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Fear the Brewers?

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SOUTH HILLS – The Brewers are in a precarious position. They live in a small-market city. They reside in a division that has three playoff teams form a year ago. In the division are three teams – Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs – that have consensus top-10, if not top-five farm systems. The Brewers own the worst or one of the worst farm systems in game, according to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

Yet, they still might have a fight or two left in them.

The Brewers entered the year as a popular sleeper team in the N.L. Central and they enter the weekend in first place in the division.

They have arguably the best up-the-middle-talent in the division with Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy and an MVP-caliber playing right field in Ryan Braun (if he can play through the nerve issue in his right hand).

That’s not a bad position from which to start. The Brewers can hit, the shift, and they have some plus defenders.

The question in 2014 would be can they pitch and they early return is they can.

The Brewers enter a key early season series with the Pirates with a MLB best 1.95 ERA supported by a 9.1 K/9 rate and 2.8 BB/9 rate.

*Yovani Gallardo has declined from future acehood to middle-of-the-rotation-looking arm the last few seasons, but he’s shown improved control that could help  him overcome his velocity loss.

*A lot of people liked Marco Estrada as a sleeper this season and he’s done nothing to lessen enthusiasm by missing bats.

*Wily Peralta has always had a big arm and Matt Garza came at a reasonable price for a proven veteran No. 3 type starter. That’s not an awful rotation.

*The bullpen has some big arms in Tyler Thornburg, Will Smith (via K.C.) and Jim Henderson.

Pitching depth? Lacking.

Still, while they’re not going to post a sub-2.00 ERA in 2014 the pitching looks like its in a better place than it was a year ago. They have Braun back – who I think is motivated to prove his performance was not heavily impacted by PEDs – and Lucroy and Gomez arguably is the best defensive and offensive 1-2, center field-catcher combo in the game.

The Brewers are also a team like the Pirates that leans heavily on analytics and shifts to further bolster their run prevention capabilities.

While there’s little reason to fear the Brewers long term given their unhealthy system, there is reason to believe they can hang around the N.L. Central race and perhaps replace or join the Reds or Pirates as wild card contenders.  What this all means is the N.L. Central could be even more competitive than it was a season ago – and that’s saying something.

- TS

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Comments

  1. I just posted this tidbit of info over on Dejan’s Blog, where we have been having a discussion on Brewers/Pirates rotations today.

    Kyle Lohse has 3 consecutive seasons of 3.39, 2.86, and 3.35 ERA. Seasons previous to that he was hurt.

    Kyle Lohse is 41 — 21 over those three seasons, 20 games over .500. There is no comparison with Bronson Arroyo at all. Lohse even had a winning record with last season’s pathetic Brewers team.

    Now if you want to talk about the possibility of injury . . . .

    I’m not trying to disagree with you. I’m just saying that the Brewers may be a team to be feared this season. Their rotation appears RIGHT NOW deeper and stronger than Pirates’. I am not yet a believer in Cy Young Volquez.

  2. Nate83 says:

    The entire division scares me. That is why these first 26 games are so important. Coming out of these first 26 games a few games above .500 will go along ways towards having a good season. This is a good division and it wouldn’t surprise me if 4 teams finish with more then 84 wins.

  3. Leo Walter says:

    But you believe in Marco Estrada ? And a bullpen carrying 3 LHs in Gorzo,Zach Duke and Wang,who has never pitched above the GCL ? Hmmmm….

  4. Pig Legs Robinson says:

    I expect the Brewers to self destruct, led by ‘twitchy’ himself.

  5. Carlos Danger says:

    I am almost looking forward to booing Ryan Braun from my couch. There aren’t that many players that I can say that about.

  6. Andrew says:

    I saw your response Groat,

    I agree the Brewers are not the 88 lose team of last year, I think they will be competitive but like the Angles, Diamondbacks, and Yankees last year. I think their rotation has a bunch of guys with mid-rotation stuff. My Loshe, Arroyo comparison was that both are low strikeout, low walk, inning eaters , valuable yes but ace or number two stuff, no.

    The Brewers are certainly off to a hot start, I just think the lack of depth and the replacement level bullpen will drag them down.

  7. bpn8pitt says:

    Travis, what do you think of Garza? At the price?

    I always felt he was a decent 3, even though I don’t always like numbering starting pitchers.

  8. Steelkings says:

    This has never been and likely wont be about the rest of the teams in the National League central. This is about a team that scored 5 runs in three games. Pounding out 16 hits in three games. Here we are, sitting in the 28th spot in offense. Right where we should be. Only ahead of the putrid Mets and the uninterested Astro’s. Just think where they would be if Alvarez and Martin were not hitting solo shots occasionally.

    We knew this was coming. The front office did a great job putting lipstick on this pig. They used words like “Polanco”, and “Cole” and they used terms like “Best minor league system”. But the fact is that they did not go get a bat. Or an arm for that matter. They finished even money on the arm thing. So far that is. They didnt improve this thing at all. Offensively, this is exactly what they were last year. You had to know this was coming.

    You see, the Pirates are in trouble. The MLB runs line is 6. If you score 6 or more runs you will win 90% of those games. The Pirates don’t often score that many runs. In fact they rarely score more than 4. They have 3 pitchers who will give up three or four runs a game. So what this means is, they are in dog fights most every night. You can survive a season of dog fights if your 8th inning guy can get people out. Well right now he is not.

    I’m going to suggest that a thinner Gaby and Travis I dont exactly strike fear in opponents pitching staffs. I’m also going to suggest that maybe, Just maybe, giving Loney that 3rd year wouldn’t have been such a bad Idea. Or maybe, Just Maybe, resigning a guy who said he liked Pittsburgh. You know, the light hitting (.325) Justin Morneau to what would now be considered a very friendly contract. I guess you cant take a chance with a billionaires money. You know the old saying; “They didnt get rich by parting with it!”

    I say bring back the bobble heads and give me a coupon for a discounted lift ticket. What could possibly be better than that.

  9. RobertoForever says:

    94 wins and 3 home playoff games?

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