by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
March 1, 2008
2008 Milwaukee Brewers Preview
I hate Milwaukee.
When you think of Milwaukee in February, what do you think of? Packers season is over. Brewers season hasn't begun. Probably the defining characteristic of the city in February is lots and lots of snow.
That in itself is a point against Milwaukee, of course. But more damning is that in a city famous for bitter cold and nonstop snowfall, the sidewalks in their downtown area aren't shoveled for days after such a snowstorm. In the best of times, Milwaukee is the least pedestrian-friendly city I have ever been to. In the winter, you basically have to walk in the middle of the streets if you do not have a car.
This, of course, reinforces something I have suspected for ages; Milwaukee is not a city. It is merely another suburb of Chicago. I have seen suburban areas that are completely vehicle-centric with no concept of propelling oneself with one's legs. I have never seen that in the downtown area of a city. Perhaps Milwaukee's downtown is so small and pathetic that it does not count as urban.
I had to travel from "downtown" Milwaukee to Miller Park for one of my other jobs a few weeks ago. The park was about three miles away, but oddly enough, no bus ran directly from downtown to the stadium. I had to walk quite a ways down the middle of streets on the way there. There were signs for pedestrian crossings here and there, but the roads were fenced off at those points. I guess pedestrians are expected to trudge through a foot of snow, hop a fence, and cross a busy street to get to Miller Park.
This brings us to the question of why a silly suburb like Milwaukee even has a major league franchise. It has been one of the most futile franchises in the history of Major League Baseball. It has a fairly small fan base. It has a cold, unfriendly stadium, although the seats are pretty close to the action on the field. From what I can tell, the only point of the franchise is to give Cubs fans a cheaper alternative to attending Wrigley Field games, but the Brewers are now increasing ticket prices to the point where that is not even an attractive option.
The fact that MLB hasn't made a motion to move this struggling franchise to an area of the nation that could use it makes you wonder whether there won't soon be an expansion franchise in Gary or Joliet. That's a joke, but then, so are the Milwaukee Brewers.
I hate the Brewers.
Everyone was so excited about the Brew Crew when the 2007 season began. They had all of these young, exciting players that were ready to take charge of a weak NL Central. For the first month-and-a-half of the season, that's exactly what they did. I was one of the skeptics that didn't buy it. I was exceedingly correct.
Asher, of course, has fallen madly in love with the Brewers for reasons unknown. This is particularly odd, seeing as how his formerly-beloved Chicago Cubs made the playoffs last season. One would think that this would make him more excited about the team he's rooted for since he was a kid, not less so.
But he assures us that the Cubs were merely lucky last season and that the Brewers were hapless. Somehow, the Cubs were one of the most successful teams in baseball from mid-June on. Somehow, the Brewers were six games under .500 from mid-May on. It was all due to luck people.
Oh, luck and defense. Apparently, they're basically the same things. The Cubs had one of the best defenses in baseball last year; Milwaukee, one of the worst. That's due to luck, says Asher. Both teams will likely have major league-average defenses in 2008, which will push the Brewers' rotation to the best in baseball and the Cubs to the worst.
It's not just luck with the Brewers; they're playing Russian Roulette with their defensive players, which is guaranteed to make this a blanketing defense. Bill Hall was a horrible defensive shortstop and then a horrible defensive centerfielder. Now he's at third base, where he is certain to shine. Ryan Braun endured one of the worst defensive seasons at third base of all time. Surely in moving to left field, a position he has zero experience playing, he will become at least a solid defender overnight.
Mike Cameron is suspended for the first 25 games of the 2008 season. This ostensibly means that the Brewers will simply elect not to put a centerfielder on defense for the first month of the season. That's alright; Braun will just pick up the slack and cover both positions.
J.J. Hardy enters his fourth year in the majors, and he is coming off his worst defensive performance yet. Not to worry; he's still young, so he's destined to improve.
Same goes for Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. Heck, Fielder covers a lot of ground just by standing there. Weeks had to improve dramatically to become one of the worst defensive second baseman in the league last year.
Helpfully, the Brewers got a veteran leader in Jason Kendall to solidify this young, inexperienced defense. The fact that Kendall hasn't thrown out a baserunner since 2004 isn't going to be a problem in light of his leadership qualities.
Yep, this Milwaukee pitching staff sure is going to be stellar with this guaranteed-improved defense. It doesn't matter that Jeff Suppan would have trouble striking out a drunk Adam Dunn; the Brewers will turn the majority of the 800-some balls he puts in play into outs. It doesn't matter that Ben Sheets has declining strikeout numbers even when healthy. Dave Bush actually has decent peripheral numbers, so his 4.53 career ERA through 630.1 innings is clearly a mirage.
No worries about the Brewers losing one of the most effective closers in baseball from last year. Eric Gagne will surely return to his dominant form now that he's off the HGH. I couldn't possibly see him spending more than a hundred or so games on the DL.
Yup, these Brewers are going to be great. It matters not that the Cubs have an infinitely better defense and the deepest rotation in the division, if not the league. Ignore the fact that the Cubs had several underachievers on offense and have ejected the ineffective Jacque Jones. A full year of Geovany Soto over Kendall, Michael Barrett, Koyie Hill, and Rob Bowen shouldn't benefit them too much. Asher says the Brewers are the team to beat, and I believe him.
I hate Milwaukee. I hate the Brewers.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum