For the sake of my inability to type words at the moment, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase. It saves you the obligatory feeling of having to read my opening morceau and restrains me from writing some sixth grade level jibberish. So let’s just cut to the chase, you and I.
With Opening Day now a mere 46 days away, there remains large speculation as to which players will fill out the 25-man roster. To spare you the agony of predicting which guys will begin the season in a Brewers jersey, I stepped up to the plate. Heroically, I know.
Short enough of an intro? Good.
Quick key: *=starter, (1)=batting order slot, +=Opening Day pitcher
LF*- (2) Nyjer Morgan– Plush will platoon with Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan Braun in the lineup, but will get the majority of starts in left to begin the year, assuming the MLB hands out a 50 game suspension to Braun.
CF*- (7) Carlos Gomez– To me, the defensive whiz’s key to keeping a regular role in the Brewers outfield rotation is, simply, to hit over .220. For most players, offensive numbers like Gomez’s would find them a spot on the bench, but the 26-year-old’s prowess in center field saves enough runs to put up with his offensive struggles. A place towards the bottom of the order would place much less of an emphasis straining to draw walks, Gomez’s primary struggle, and more toward driving in clutch runs and stealing bases.
RF*- (1) Corey Hart– Not the league-accepted ideal leadoff hitter, the 6’6″ Hart filled the role well for Ron Roenicke in 2011. He posted a .301 average with 15 homers and 36 RBI in his last 62 starts, all coming as the leadoff hitter. Expect him to keep the spot atop the Brewers lineup until Roenicke has to play his hand because of any struggles from Hart.
Norichika Aoki– The off-season transfer from Japan has yet to prove what he can do at a Major League level, but beats out any other competition from youngsters Caleb Gindl and Brock Kjelgaard. Once again, the Brewers won’t have any shortage of left handed bats on the bench.
Logan Schafer– Based on a whopping five plate appearances in 2011, Schafer appears to be the leading candidate to take the fifth outfield spot. He provides speed off the bench (swiped 16 bases in the Minors last season) and could find a spot on the Big League club even with Braun’s return if he outplays Aoki. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, to see the Brewers go with only four outfielders and leave Schafer off the roster to add a right handed bat.
**Each of these outfield predictions is assuming Braun is suspended for the first 50 games.
3B* – (4) Aramis Ramirez– It’s going to take a good month or so to get used to it, but let’s face it: Aramis Ramirez is a Brewer. All I ask in order to forgive him for being a Cub is 100 RBI. Nothing much.
SS*- (6) Alex Gonzalez– Another offseason acquisition by Doug Melvin, Gonzalez is an obvious upgrade at shortstop, both offensively and defensively. He may not possess the pop of Yuniesky Betancourt, but his glove and patience at the plate make up for it. Maybe he can make Brewers fans not cringe as much anymore when JJ Hardy goes yard in Baltimore.
2B*- (5) Rickie Weeks– Coming off back-to-back productive seasons, including an All Star Game start in 2011, Weeks needs to produce even more with RISP in 2012. With no Fielder and, most likely for the first 50 games, Braun, teams will find ways to work around Ramirez in the cleanup spot if Weeks and Gamel don’t produce. Just as he is the pivot man on a double play, Rickie is the pivotal hitter for Milwaukee this year.
1B*- (3) Mat Gamel– Young man, it’s your time. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking over for a three-time All Star, Home Run Derby champ, All Star Game MVP, the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season, career .282 hitter with 230 homers in six seasons. No pressure.
UTIL- Taylor Green– The youngster impressed in 20 games in 2011, batting .270 and making the Postseason roster. I like him. You like him. Ron Roenicke likes him. This kid better be on the Opening Day roster.
UTIL- Cesar Izturis– He was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but Izturis’ experience and glove will be beneficial off the bench. Brooks Conrad, a notorious pinch hitter, could pose a challenge for this spot. Conrad has a career 14 home runs while in Atlanta, most of which came off the bench. Izturis, a Gold Glove winner in 2004, provides a more reliable option to back up Gonzalez, Ramirez, or Weeks and is a much better contact hitter (averages one strikeout per 10 at-bats over 11 seasons).
C*- (8) Jonathan Lucroy– With yet another year of experience behind the plate, Lucroy enters 2012 uncontested for the starting catcher role. Pitchers love his improving abilities behind the plate. He’s no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .265 with 12 dingers and 59 RBI in front of the pitcher throughout 2011.
C- George Kottaras– Randy Wolf’s personal catcher was solid as a backup in his second season as a Brewer. He set career highs in average, OBP, SLG, and OPS in 2011. There’s no reason to think he won’t improve both behind and at the plate this year.
1- + Yovani Gallardo
2- Zack Greinke
4- Randy Wolf
5- Chris Narveson
Expect nothing less than a great season from the intact staff from 2011 that was one of the National League’s best. Greinke, barring any setbacks and pick-up basketball games, will have a full season under his belt after striking out over 200 in 28 starts in 2011. Randy Wolf’s ability to pick up the dreaded stat of quality starts and Chris Narveson’s first couple innings are focal points for the season. We know what to expect out of the three studs at the top, but will Wolf and Narveson be as productive as they were last year?
John Axford (closer)
Francisco Rodriguez (set up man)
As much as I would love to see a guy like Wily Peralta or Santo Manzanilla or last year’s extra inning hero in Philadelphia, Brandon Kintzler, make the Opening Day roster, there isn’t the space to fit in all the options. I don’t see Roenicke and Melvin sending Parra down again and, essentially, ending his chances with the Brewers. With a lack of southpaw options for the ‘pen, his job will primarily be to retire possibly multiple left handed hitters in an inning. The Dillard selection, however, can be attributed more to an educated guess. With Estrada and Parra, Roenicke doesn’t need any more inning eaters and The Tim Dillard Experience has a repertoire much more suited to retire one or two batters than Brandon Kintzler. Just ask the Marlins.
* Predicting the Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster is the “fifth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first four posts here.
A look at the Brewers offense would show you that this team could make the Playoffs and beyond on just their lineup and an average pitching staff.
The SWAT Team’s (Nyjer Morgan’s nickname for the offensive attack of the Brewers) sidekick holds the key to reaching the NLCS and the World Series, though let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
After an abysmal 2009 and 2010 season for starting pitching in Milwaukee, GM Doug Melvin took to the market and traded for former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and Blue Jays ace Shaun Marcum. In addition, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf returned as the only bright spots from the 2010 rotation. With many skeptical about lefty Chris Narveson, he proved those wrong with a 9-6 record and 4.31 era in 2011.
In any Playoff series, manager Ron Roenicke would send out Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo, and Wolf (not in that order, particularly) with Narveson in the bullpen. The Brewers are trying this move out even in August with Narveson not scheduled to start in over two weeks. With the successes of Wolf and Marcum on the road, even without much road run support for these two, Roenicke should have Greinke, then Gallardo pitch the first two home games.
Not only does the SWAT team match up with any offense in the National League, but the pitching is equal, if not better. While I’m not going to go in depth on why the pitching is better, but Alec Dopp of Bleacher Report did.
Currently atop the National League, the Phillies rotation would be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. Earlier in the season, Milwaukee beat Halladay and had Cliff Lee on the hook for the loss, showing they can beat the Phightin’s. A four-game series at Miller Park in September may be an NLCS preview.
They say “pitching wins in October”, and this is very true for Milwaukee. Even with Texas’ explosive hitting last year, their surprising pitching staff carried them to the World Series. This very much could be the case.
By Curt Hogg
Once again the Mets tied the game late but the Brewers put up four runs on the New York bullpen to win.
A Lucas Duda two-run home run off Yovani Gallardo tied the game up for the Mets in the seventh inning before Milwaukee rallied with two runs in both the eighth and ninth to crack the game open.
Manny Acosta (1-1) walked Nyjer Morgan and gave up a single to Ryan Braun before giving way to lefty Tim Byrdak. He got Fielder to hit a grounder sharply to second baseman Justin Turner, who threw the ball away attempting to turn a double play. Jerry Hairston lined a ball past a diving David Wright to score Braun and give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.
In the ninth, a Nyjer Morgan suicide squeeze plated Craig Counsell, who singled as a pinch hitter on his 41st birthday. Braun then doubled in Corey Hart to give the Brewers a 6-2 lead that LaTroy Hawkins would not relinquish.
Gallardo (14-8) picked up the win despite exiting the game while tied. The only blemish was the two-run blast by Duda. He struck out six and walked only one to get within one win of the National League lead of 15 shared by three.
Milwaukee (76-52) moves to 9 games ahead in first place while St. Louis will face the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball later on. The 9 game lead is the largest first-place margin in franchise history. Since the All Star break Milwaukee has the second-best road record, improving to 29-36 away from Miller Park.
Casey McGehee led off the scoring with a two-out solo home run off Mets starter R.A. Dickey in the fourth.
Dickey lasted seven innings and gave up two runs, leaving the game on the hook for the loss before Duda took him off.
Braun went 3-5 with a double, two runs scored, and his 81st RBI of the season. He also stole two bases; his swipe of second in the sixth led to run after Fielder’s single scored him, and stole third before Hairston’s RBI single in the eighth.
Fielder improved his league-leading RBI total to 98 with his two on Sunday. He leads Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard by two in that category.
Just what the doctor prescribed to end the Brewers’ road woes was a trip to Houston, home of the lowly Astros. A team featuring multiple players that, respectably, should be in AAA, yet due to necessity, are showcasing themselves on the Big League club.
On Friday, the Crew rolled to an easy 8-1 victory behind a strong performance by Gallardo. The Saturday night special was consistent offense and timely hitting, along with an incredible game-ending display of Plushdamentals by Nyjer Morgan. The rubber match of the series showcased Zack Greinke baffling hitters over 7 one-run innings and made Brewers fans get a little nervous when Marco Estrada gave up two runs.
Prince Fielder was in an offensive groove all series. He hit home runs numbers 25 and 26 and drove in 6 runs in the series. The offense as a whole is streaking, having posted double digit hit totals in 9 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the MLB this season.
Now the Crew, after on off day Monday, is off to St. Louis to face the second-place Cardinals. The Redbirds (3 games back) will be without catcher Yadier Molina for the first game, serving a five-game suspension for this incident. Probables for the Brewers are Marcum (Tuesday), Wolf (Wednesday), and Gallardo (Thursday).