Coming off a successful first season with the Brewers, the focal point of Zack Greinke’s off-season workout regiment was to avoid pick up basketball games at all costs.
All (bad) jokes aside, Greinke was, at times, the most dominant pitcher on the Brewers rotation in 2011, but failed to maintain his consistency throughout the season. In wins, Greinke held a 2.55 era with a 10.9 K/9 ratio, but struggled mightily when he was the losing pitcher. The 28-year-old right hander held a 7.96 era and averaged just over five innings pitched per start in games in which he was handed the “L.” Overall, Greinke finished with an impressive 16-6 record, a respectable 3.83 era, and a dazzling total of 201 strikeouts in merely 171.2 innings due to an early-season rib injury. He led the National League in K/9, beating out Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and All Star Game starter Roy Halladay.
Yovani Gallardo is expected to get the Opening Day nod from manager Ron Roenicke, and this should come as no trouble to Greinke. The starter has a past of a social anxiety disorder that delayed his progression into the Majors.
Greinke can be slotted in to be an above-average second starter for the Brewers in 2012. Batters have yet to figure out his delicate mix of a high-velocity fastball with late life, improving change-up, low-70’s sharp curve, and nasty slide piece, and it’s unlikely Greinke will stray away from his four consecutive productive seasons, including the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.
His innings and pitch count will not be monitored as they were for his first three or four starts in 2011. Barring any injuries or other major setbacks, expect Greinke to top 200 innings pitched as he did from 2008-10 while in Kansas City. The late innings will be important for Greinke to keep the bullpen relatively fresh. After going the distance in nine games over the previous two seasons, he had no complete games in 2011. As a staff, Milwaukee only had one complete game for the entire season (Yovani Gallardo vs. Atlanta in April) and was aided by a very deep bullpen. The bullpen, with the losses of Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins, doesn’t have the sixth-and-seventh-inning arms it possessed last season. More starters, Greinke specifically, will have to go deeper into games to prevent Roenicke from using Marco Estrada or Brandon Kintzler in the eighth.
Greinke’s mechanics are easily repeatable and his release point remains the same regardless of the pitch. Unless he simply loses his All Star-quality heater, hoopdy scoopdy, and slider, expect another phenomenal, punch out filled season from Greinke in 2012.
2012 prediction: 18-8, 3.30 era, 33 starts, 207 IP, 225 K, 59 BB, 1.13 WHIP, always wears the proper jersey.
Tim Dillard may have been the reason the Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in 2011, and he wasn’t even on the Postseason roster. Sound crazy? Probably is.
Let’s set the stage. June 5. Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. One out. Heart of the Marlins order coming up. Bases loaded. Ron Roenicke summons Tim Dillard out of the bullpen. Dillard’s side-winding delivery baffled All Star Gaby Sanchez, who grounded out to Craig Counsell, who came home for the force out. 2 outs. Dillard then shattered the bat of slugger Mike Stanton on a harmless fly out to Ryan Braun in left. He would come out and complete a scoreless tenth inning as well. Game preserved.
Utility infielder Josh Wilson would hit the game winning homer in the top of the 11th and John Axford would preserve the lead and
secure the win. The Brewers would go on to barely secure home field advantage in the Divisional Series. Without Dillard’s heroics, they probably would not have, which would have sent Game Five of the NLDS to Arizona…and we know how the Brewers performed on the road in the Playoffs.
Skip ahead to 2012.
Dillard is now competing for one of the Brewers final three bullpen slots. His experience and relatively successful 2011 season will undoubtedly help his position and chances at making the Opening Day roster. Dillard should be used as a righty specialist; he could end up as the right-handed version of Brian Shouse or Javier Lopez. This is exactly what Dillard can bring to the table that Brandon Kintzler and Mike McClendon, others competing for bullpen spots, are not as good at.
He was drafted in 2001 as a catcher, but could not come to an agreement with the Brewers. Milwaukee’s front office took another shot at him the next year, and he converted to a pitcher almost immediately. In 2003 with the Helena Brewers of the Rookie League, Dillard went 1-2 with a 3.32 era in 14 games. He made a name for himself in High A ball in 2005, going 12-10 with a 2.48 era in 185.1 era. He has made appearances with the Brewers in 2008, 2009, and 2011, holding a career 4.91 era.
While it’s not reasonable to expect Dillard to became a part of the back end of the bullpen, I expect him to make the Opening Day roster as a right-handed specialist in the sixth and seventh with the ability to eat innings up, if necessary. The Tim Dillard Experience may be headed to a ballpark near you soon.
With the loss of Prince Fielder to free agency this season, a large void at first base has been opened for former top prospect Mat Gamel. Throughout his prior tenure with the Brewers, Gamel was stuck behind Fielder at first base and struggled too mightily defensively at third base to be considered an everyday starter at the hot corner. But now, it’s Gamel’s time to shine.
Expect Gamel to hit the lower-middle of the lineup, especially now with Ryan Braun back in the order and hitting third. His left handed power bat will be utilized by Roenicke to “clean up” the remnants of the damage wrecked by Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Aramis Ramirez, much like the role Hart has played in the previous two seasons in the fifth and sixth slots in the order.
Gamel’s mechanics have been significantly simplified since his first stint of significant playing time in the Big Leagues in 2009. In 141 at bats that season, he hit .242 with 5 homers, 6 doubles, and 20 RBI. His eye at the plate and pitch selection will be key to his success in 2012. It’s difficult to read too much into Gamel’s career stats with Milwaukee; each of his stints at the Major League level have been brief.
The California surfer look-alike has been given the vote of confidence from Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. The job, for now, is his to lose. Hopefully, Gamel can fix his defensive woes that plagued him at third base in the past. It doesn’t require much defensively to be an upgrade from Fielder at first base, after all. Nobody by any means is asking him to become the next Prince Fielder, but a good season would take away a majority of the pressure burdened on him.
Mat Gamel Season Prediction: .259, 22 HR, 72 RBI, .331 OBP, 0.0 dWAR, a whole lotta chew
While there is a flurry of questions surrounding Corey Hart entering the 2012 season, one thing is for sure: with the loss of Prince Fielder, Hart’s production in the lineup is crucial.
Hart is coming off of his first back-to-back productive seasons. Production from the 6’6″ right fielder had been sporadic throughout his career, to say the least. In 2011, however, he simplified his swing, removing any unnecessary movements that tended to get him off balance. Hart batted leadoff for Ron Roenicke’s squad in 63 games last season, including 11 Playoff games in addition 62 consecutive games to finish the season. Despite not fitting the prototypical mold of a leadoff batter, Hart flourished in the role. He batted .301 with 15 home runs and 36 RBI, providing a jolt of pop at the top of the lineup.
Hart enters the season as the leading candidate to bat leadoff for the Brewers, but recent comments by Rickie Weeks may play a role in how that turns out.
Dario Melendez tweeted that Weeks said, “I’ll like to bat anywhere else but 5. I just feel stagnant when I’m there like ‘drove in run, what’s next?”
Though the decision still remains ambiguous, the looming suspension of Ryan Braun would open up the 3-hole for the first 50 games until its rightful owner called its name. Neither Hart nor Weeks has ever batted third significantly in their careers (Corey only has 20 starts in the third slot). It wouldn’t surprise me to see Weeks hit first and Hart move down to third with Nyjer Morgan smushed in between. I wouldn’t read too much into his comments, however.
The loss of Fielder opens up more than vacant spots in the batting order; the opening at first base has been a point of emphasis and speculation throughout the off-season, now seeping into Spring Training. Mat Gamel, the former top prospect known for hitting cannon shots but being an ancient mariner at third base, is finally getting his chance at consistent playing time in the Majors. Roenicke considers Gamel to be the front-runner now at first, but the option of Hart’s lanky frame switching from right to first hovers over Gamel. Most likely, the Brewers will carry four additional outfielders (Morgan, Carlos Gomez, Nori Aoki, Ryan Braun) throughout the season, leaving the door open for Hart at first if need be. Odds are that Corey will stay in right and Gamel and, possibly, Taylor Greenwill man first base.
Hart’s production at the plate in 2012 will need to be consistent with that of the past two seasons. Continual work with former batting coach and current Cubs manager Dale Sveum got Hart back to an All Star level of play. Hart raked the ball all over the pasture in 2010 and 2011, hitting a combined 124 extra base hits. Last season, in only130 games, he finished with 26 home runs and a modest 63 RBI given the fact half his season was spent in the RBI-deprived leadoff spot. One spot of emphasis will be improving upon last season’s mark of .236 with two outs and RISP. The Brewers lost one of the best two-out hitters in Fielder (.299, 25 RBI with 2 outs & RISP in 2011) and two out production from hitters such as Hart is a key to repeating as National League Central champs.
Expect nothing short of an All Star-type season from Hart in 2012. I predict he, not Aramis Ramirez or Weeks, will be the bat that carries the offense throughout the season.
2012 prediction: .281, 28 HR, 81 RBI, 7 SB, .345 OBP, still does that funky one-hand-in-the-air-and-hip-twist celebration after a base hit.
I’ve decided to run a season outlook on every player that is expected to play even a minor role on the Big League club in Milwaukee this season. The schedule is tentative and subject to change, but here’s what can be expected:
#1 Corey Hart- Thursday 2/23
#24 Mat Gamel- Saturday 2/25
#48 Tim Dillard- Sunday 2/26
#13 Zack Greinke- Tuesday 2/28
#9 George Kottaras- Thursday 3/1
#5 Taylor Green- Friday 3/2
#38 Chris Narveson- Saturday 3/3
#50 Kameron Loe- Sunday 3/4
#11 Alex Gonzalez- Tuesday 3/6
#43 Randy Wolf- Thursday 3/8
#40 Jose Veras- Saturday 3/10
#27 Carlos Gomez- Sunday 3/11
#23 Rickie Weeks- Monday 3/12
#20 Jonathan Lucroy- Wednesday 3/14
#61 Brandon Kintzler- Saturday 3/17
#3 Cesar Izturis- Sunday 3/18
#22 Logan Schafer- Tuesday 3/20
#41 Marco Estrada- Wednesday 3/21
#49 Yovani Gallardo- Thursday 3/22
#7 Norichiki Aoki- Friday 3/23
#60 Wily Peralta- Saturday 3/24
#26 Manny Parra- Sunday 3/25
#16 Aramis Ramirez- Tuesday 3/27
#18 Shaun Marcum- Wednesday 3/28
#14 Brooks Conrad- Friday 3/29
#57 Francisco Rodriguez- Saturday 3/30
#33 Eric Farris- Sunday 3/31
#8 Ryan Braun- Tuesday 4/2
#2 Nyjer Morgan- Wednesday 4/3
*Expect additional posts on any player that impresses during Spring and creates a chance at making the Brewers. (i.e.- Travis Ishikawa, Mike McClendon, Michael Fiers, Tyler Thornburg, Zach Braddock, Caleb Gindl)