Monday, March 14, 2011

Your 2011 Guide to the Milwaukee Brewers with Other Outlandish Predictions and Recaps


I feel every year I make this post somewhere on the internet and come seasons end I look back at it, and it just proves one thing to me, I, James Smizek, am a god damn wizard.  I mean really, my words are gold, solid gold, Cash-4-Gold get fifty dollars for grandma's earrings gold.  But I mean, you don't have to take my word for it, but you know what my word was good for? Pissing my pants for the Brewers.  Yeah, that's right.  I know somewhere there is a person reading this laughing, knowing they did the same.  Peeyourpantsforthebrewers.com was the greatest thing to happen in 2008 and the second they clinched the playoff birth you know where I was? On my front step, hands in the air, screaming, piss just running down my leg.  Yeah America, I just admitted it.  Why do I tell you this?  Why? Really? One word.  Loyalty. (we should clear something up for a few who are confused.  Peeyourpantsforthebrewers.com was a website where you pledge to piss your pants if the Brewers made the playoffs.  I'm no hack.)

So after that brash introduction based off self confidence and good intuition, I think we are set to begin on how I see the 2011 affair to end up.  But first, lets criticize 2010 some more.  Hopes were high in 2010, for reasons I am not sure why yet.  I don't know if people were still riding high off of 2008, or if they thought Randy Wolf was the answer, but there was a lot of confidence in this team last year.  On paper nothing really stood out to me.  Macha was back with that old, well, old look to him, Gregg Zaun was supposedly our prayer from the catching gods, Manny Parra was finally going to have his breakout year, and Jim Edmonds was going to be the veteran leader to the World Series.  You read these now and you just feel completely silly.

After April in 2010 you had to be having second thoughts considering the Brewers lost seven of their last eight games to finish the month with a 9–14 record.  Braun was sitting at .355 and McGehee at .305 but the mighty hammer in Fielder was cold at .244 and had a home run drought of fifty some at-bats.  Suppan got pulled as a starter after just two starts, and then the Crew saw themselves fall victim to a nine game losing streak in May.  I really find no reason to review the rest of the season, because I know you know that I know that we both know how it ended.

But 2010 was not a absolute loss, a lot actually came out of it.  The firing of Ken Macha, the emergence of young arms in Axford and Braddock, and just the enough amount of experience to ship Escobar and Cain out the door.  Have you been living under a rock? If so, I'll fill you in on what came out of Escobar and Cain in a little bit, as I write this all I can say is it involves a basketball (and maybe 20 wins and a Cy Young winner..).

So starts 2011, the off-season started with priority number one, find a new Manager.  The rumor mill was running at full efficiency when it came to this topic.  First it was Bob Melvin, then it was Bobby Valentine, then it was the man meant to be in Ron Roenicke.  The former Bench coach from the Angels joined the Brewers as Skipper for 2011 and for the first time in a long time, I was happy with our Manager.  Along with the hiring of Roenicke also came the notable hiring of Rick Kranitz as the pitching coach, and Jerry Narron as bench coach.

Alright, so coaching, check.  But there were so many questions, how would we clean up our rotation?  Would our bullpen be enough to hold a lead?  Would Fielder get traded?  One of the questions would get a partial answer come December 5th as the Milwaukee Brewers acquired RHP Shaun Marcum from Toronto in exchange for 2B Brett Lawrie.

Marcum returned from Tommy John surgery in 2009 to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts in 2010.  He was the Blue Jays Opening Day starter made 20 quality starts and held opponents to a .242 batting average.  He led Toronto starters in ERA and ranked second on the staff with career highs in starts and innings pitched (195.1).  He tossed at least six innings in 23 of his 31 starts.  As a control pitcher, Marcum ranked fourth in the American League with just 2.0 walks per 9.0 innings.  Definitely a bright spot for the Brewers in regards to 2011, but still at this point, it just was not enough.  But don't worry Brewers fans, Christmas came early for us all.

I will never forgot December 19, 2010.  I was sitting at work, in a co-workers desk in the newsroom, and slowly rumors starting creeping their ways on to Twitter.  I told our Sports Anchor Ryan Rodig about them and he immediately shot down the thought.  "No way" he said, he couldn't face the fact of the source, Jim Breen, from Bernies Crew.  BerniesCrew played it perfectly, never said anything false, but hinted just enough that something was in the works.  Some said it was a done deal, others said that it would be finalized in the morning, but all the rumors pointed at one thing, Zack Greinke, 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, would be suiting up for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011.

I woke up early the next morning, just to check my Twitter and see if Greinke was really coming to the Brewers.  To my shock, amazment, excitement, joy, it was true, though it came at a steep price.  The Brewers parted ways with Shortstop Alcides Escobar, Center-fielder Lorenzo Cain, and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.  In return the Royals sent Greinke, Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, and 2 million dollars to the Brewers.

In just the span of two weeks the Brewers had added two number one starters from their respected teams in 2010 in Marcum and Greinke.  A rotation that was once lead by Gallardo and Wolf was now in a whole different level of awesome.  For the first time since the second half of 2008 Brewers fan actually had something to look forward too from their starting arms and no more than three weeks later, the Brewers added that final piece to the bullpen.

On January 11th the Brewers signed RHP Takashi Saito to round out the bullpen.  After spending three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (much of it as a closer) Saito spent the past two seasons as a set-up man in Boston and then Atlanta. Regardless of his role, he has been dominant over those five seasons. In fact, he is just one of six relievers in baseball to throw at least 250 innings with an ERA below 2.25 since 2006.

On paper at this point things were slowly starting to come together.  It was becoming clear that the Brewers were going to hold on the Fielder and that the club was essentially "all-in" for 2011.  A few more signings completed the off-season in RHP Sean Green, the resigning of Counsell, and the signing of IF/OF utility man Mark Kotsay (other notables included: OF Jeremy Reed, OF Brandon Boggs, and C Wil Nieves). Things indeed were falling into place.

So here we sit now, March 14th, and whats the word of the day? Injuries.  Of course you're going to have them, but some hurt more than others.  Here is a run down of the current injured list:

OF - Corey Hart - Oblique Injury - Two Weeks to a Month
P - Zack Greinke - Broken Rib - Around a Month
CF - Carlos Gomez - Stiff Back - Day-to-day
LF - Ryan Braun - Strained Rib Cage Muscle - Day-to-day
2B - Rickie Weeks - Groin - Day-to-day
SS- Yuniesky Betancourt - Strained Quad - Day-today
C - Johnathon Lucroy - Broken Pinkie - Up to Three More Weeks

Now, I know day-to-day injuries aren't the end of the world, but if not treated correctly it can lead to much worse things.  Hart is expected to start swinging again soon and should be ready by opening day, Greinke will start the year on the DL and is expected to miss his first three starts.  The worst part of Greinke's injury how it happened.  Greinke suffered a hairline fracture in one rib and a bruise in another when he fell to the ground on his left side after grabbing a rebound, yes a rebound, as in playing Basketball.  Definitely not the way you want to see your star acquisition go down.

So currently, sitting March 14th, here is how I expect things to look on March 31st.

Starters:

Yovani Gallardo
Shaun Marcum
Randy Wolf
Chris Narveson
Rogers/Parra

Bullpen:

John Axford
Zack Braddock
LaTroy Hawkins
Takashi Saito
Kameron Loe
Sean Green

Position Players:

1B - Prince Fielder
2B - Rickie Weeks
3B - Casey McGehee
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Carlos Gomez
RF- Mark Kotsay/Corey Hart (pending health)
C - George Kottaras

Bench Players:

UTIL - Craig Counsell
UTIL - Mark Kotsay
OF - Chris Dickerson
OF - Brandon Boggs
C - Wil Nieves (until Lucroy is healthy)

Opening Day Lineup:

2B - Rickie Weeks
CF - Carlos Gomez
LF - Ryan Braun
1B - Prince Fielder
3B - Casey McGehee
RF - Mark Kotsay
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt
C - George Kottaras
P - Yovani Gallardo


Obviously things will change once Zack Greinke makes his return sometime in late April, I would expect Rogers to be optioned to AAA, assuming he wins the 5 spot in the rotation.  Lets cross our fingers for that, I want the Parra experience to be over.  In the case Rogers wins the 5 spot and performs, I would feel completely comfortable with him in a long relief role in the bullpen, but once again, Manny Parra acts as the proverbial cockblock, for lack of a better term.

Now on to the fun part, my loose ended projections.  I slap no guarantees on these, what I will reassure you of, is at seasons end, a few of them will be somewhat close, see what I just did there? I opened it all up for success.

Basic Season Stat Projections:

Starting Pitchers and Closer (Based on IP, Record, ERA, and K's)

Zack Greinke - 201 IP, 17-9, 3.29 ERA, 205 K
Yovani Gallardo - 220 IP, 18-10, 3.55 ERA, 230 K
Shaun Marcum - 199 IP, 13-10, 4.06 ERA, 120 K
Randy Wolf - 180 IP, 12-10, 4.25 ERA, 142 K
Chris Narveson - 169 IP, 10-12, 4.66 ERA, 158 K

John Axford - 61 IP, 3.10 ERA, 92 K's, 38 Saves


Starting Position players and Reserves (Based on AVG, HR, and RBI)

1B - Prince Fielder - .277 Avg, 39 HR, 106 RBI
2B - Rickie Weeks  - .268 Avg, 24 HR, 79 RBI
3B - Casey McGehee - .281 Avg, 26 HR, 101 RBI
SS - Yuniesky Betancourt - .248 Avg, 15 HR, 61 RBI
LF - Ryan Braun - .301 Avg, 43 HR, 138 RBI
CF - Carlos Gomez - .257 Avg, 8 HR, 49 RBI
RF- Corey Hart - .266 Avg, 27 HR, 91 RBI

C - George Kottaras - .231 Avg, 9 HR, 47 RBI
C - Johnathon Lucroy - .257 Avg, 11 HR, 58 RBI
IF/OF - Mark Kotsay - .240 Avg, 6 HR, 33 RBI
IF - Craig Counsell - .266 Avg, 2 HR, 25 RBI
OF - Chris Dickerson - .249 Avg, 4 HR, 41 RBI

Super early prediction: 88-74
NL Central/NL Wild Card Contenders.

There you go America, World, whoever reads this blog and took the time out to read my rambling.  I, as you, very much look forward to the 2011 campaign, and look forward to poppin' out some stories for all of you.  Strap in, could be a season to remember.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Twitter is the answer: @WiscSportsTalk @JamesSmizek

1 comments:

Steve said...

Fun article.

- EC STEVE

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