Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Milwaukee Brewers took a step back in
Following one of the best seasons in franchise history in 2011, the Brewers
stumbled out of the gates a year ago and batted .245 before the All-Star
break, 13th among the 16 teams in the NL. They scored the fifth-most runs, but
inconsistency up and down the lineup kept them producing at an even higher
Things changed for them around the All-Star break, as the Brewers started to
resemble the team everyone thought they'd be. Milwaukee swatted 101 homers
over the second half, second only to the Washington Nationals, and the 392
runs they scored trailed by just two to the major league-leading Oakland
Still, the team dealt ace right-hander Zack Greinke at the trade deadline and
a leaky bullpen kept them from really making a mark on the playoff chase, as
they finished 83-79.
Milwaukee still has perhaps the best hitter in the National League in Ryan
Braun, but again he starts a season surrounded by allegations of performance-
The injuries that reared their ugly heads last year seem to be doing the same
again this year, as first base prospect Mat Gamel will miss the season with an
ACL injury, while slugger Cory Hart is expected to be sidelined the first
month of the year after offseason knee surgery.
Then there's the pitching staff, which figures to be very young and
Add it all together and it appears like another .500 record is in manager Ron
Below we take a capsule look at the 2013 edition of the Brewers, with a
personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2012 FINISH (83-79) - Third Place (NL Central)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Michael Gonzalez (LHP), Tom Gorzelanny (LHP), Burke
Badenhop (RHP), Kelvim Escobar (RHP), Bobby Crosby (INF), Donnie Murphy (3B)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Fautino de los Santos (RHP), Shaun Marcum (RHP),
Manny Parra (LHP), Yorvit Torrealba (C), Livan Hernandez (RHP), Nyjer Morgan
(OF), Kameron Loe (RHP), Travis Ishikawa (1B), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Norichika Aoki (RF), Rickie Weeks (2B), Ryan Braun (LF),
Aramis Ramirez (3B), Jonathan Lucroy (C), Carlos Gomez (CF), Alex Gonzalez
(1B), Jean Segura (SS)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Yovani Gallardo (RHP), Marco Estrada (RHP), Michael Fiers
(RHP), Chris Narveson (LHP), Wily Peralta (RHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: John Axford (RHP)
MANAGER: Ron Roenicke
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH RYAN BRAUN?
There is no question Braun is one of the best players in baseball.
Once again Braun put up an MVP-caliber season, hitting a career-best 41 homers
and driving in 112 runs. Just his presence seemed to elevate the rest of the
lineup, as Corey Hart belted 30 homers for only the second time in his career,
and Aramis Ramirez hit 27 homers while driving at more than 100 runs for the
first time in four years.
But, for the second straight winter Braun has had to deal with PED
allegations. This time, he's been linked to the Miami anti-aging clinic that
has also fingered noted steroid users Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera among
Where there's smoke there's usually fire and you have to wonder if a 50-game
suspension isn't looming at some point. But, if he is in the lineup for 145
games or so he should once again garner MVP attention.
WILL THE BULLPEN BE BETTER?
Despite the team's struggles, the Brewers still found themselves in playoff
contention in September only to see those hopes fade thanks to a horrific
bullpen that led all of baseball with 29 blown saves.
After dominating from 2010-11, closer John Axford struggled mightily, pitching
to a career worst 4.67 ERA with nine blown saves. He'll start the year again
as the team's closer, but the rest of the group is going to look different
from the end of last season, as Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra,
and Jose Veras were all shown the door.
Now Axford's main setup man figures to be lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who pitched to
a 2.28 ERA in his first year as a reliever last season with the Washington
Others who figure to set the bridge to Axford include righties Burke Badenhop,
Jim Henderson and Brandon Kintzler, as well as left-hander Mike Gonzalez.
CAN THE BREWERS WIN WITH SUCH AN INEXPERIENCED STAFF?
Yovani Gallardo is a bonafide ace. The right-hander seemed poised for a
stellar season after his 17-win campaign in 2011, but like the rest of the
Brewers struggled to get going. In the end, though, he still finished with 16
wins and pitched to a 3.66 ERA and matched his career-high from the previous
season with 33 starts.
This year, though, Gallardo's the only sure thing in a rotation that will
feature plenty of young arms.
Gone, of course, is Greinke, but Shaun Marcum left as a free agent as well.
Now, following Gallardo will be righties Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers and
lefty Chris Narveson, who has showed some flashes, but missed most of last
season recovering from shoulder surgery.
The wild card of the group may be righty Wily Peralta, who pitched to a 2.48
ERA in his five starts. He's only 23, but what else do the Brewers have to
lose by giving him a shot.
X-FACTOR: COREY HART: The biggest question with Corey Hart is can he stay
healthy? Well the answer to that question at least right now, is no. Hart is
going to miss at least the first month of the season following a knee
operation. When he is in the lineup, though, Hart is one of the more
productive players in the NL and serves as terrific protection for Braun's
lethal bat. With Gamel also lost for the season with an ACL injury, it's
imperative for Hart to get back quick, which appears to be the case, as he is
supposedly ahead of schedule. Even if he misses a month Hart is still a threat
to hit 30 home runs.
The Brewers were some decent pitching and more particularly, a decent bullpen,
away from making the postseason in 2012. Pitching -- from both the rotation
and the bullpen -- figures to be a roller-coaster ride this year, but the bats
will keep them in just about every game they play. But, not enough that
they'll contend for a National League Central crown.
The Sports Network