Do the Brewers have any chance of winning the NL Central in 2014? Doubtful. Barring mass injuries for the Cardinals, I think they have the division locked up. Do the Brewers have a shot at one of the two wildcards? I think they do – as long as everything goes right for them. Which would be a complete 180 from the 2013 season, where pretty much anything that could have gone wrong for the Brewers did go wrong. Overall, the NL should be fairly weak again, giving every average and above average team a shot at winning one of the wildcards. The Brewers have the capability to be an above-average team this season. However, there are quite a few things that need to go right in order for this to happen.

 

Improved baserunning

I don’t think I have to say too much about the Brewers 2013 baserunning. If you watched multiple games last year, it was pretty apparent that they were, for lack of a better word, atrocious. I mean, we had a guy both steal first base (from second) and accidentally steal home, all in the same season. When they weren’t running into outs, they were getting doubled off bases because their minds seemed to have been wandering. Single, sac bunt, caught stealing, repeat.

 

Peralta & Gallardo need to pitch the entire season like they pitched in the second half of 2013

Wily Peralta:

Overall in 32 games started, he had a record of 11-15 and a 4.37 ERA in 183.1 IP. He allowed 187 hits, 19 homeruns, and 73 walks. He struck out 129, had an opponent average of .264, and a WHIP of 1.42.

His pre-All Star Break numbers were..…not exactly desirable. In 20 games started, he had a 7-9 record with a 4.61 ERA in 113.1 innings pitched. He allowed 124 hits, 11 homeruns and gave up 45 walks, while striking out 70. He had a .279 opponent average, and a WHIP of 1.49.

His post All Star Break numbers were more impressive, although he only started 12 games and tossed 70 innings. He had a 4-6 record with a 3.99 ERA, allowing 63 hits and 8 homeruns, while walking 28 and striking out 50. Opponents batted .240 against him, and he had a 1.30 WHIP.

He is the pitcher that I am most excited to watch next season. When he’s “on,” he’s very exciting and fun to watch. When he loses it, like he often did in the first half of the 2013 season, it can get ugly. Not only did his pitching improve in the second half of last season, his composure did as well. In 2012 and often during 2013, if a teammate made an error or he was mad at himself for making a bad pitch, he would lose his control and get angry. In the second half, however, he seemed to do a better job of rebounding and picking up his teammates when they made errors. Hopefully, he can carry this over into April.

 

Yovani Gallardo:

Gallardo always seems to get off to a slow start, and pitch better when the weather starts warming up, but last season he was still struggling in June. Overall, he started 31 games and threw 180.2 innings. He had an ERA of 4.18, with a 12-10 record.  He allowed 180 hits and 18 homers, while walking 66 and striking out 144. Opponents batted .261 against him, and he ended the season with a  1.36 WHIP.

Pre-All Star Break, Yo threw 113.2 innings in 20 games. He was 7-8 with an ERA of 4.83. He gave up 120 hits and 12 home runs, while walking 43 and striking out 91. He had an opponent average of .271 and a WHIP of 1.43.

Like usual, his post-All Star Break numbers were better than the pre. He did have a short stint on the DL in August after he tweaked a hamstring in a game against the Cubs (Wrigley Field hates him.) He started 11 games, threw 67 innings and had a 5-2 record. His second half ERA was 3.09. He gave up 60 hits, 6 homers and 23 walks, while striking out 53 batters. He had a .243 opponent batting average and a WHIP of 1.24.

If the Brewers have a shot at contending next season, Yo needs to step up and contribute more than 5 innings every 5 th day.

 

Aramis needs to stays healthy

Last year he got off to a red hot start, only to get injured after the first week of the season. He ended the season with a .283 batting average, .370 on base percentage, with 86 hits and 12 homers in 304 at bats. (90 games played.) Without Aramis, you can bet that a lot of teams will intentionally walk Braun in any important situation.

 

Weeks needs to resemble a major league baseball player again

I don’t care how well Gennett performed last season. On a team with an $75M payroll, a guy who’s making $12M needs to be contributing in some way. I think the year starts off with a Gennett/Weeks platoon: Gennett for right-handed starters, and Weeks for left-handed starters. Scooter had a .154 batting average and a .175 on base-percentage against lefties last year. That most definitely is not going to cut it. Weeks had a .226/.328 split against them. Against righties, Weeks had a .201 batting average and a .296 OBP, while Scooter was .362/.395. Barring a trade, I think we will see a platoon for the first month or so of the season. If either of these players were to step up and take the everyday starting position, I would put my money on Weeks.

 

Consistency at first base

2013 was literally a “Who’s On First” act for the Brewers, and it was not fun to watch. I don’t know if they will end up trading for a player or signing someone, but they need to have some type of consistency at first this season. The best internal option right now seems to be Juan Francisco, who has shown potential, but can be extremely frustrating to watch (especially when he’s striking out 4 times per game and dropping routine throws.) He can hit monster home runs, but isn’t exactly what you would call “disciplined” at the plate. His defensive struggles got better near the end of the season, and you can’t exactly blame all of his bad defense on him, seeing as how he was a third baseman when the Brewers traded for him. However, I don’t know how much longer I can watch catchers, third baseman, and shortstops “play” first base. MAKE IT STOP.

 

A solid bullpen

The bullpen did a pretty nice job last season, with a couple exceptions (looking at you, Michael Gonzalez.) The Brewers traded Badenhop to the Red Sox, and are not expected to re-sign Gonzalez (whew), so they have a couple of spots to fill. Kintzler and Henderson were outstanding last year, and if they can keep pitching like that, the late innings are in good hands. Gorzelanny did a fantastic job out of the bullpen last season, and is a good option for a long reliever. It is unknown who the Brewers’ fifth starter is going to be, but Roenicke said that Thornburg will have the first shot at it. Thornburg was great in the bullpen last season, and there’s a chance that he could end up back in there if a starting gig doesn’t work out for him.

 

If all of these things can happen, I don’t think that it is a huge stretch to think that the Brewers could win a wildcard. I think the division will likely end up being:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Brewers
  3. Pirates
  4. Reds
  5. Cubs

 

Nobody’s going to finish ahead of the Cardinals, they’re too good. The Cubs are still in rebuilding mode, and should be pretty, uh, not-good again next year. The Reds’ offense is going to be questionable next season, and their bullpen is nothing to brag about. The Pirates over-performed in almost every way imaginable last season, and they’re likely going to lose A.J. Burnett, who was huge for them last year. We’ll just have to hold our breaths and hope that the Brewers pitching staff can perform like they did in the second half of last season, and that they left the injury bug behind in 2013.

 

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  • Dave

    1. This is what typically happens to everyone before [insert sport season here] starts, but I do actually feel somewhat optimistic about the rotation. Kind of feels like a now or never season for both Gallardo and Peralta, but the fact that every pitcher on the staff has shown they have what it takes to pitch at an elite level gives me hope.

    2. I don’t care how much money Weeks is making. I want Weeks and Gennett to be in a lefty/righty platoon all season because that’s what’s best for this team at second base. It seems like the perfect plan, which is why it probably won’t work out.

    3. Hunter Morris for first base. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how much potential Juan Francisco has or how far he can pummel a baseball. I can’t watch the dude walk up there and strike out 36 percent of the time. When you strike out, you can’t drive in a run, advance a runner, etc. etc. Of course, everything I just said will be for naught because the Brewers will probably make a trade for a 1B. Probably Ike Davis (please God, no).

    4. I feel good about the relievers, and I know he’s being given a shot at the rotation, but I’m pretty psyched about this Will Smith guy coming out of the bullpen. He’s young, left-handed and has a filthy slider, and I know people are upset that we traded Aoki (not you or I), but it’s going to be worth it and then some. I know it.

    5. Other random thoughts: I think Gennett should hit leadoff, whoever winds up at 1B should hit no higher than seventh and health is a major key. As I said, I agree the Cards are the favorite, but the second wild-card makes all things possible.

    /end lengthy comment

  • http://www.twitter.com/brewcrewkyleo Kyle

    Alright Zenz (do you care if people call you by your last name?), I agree with you and I don’t agree with you. I agree that Peralta and Gallardo need to pitch a lot closer to their 2nd half stats than their first for the Brewers to consider them solid starting options. However, I disagree that two starters who are key to the success of the Brewers rotation and carried BB/9 rates of over 3 with K/9 rates of under 7.5 in 2013 are anything to pin playoff aspirations on. Lohse helps, but he doesn’t have the ceiling to push this club in it’s current form over the hump that is the Pirates (it kills me to write that) and the Reds. He obviously has a lower floor as well and is the most consistent starting pitcher on the Brewers rotation. I think the real key to this season, other than Yovani regaining his 200+ Ks, is Marco Estrada continuing to show improvement. Despite an injury riddled year, he still posted a K/9 rate over 8 and a BB/9 rate of 2. Give me the guy not walking people and striking batters out on a constant basis to lead this team out of their funk. However, the Brewers also need Estrada to stop giving up the long ball for any of his other peripherals to matter.

    As for the offense, I’m more concerned with what kind of production Braun provides post-Biogensisgate than the platoon between Weeks and Gennett. I also see the gaping whole at first base as a problem that was not addressed this winter, although we’re only at the start of January so there’s still time.

    I’ve probably already rambled too long for a blog post reply and used silly stats that may be deemed unnecessary. If so, sorry. This is my first blog post comment ever written.

    I enjoy your optimism and I for one hope that you’re right. Unfortunately, I believe the woes of the Brewers pitching staff continues into 2014 and ultimately is the achilles heel of their playoff hopes.

    (Very enjoyable article. I enjoy reading the thoughts of other fans of the Brewers to try and get an understanding of the fan base as a whole. Keep fighting the good fight Kristin).