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Milwaukee Brewers - 2007 Team Preview
Predicted Finish
92-70
1st Place
NL Central

by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
March 19, 2007

2006 Record - 75-87, 4th Place NL Central, 8.5 behind the Cards
2006 Runs Scored - 730
2006 Runs Allowed - 833
Pythagorean Projection - 71-91



The Milwaukee Brewers last finished at .500 two years ago. They last finished above .500 in 1992, while still in the American League, and last won their division in 1982. The Brewers have never won a World Series, and have finished with a losing record in 26 of their 38 seasons.

I don't bring up the Brewers' sordid past as a way to kick a mediocre franchise. Rather, examining the Brewers' past allows us to see just how special the 2007 season has to potential to be for this franchise. This could be the year that the Brewers win their second division title.

Catcher
2006 Starter - Damian Miller, Mike Rivera
Projected 2007 Starter - Johnny Estrada, Damian Miller

Gotta like the upgrade at catcher. Estrada is younger than Miller, and having Miller as a backup certainly beats having Miller as a starter. Estrada is lighting it up this spring, but is not an offensive catcher. Still, the Estrada-Miller tandem is a good one.

First Base
2006 Starter - Prince Fielder
Projected 2007 Starter - Prince Fielder

Cecil's kid started the 2006 season by striking out seven times in his first nine at-bats, and looked to be on the next train back to Double-A. Fortunately, the 22 year old righted the ship, and had a very productive first full season. In 2007, at the age of 23, Fielder will be batting third, and the has the potential to hit 35 homeruns and drive in 100 RBI. The Brewers would like to see his OBP over .350. Nevertheless, based on last season, The Prince is a star in the making.

Second Base
2006 Starter - Rickie Weeks, Tony Graffanino
Projected 2007 Starter - Rickie Weeks

Weeks was lost for the season on July 24th of 2006, which may have been a merciful end to the season. On June 12th, Weeks was hitting .303 with an 820 OPS; by July 4th it was down to .273 and 751. Weeks has had some pain in his surgically repaired right wrist, but should be okay by April 1st. At 24 years old, he still has time to grow, which is good, because he has averaged nearly a strikeout per game for his career, and needs to improve upon that.

Shortstop
2006 Starter - Bill Hall
Projected 2007 Starter - J.J. Hardy

Apparently the Brewers were so impressed with Bill Hall's breakout 35 homer season that they decided he is the next Robin Yount and promptly moved him to centerfield.

The Brewers hope that J.J. Hardy can stay on the field this season. He is by far a superior defensive player to Hall, though his .295 OBP indicates that his offense is lacking. Like Weeks, Hardy is only 24, and has time to improve in all facets of the game if healthy.

Third Base
2006 Starter - Corey Koskie, David Bell, Jeff Cirillo
Projected 2007 Starter - Koskie, Ryan Braun, Tony Graffanino

Shockingly, Corey Koskie is still feeling the effects of a concussion from last season and will not be ready for opening day. Given how Koskie has performed the last three seasons, this may be good news for the Brewers

What is definitely good news is that David Bell and Jeff Cirillo are both gone. In Koskie's place will either be veteran Tony Graffanino, or super-stud third base prospect Ryan Braun, who went .303/.367/.589 last season in Double-A. If Braun gets the nod, the Brewers will have an entire infield aged 24 years or younger.

Left Field
2006 Starter - Carlos Lee
Projected 2007 Starter - Jenkins, Kevin Mench

Jenkins was relatively healthy for the third year in a row in 2006 and had one of his worst seasons. Kevin Mench was atrocious in 40 games with Milwaukee after coming over in the Carlos Lee trade. The Brewers think they have depth in left field. I think they have a gaping hole there.

Mench and Jenkins platooning in left field could ultimately mean Corey Hart or Gabe Gross end up over there.

Center Field
2006 Starter - Brady Clark
Projected 2007 Starter - Bill Hall

The feel-good story of 2005 gets replaced in centerfield by the feel-good story of 2006. Bill Hall's OPS was 140 points higher at home than on the road in 2006, which is the first reason I think he won't repeat his stellar performance. He averaged over a strikeout per game and did not show an ability to get on base other than by hitting homeruns - that is reason number two. Reason number three is that Hall's numbers last season were unlike any he has ever put up in the majors or minors. However, Manager Ned Yost is very big on Bill Hall, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt.

For now.

Right Field
2006 Starter - Geoff Jenkins
Projected 2007 Starter - Corey Hart, Gabe Gross

It should legitimately scare Brewers fans to see that the Brewers are dedicated to getting Kevin Mench playing time. Both Hart and Gross had extended success in the minor leagues, and appear ready to play everyday, while Mench appears to be a classic Ballpark at Arlington phenom.

Gross is an on-base machine, while Hart is a 6'6" power hitter who can also hit for average and steal bases. The Brewers would be crazy to play Kevin Mench over either of these guys, and should probably be starting both of them in the corner outfield positions over both Jenkins and Mench.

Brewers Fun Fact - The Brewers were the only team in the National League in 2006 to feature three pitchers with 200 or more innings - Chris Capuano, Doug Davis, and David Bush.


2006 Front Three Starters - Chris Capuano, Doug Davis, David Bush
Projected 2007 Starters - Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan

Last year, Capuano, Davis, and Bush combined to go 34-34. This was not indicative of their talent, as Capuano and Bush each pitched two shutouts and had masterful K/BB ratios. In 2007, the Brewers have gone from Doug Davis to Jeff Suppan, a modest upgrade, and Ben Sheets looks to be healthy for the first time since 2004. A healthy Capuano-Sheets-Suppan-Bush rotation would be the best in the National League.

2006 Rest of the Rotation - Tomo Ohka, Carlos Villanueva, Zack Jackson
Possible 2007 Starters - David Bush, Claudio Vargas

David Bush sliding from number three to number four is an upgrade over Tomo Ohka. At 26, Bush really came into his own last season, posting a K/BB of over 4:1 (166/38), and tossing two shutouts. If he can continue to improve, he could win 18 games this season.

The bad news is that Vargas got roughed up last season. The good news is that his ERA was roughly league average, he struck out about 2.5 times as many as he walked, and the vast majority of the damage done to him came at hitter friendly Chase Field, at which his ERA was nearly a run and a half worse than it was on the road. Vargas is a solid number five option.

Relief Pitchers
2006 Relievers - Derrek Turnbow, Jose Capellan, Brian Shouse, Danny Kolb, Matt Wise, Francisco Cordero
Projected 2007 Relievers - Cordero, Turnbow, Wise, Capellan, Shouse, Greg Aquino

After being terrible for 49 games for the Rangers, Francisco Cordero came over to the Brewers and pitched lights out baseball for 28 games, replacing the struggling Derrek Turnbow as closer. This year, the 32 year old Cordero comes out as the closer, with no primary setup man established yet. No one in the bullpen did anything to brag about last season, and since most of the Brewers' relievers are guys returning from last season, they are going to have to improve as a unit to be effective.

Outlook for the Season

The Brewers should have contended for the NL Central Title last season, but they were hurt by youth and by injuries. When healthy, this is a team loaded with talent, particularly at starting pitching. In a division seemingly up for grabs, the Brewers have an excellent shot at finishing on top.

Not only that, but this team looks like it could stay on top for a while.


Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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