NL Central Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Last Year:

The Brewers finished in third place in the NL Central with a 77-85 record. They had the second-best offense in the NL with a team .334 wOBA, trailing only the surprising Cincinnati Reds. However, it was their pitching and defense that proved to be their downfall. Brewers pitchers posted a 4.21 FIP and 4.59 ERA on the season, both good for 13th in the NL. Oddly enough the Brewers graded out as average by UZR last year, but were second worst in the NL by DRS and the FSR with -38 runs and -21 runs, respectively.

The Brewers got off to a decent start to the season, playing .500 ish baseball before going on a 9-game losing streak in mid-May from which they never really recovered. They finally but the bullet and released Jeff Suppan after that streak, two years too late. Jim Edmonds had a 2008-Cubs like resurgence with them, posting a .369 wOBA with the Brewers before being traded to the Reds for Chris Dickerdoodle in July. Starting catcher Gregg Zaun tore his labrum in June and missed the rest of the season. He announced his retirement in the offseason. Ageless closer Trevor Hoffman finally hit a wall, struggling early and losing his closing gig to rookie John Axford. Hoffman picked up a few save opportunities late in the season, and recorded his 600th save on September 7th. He retired in the offseason. They signed SP Yovanni Gallardo to a new 5-year deal in April.

Offseason Moves:

With Fielder’s and Weeks’s departures due to FA on the horizon, the Brewers went all in on the 2011 season. They gutted their farm system to acquire starting pitchers Shaun Marcum from the Jays and Zack Greinke from the Royals. Following those moves, they signed oft-injured 2b Rickie Weeks to a 4/38.5 extension, with a vesting option for a fifth year that would increase the value of the contract to 50 million. In less impactful moves, they traded longtime swingman Carlos Villanueva to the Jays, resigned Brenly favorite Craig Counsell, and signed platoon masher Mark Kotsay. They traded Chris Dickerdoodle to the Yankees for former Cubs pitcher Sergio Mitre, probably only to make sure that his feelings aren’t hurt by my repeatedly calling him Dickerdoodle.

Players To Watch:

Fielder and Braun are their big hitters, and Greinke, Marcum, and Gallardo are their obvious top pitchers, but whether or not the Brewers run away with the division will largely depend on whether their recent investments in Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks pan out.

Weeks has always had plenty of raw talent, but he’s had a tough time staying on the field. He’s had surgeries on both wrists, and prior to 2010, in which he had 754 PAs, he had never posted more than 560 PAs. He’s also no longer the young player that many remember him as – he’s turning 29 this fall. His defensive skills, while improved, are still a little below average.

Hart had been panned by many as a bust after his breakout 2007, in which he posted a .259/.353/.539 line. I don’t know that a lot of projection systems expected him to post another OBP that large, but IIRC PECOTA loved his power. However, he followed it up with disappointing years of .268/.300/.459 and .260/.335/.418, with below average defense. Hart bounced back with a .283/.340/.525 line last year (with subpar defense), but there’s cause to be concerned that he might return to the below-average player he was in 2008 and 2009.

Projections:

Here’s a rough look at their team headed into the 2011 season. Since we don’t know a ton about not the Cubs, we used BP’s depth charts to estimate playing time. The players OBP/SLG are a simple average of their PECOTA and Oliver projections. The defensive numbers are from the players’ 2010 FSR, and baserunning was ignored unless a player was especially good or awful on the basepaths.

Hitter Pos PA OBP SLG Fld WAR
LuCroy CA 450 0.319 0.380 -0.1 1.15
Kottaras CA 160 0.319 0.397 -0.9 0.31
Fielder 1B 670 0.393 0.527 -0.9 3.93
Kotsay 1B 48 0.311 0.370 0 -0.07
Weeks 2B 600 0.353 0.446 -0.1 2.86
Counsell 2B 169 0.323 0.323 0.5 0.09
Yuni SS 585 0.282 0.383 -2.5 -1.97
Counsell SS 80 0.323 0.323 0 0.04
McGehee 3B 650 0.329 0.439 -0.5 1.81
Gamel 3B 33 0.329 0.424 0.1
Braun LF 670 0.361 0.530 -0.2 4.05
Boggs LF 64 0.330 0.354 0.3 0.0
Gomez CF 470 0.293 0.348 0.2 -0.32
Boggs CF 121 0.330 0.354 0.3
Hart RF 630 0.328 0.471 -0.5 1.41
Kotsay RF 121 0.311 0.370 0 -0.1

 

Pitcher IP ERA WAR
Greinke 186 3.41 4.43
Gallardo 178 3.80 3.29
Marcum 175 3.77 3.3
Wolf 174 4.39 1.94
Narveson 168 4.59 1.5
Loe 156 4.73 1.15
Axford 72 4.51 -0.03
Saito 60 3.23 1.28
Hawkins 60 4.12 0.26

Win Talent: 79.2 WAR. Maybe I went a little overboard with Yuni’s defensive numbers, but I’m trying to be consistent. If he’s truly a negative 2 WAR player the Brewers aren’t going to keep him in the lineup. Then again, I think FSR is too kind to Braun’s defense in LF. Gomez has a big defensive reputation but FSR isn’t a big fan either. The offense is there, and the pitching is better, but it looks like their defense is still going to hold them back.


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How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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