Baseball Reflections on the Brewers

brewersAny preview of the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers will invariably contain the names CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets early and often. The two combined for 24 wins in 2008 and the run CC went on after his trade from Cleveland has been well documented. With the “workhorse” Sabathia now in New York, and the oft-injured Sheets out of the picture, the Brewers face varying questions throughout their rotation.


yovani-gallardoYovani Gallardo, the most likely candidate to lead the staff, has ace-like promise, but the sample size is small because of a near season ending injury he suffered last season. The 23-year old Gallardo has made 21 career starts and is 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 8.14 K/9. The injury should have little to no affect on him other than limiting his experience. Look for Gallardo to win 15+ games in front of a stronger offense in Milwaukee.

Manny Parra who has all of 31 starts under his belt started 2008 strong, going 9-2 through mid-July, but he struggled in the second half, posting an ERA of 5.31 and eventually finished the season just 10-8. Parra will need to play in 2009 like he did in the first half of 2008 or the Brewers will find themselves struggling to keep pace in the NL Central.

Dave Bush will enter his fourth season with the Brewers and the previous three were consistently inconsistent. In 2008 Bush was in the top five in the NL in WHIP but he again struggled to keep his ERA down. I documented in one of my posts on my own blog (Bush getting settled in new look rotation) some of the reasons for this. A lot of it has to do with his inability to keep the ball in the park and his struggles keeping the runners that do get on base from crossing home plate. You can expect another .500 year with an ERA just over four for Bush.

Jeff Suppan has been the recipient of some Brewer fan angst over the past year, and his struggles in Spring Training this season have done little to calm their nerves. At 34 he becomes the veteran of the staff, that and his ability to chew up innings may be the best qualities he offers this team. In 2008 Suppan posted an ERA of nearly 5.00, and surrendered 30 home runs, finishing the season 10-10. Slotted in the fourth or fifth spot of the rotation is where he is best suited, and around .500 is where he will end up at season’s end.

Rounding out the rotation will be Braden Looper, assuming he is healthy enough to go. Looper is Suppan-esque in many ways including his ability to eat up innings. At 34, he will be entering his third year as a starter having made just 63 starts since 2007. Looper is a 24-26 as a starter and Brewer fans should expect much the same from Braden as they expect from Suppan. I pulled some numbers to illustrate the similarities between the two pitchers. The first line is Looper from 2007 and the second Suppan from last year:
















































The Brewers needed a closer with the retirement of Solomon Torres, enter Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman still shows signs of being effective despite his age and should be steady for the Brewers. Carlos Villanueva, Jorge Julio, Seth McClung, Todd Coffey and Mitch Stetter form a crew that has as many question marks as the starters. With relievers for any team, each season offers something different and what this bunch can do will be seen when April hits.


I have read a couple of Brewer previews prior to writing this one, and one common theme focuses on the Brewers ability to score runs. Yet they return much of the same players to the lineup, one that scored the seventh most runs in the National League in 2008, 105 runs fewer than the Chicago Cubs. A main reason for the lack of run production can be found in a team batting average of .253 in ’08.

Ryan Braun who was moved from 3B to LF in ’08 and hit .285 with 37 HRs and 106 RBI, leading the team in all three categories. Expect more of the same from one of the league’s premier young sluggers.

prince-fielderPrince Fielder’s production tailed off in just about every category on 2008. Coming off his 50-homer season in 2007, Fielder’s numbers took a hit and the people were quick to attribute it to everything from his new all veggie diet to weight gain. In May Prince will turn 25 and many believe he is due for a rebound. That birthday could be just what he needs. In 2007 from May 30 forward, he batted .277 with 28 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .925 OPS.

Only Florida and Philadelphia hit more home runs than Milwaukee in 2008, and the 71 they got from Prince and Braun were only the beginning. Three other players including Mike Cameron, J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart all chipped in with 20+, and they may need similar power numbers from those three in ’09, especially if they are unable to improve on their individual batting averages. While Hardy hit a respectable .285, Hart struggled at .268 and Cameron did as well at .243 while striking out a team high 142 times.

Bill Hall did much of the same hitting only .225 and he has not been able to find the stroke that allowed him to hit 35 home runs in 2006. Hall was Jekyll and Hyde against righties and lefties. Against south paws he hit .306 with a .893 OPS, against righties he hit an atrocious .107.

The Brewers will go with Rickie Weeks at leadoff, and I have to believe it’s because they can’t find another spot for him. In his five-year career Weeks is a .245 hitter and in 2008 he hit a career low .234. He does have a knack for the plate though. Despite his inability to get on base consistently when he does get on he scores. Weeks scored 89 runs in ’08 which was 18th in the NL. On the bright side…he is only 26.


If you think the platoon of Bill Hall and Mike Lamb will last the season, I say think again. The Brewers have prospect Matt Gamel waiting in the wings to take over at 3B, and he will most likely only begin the season at Triple-A. Gamel is often compared to Ryan Braun and by mid-season he could be called up to show his skills at the major league level.

If Weeks continues to struggle you might see Hardy move to 2B to make room for Alcides Escobar. Escobar has a major league glove, but the bat is the issue right now. He doesn’t walk often enough and that keeps his speed at bay too much to make him an option for the big league club any time soon.


Most experts have this team winning around 80-85 games in 2009, and I think that is pretty accurate. The Brewers should be able to score runs, but I see them coming in bunches and not as consistently as people would like to think. Add that to a pitching staff that will be equally inconsistent and you have the recipe for a .500 team. Braun, Fielder and Hardy will do their part to keep this team rolling, but in the end they finish no better than second in the NL Central.

To read more from Rex Jaybels make sure to follow this link to i94 Sports which focuses on Chicago and Milwaukee sports.

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