back end of the rotation well. The Brewers do have five solid starters but are lacking any top of the rotation options and are definitely weaker than a year ago.
The Brewers made a pretty solid move in picking up Padre Legend Trevor Hoffman (3.77 ERA, 30 SV in 34 SVO, 48 Gm, 46 K) to close out games. Hoffman is still effective despite his age and should be steady for the Brew Crew. The Bullpen is solid in front of him as Milwaukee returns most of the supporting cast from last season’s playoff edition. Carlos Villanueva (4.07 ERA), Jorge Julio (3.60 ERA), Seth McClung (4.02), Todd Coffey (4.39 ERA) and Mitch Stetter (3.20 ERA) form a very good bullpen. The Brewers should be very good in the late innings this year.
The Brewers have a pretty powerful lineup, led by first baseman Prince Fielder (.276, 34 RBI, 102 RBI, .372 OBP). Fielder’s numbers were actually down a little bit last year, so you know he is a great talent. Second baseman Richie Weeks (.234, 14 HR, 46 RBI, .342 OBP, 19 SB) should again be strong and double play partner J. J. Hardy (.283, 24 HR, 74 RBI, .343 OBP) is a very dangerous hitter. Third baseman Bill Hall (.225, 15 HR, 55 RBI, .293 OBP) has some pop but will need to improve his average or the Brewers could be looking for another option at midseason. Catcher Jason Kendall (.246, 2 HR, 49 RBI, .327 OBP) is a solid but isn’t much more than a good singles hitter. Outside of Kendall, this is a pretty solid infield which will hit a lot of home runs.
Home run hitting is also a prominent theme in the Milwaukee outfield. Leftfielder Ryan Braun (.285, 37 HR, 106 RBI, .335 OBP, 14 SB) is one of the best power hitters in the National League and should continue his excellent production in his 3 rd major league season. Centerfielder Mike Cameron (.243, 25 HR, 70 RBI, .331 OBP, 17 SB) will look to improve his average but he still has plenty of pop in his bat. Rightfielder Cory Hart (.268, 20 HR, 91 RBI, .300 OBP, 23 SB) is also another dangerous bat for the Brew Crew and should have another solid year. Veteran Trot Nixon (11 Gm last year, .274 lifetime hitter) and young Tony Gwynn Jr. (29 Gm) will provide plenty of depth. The Brewers have an excellent outfield.
The Brewers have a very potent offense, a solid bullpen and a decent starting rotation. However, Milwaukee’s starting rotation is a lot less intimidating without Sabathia and Sheets and any team that loses two frontline starters is going to take a step back. Factor in the heavy competition in the National League Central and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Brewers take a fairly sizable step back this year.
Milwaukee is still a very good team but they finished seven games behind the Cubs last year and are now down a pair of aces. Furthermore, St. Louis should have an improved rotation and Milwaukee is a very dangerous team. While the Brew Crew will still be a competitive unit, expect the Brewers to finish this season with only 80-85 wins, good for a 4 th place finish in the tough National League Central.
By Matt Baxendell
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