2010 Milwaukee Brewers
Yeah, But Can They Pitch?

BaseballEvolution.com 2010 Spring Preview
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
March 22, 2010

At the beginning of the last decade, the only good news that the Milwaukee Brewers had heard in about eight years was the induction of Robin Yount in the Hall of Fame. The Brewers had last enjoyed a winning season in 1992, and for most of the last decade the Brewers continued their losing ways. However, the twenty-aughts finished on a high note for the Brewers as they finished with 80 or more wins four times in five years, and look to begin this next decade as one of the top five teams in the National League.

In truth, in 2010 and beyond, the Brewers will go as far as their pitching staff can take them. The offensive talent for the Brewers is present and proven, as Milwaukee features two of major league baseball’s elite hitters, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, as well as a relatively strong supporting cast. The pitching talent has been, to this point, just that – talent. The Brewers regularly sport five seemingly qualified pitchers who, nevertheless, can’t seem to get to the point where they can produce consistent quality starts.

Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Carlos Gomez CF
Randy Wolf SP
Doug Davis SP
Gregg Zaun C
LaTroy Hawkins RP
Scott Schoeneweis RP
Jim Edmonds OF
Departed Pos.
Mike Cameron CF
Felipe Lopez 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Braden Looper SP
Frank Catalanotto RF
Jason Kendall C
Seth McClung RP
If this is the year that the Brewers pitching can finally come around, Milwaukee should have more than enough offense to make a run in the NL Central and, perhaps, advance to the NLCS for only the second time in their history.

Reasons to Like the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010

1. Carlos Gomez. In what may have been the off-season swindle of the year, the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for Carlos Gomez, straight up. Hardy is five years older than Gomez, an overrated hitter who has already reached his low ceiling, and a defensive liability; Gomez is 24 years old, a dynamo defensive centerfielder with both power and speed potential, and still developing as a player. The real key to this swap is defense; last year, the Milwaukee Brewers gave up the fifth most runs in major league baseball and the third most hits in the National League. The net defensive gain in this deal alone makes it a huge one for the Brewers, especially when you consider the fact that moving Hardy makes room for Alcides Escobar, considered one of the best defensive shortstops in minor league baseball last year.

2. Yovani Gallardo. One of the best examples in baseball of why team defense is so important to a pitching staff. Gallardo’s 2009 numbers look solid-to-good: 13-12, 3.73 ERA, 185.2 IP, 204 K, 94 BB, and 7.3 H/9IP. However, when you consider the fact that overall the Brewers’ starting rotation finished with a league worst 5.73 ERA and that the Brewers’ pitchers as a whole finished giving up over 9.4 hits per nine innings, Gallardo’s numbers are amazing. And Gallardo is only 24 years old. If the Brewers can improve upon their defense this year (something they’ll need to do for the second time in three years), Gallardo should contend for the Cy Young Award.

3. Doug Davis and Randy Wolf. After being plagued by youth, inexperience, injuries, and, well, a lack of overall talent, the Brewers will have two guys in their starting rotation who tied for the league lead (with three other guys) in games started in 2009, and each of whom had a very low (compared to the Brewers starters) ERA. These guys won’t need the defense to bail them out, and considering what a bad job the defense did for the pitching staff last year, this is a good thing.

Reasons Not to Like the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010

1. Players who can’t seem to turn the corner.

Every year the Brewers feature a handful of players who have shown flashes of talent but never come through over the course of a full season. Manny Parra can strike out the side to begin one game and not even get out of the first inning in another. Dave Bush led the NL in K/BB ratio in 2006, but has simply gotten eratic and ineffective as he entered his prime. Rickie Weeks combination of under-achievement and injury has led to the type of mindset where fans wonder if this will finally be his year, even though it will be his seventh major league season. Corey Hart has shown an ability to hit for power, to steal bases, to hit for average, and to get on base, but each of those skills seems to be eroding. Now, the Brewers have added two more guys – Escobar and Gomez – whose potential is exciting, but who also seem like they could fall into this mold as well. Teams can get by with one or two players in the “still waiting” department, but when a team has six or seven guys like that on the roster, the team just becomes mediocre.

2. Trevor Hoffman.

Trevor Hoffman
In terms of ERA and ERA+, Hoffman had his best season since 1998 last year. In terms of hits per nine innings, his best year since 1996. He tied his career high for fewest homeruns allowed, and his WHIP was the second best of his career. Most importantly, he was a completely different pitcher than he has been the year before in San Diego. I like Trevor Hoffman a lot, but there is no way he does what he did in 2009 again in 2010.

3. Casey McGehee.

The Brewers think that they have their answer at third base. Well, maybe, but probably not. McGehee has struck out twice as much as he’s walked at every stage of baseball. Last year, he hit 16 homeruns in 116 games, which is more than he’d ever hit in the minor leagues in seasons in which he played 133 games, 123 games, 135 games, 124 games, and 119 games. He also hit over .300 last season, which he never did in the minors. And, he just turned 27 without having ever played a full major league season. The Brewers have seen strange single season anomalies in the past few years from Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy, and Brady Clark, and I think that we’ll be adding McGehee’s name to that list after this season.

Brewers Team Capsule

Other Notes About the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers

I am beginning to think that the Milwaukee Brewers don’t get the attention they would otherwise receive if they played in a bigger market (sarcasm). I would be willing to wager that if we took a poll of baseball fans nationwide and asked who was the third best offensive player in baseball was in 2009 (obviously Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer don’t need to be validated by public opinion polls),

Do You Know Me?
we would see lots of votes for Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Cabrera, and maybe even for Hanley Ramirez, but I think we’d see very few votes for Prince Fielder, the guy who tied for the major league lead in RBI, finished second in the majors in homeruns, was one of six players with over 100 walks, one of three players with an OPS over 1.000, finished third in OPS+ with a 168, and finished second with 62 adjusted batting runs. After Albert Pujols, the discussion of second best first baseman must begin, and perhaps end, with Prince Fielder, and I don’t feel like a whole lot of people get that.

FYI – Fielder is currently tied for eighth with Paul Molitor on the Brewers' career list with 160 homeruns. The career leader is Robin Yount, with 251.

Trevor Hoffman is eight saves away from 600 and 15 games away from 1,000. He’ll be the 14th pitcher to have appeared in 1,000 games, and will be the first pitcher to 600 saves. To put that number in perspective, his 600th save will give him twice as many as Bruce Sutter, a Hall of Fame reliever. After Hoffman, Mariano Rivera is 74 saves away from 600, but no one else is really even going to challenge 400 anytime soon – Billy Wagner may get there, as he is 15 saves away, but then Troy Percival is 42 saves away and everyone else has fewer than 300.

At the age of 39, Greg Zaun joins his ninth major league baseball team this year.

LaTroy Hawkins, with his eighth team in eight years, quietly had a terrific season in Houston last year, posting a 2.13 ERA in 65 games.

In what could be a neat passing of the torch, Jim Edmonds is in camp with the Brewers after taking 2009 off. For the record, he is 18 homeruns shy of 400 and 24 RBI shy of 1200. Let the Hall of Fame debate begin.

Outlook for the Season

There can be no doubt: the Milwaukee Brewers as constructed in 2009 will not be able to compete in the NL Central. However, the Brewers appear to have made some moves which will directly and indirectly benefit their pitching staff, and if the pitching staff improves to even slightly-above-average, this is a playoff caliber team.

Team Previews Index

Do you have a different take? Send your opinions to submissions@baseballevolution.com.