Baseball Preview: Milwaukee Brewers
Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.
Milwaukee Brewers (75-87, 4th in NL Central) +4 games
Get Crunked: Ben Sheets is a fireballer and dominates when he’s not dealing with his bad back. Francisco Cordero came over in the Carlos Lee deal from Texas to shut NL teams down as the closer last year. Bill Hall surprised people by slugging 35 HRs (35!) in ’06, and has been moved to CF. Rickie Weeks appears to be on the cusp of stardom as long as he can shake his wrist injury and defensive woes from a season ago. Prince Fielder is a slugger in the making, who isn’t as stationary as his father was.
Party Foul: Geoff Jenkins’ power fell off completely last year, he’s a crucial bat for this team and needs to turn it around. Derrick Turnbow imploded last year as the closer, now he must find himself as one of the setup men. Youngsters J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart must seize their opportunities in the everyday lineup.
What’d my GM do: Signing World Series star Jeff Suppan to a 4 year $42 million deal was expensive but it shows Doug Melvin is committed to fielding a competitive team. He traded Doug Davis and Dana Eveland to Arizona for Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas, and Greg Aquino, which should work out well for both teams. Craig Counsell was signed to a two-year deal, and his experience makes him a good insurance policy in the infield.
Lay it on me Straight: This is a very solid squad all the way around. The rotation is good, the fielding is pretty good, the bullpen is decent. The only problem is nothing about the offense really wows you, and the pitching isn’t dominating enough to the point where it can overcome a lack of run support.
So where my boys gonna finish right now: Near the .500 mark, but probably a bit below it, closer to the ’05 finish rather than the ’06 one.
Can we be better than that: If this team turns it on somehow (Hardy, Weeks, Hart), they could easily do better than the projection. Like I said it’s a very solid squad that’s been built nicely given the payroll, just don’t expect the playoffs.