Health, pitching key to Brewers’ 2014 success

The baseball season has started up and the Brewers are hopeing to make the playoffs. They won their opening day game.

The baseball season has started up and the Brewers are hopeing to make the playoffs. They won their opening day game.

It’s finally here! The long awaited baseball season is set to return on Monday, March 31 when the Brewers take on the Braves at 1:10. With the payroll for the Brewers set to be over $100 million this year, the fans are expecting success, and that means getting back to the postseason. The Brewers haven’t been to the postseason since 2011 with a core of players including Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Zack Greinke. But now Greinke plays for the Dodgers, Fielder plays for the Rangers, and Braun is coming back from an injured thumb and a 65 game suspension.

Last year’s Brewers finished at 74-88 and fourth in the NL Central, a division that sent three teams to the postseason last year. The Brewers needed to make some changes if they want to make the postseason this year in the face of such tough competition. With Owner Mark Attanasio and General ManagerDoug Melvin in the win-now attitude, the Brewers made their largest free agent signing in team history.

Notable Offseason Moves

Signed SP Matt Garza to a 4 yr/$50 million deal with a 5th year option

Signed RP Francisco Rodriguez to a 1 yr/$3.25 million deal

Signed 1B/3B Mark Reynolds to a minor league deal

Signed 1B Lyle Overbay to a minor league deal

Signed P Zach Duke to a minor league deal

Traded OF Norichika Aoki to the Royals for LHP Will Smith

Matt Garza signed the largest free agent deal in Brewers history. His 5th year option is very complex and hard to understand but basically he gets the fifth year if he stays mostly healthy through the first four years. Garza will be the #3 starter in the rotation. Francisco Rodriguez is back once again on his third one year deal. He will function as a setup man and the backup closer should something happen to Jim Henderson.

Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay were signed to fix the first base problem that plagued the Brewers last season. Corey Hart was out for the year with a knee injury and in total, seven first basemen were used last year. Hart signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent this offseason. Reynolds and Overbay both made the Opening Day roster and will likely platoon at first base.

Zach Duke is a Left Handed Pitcher who has made the conversion from starter to reliever and has bounced around from team to team in recent years. He will mostly be used as a left handed specialist.

I know what you’re thinking. The Brewers have Will Smith and when he comes into the game, the theme song to ‘Fresh Prince’ will blast through Miller Park speakers. Don’t get your hopes up. Smith hates any reference to actor Will Smith and he said he won’t have that as his walkup song. Smith, a big, young, controllable Left Handed Pitcher will start in the bullpen this year. He would have been fighting for the last rotation spot, but the addition of Matt Garza pretty much pushed him into the bullpen. The Brewers lost their leadoff hitter and starting RF in Aoki. It will be interesting to see how the Brewers make up for his lost production.

3 Keys to Success:

1. Health: The Brewers need to stay healthy. Last year, they lost their starting 1B, starting 2B, starting 3B, starting LF, and multiple pitchers throughout the year. First base will now be controlled by Reynolds and Overbay. At second base it is still unknown who the starter will be, or if it will be a platoon all year long. Rickie Weeks has been in a slump for the past three years and is owed $11 million this year. Scooter Gennett is the up and comer who hit well last year (batted over .300) when Weeks was gone. At 3B, Aramis Ramirez injured his knee in Spring Training and it bothered him all year long, including two, one month DL stints. Ryan Braun had an injured thumb that was bothering him and had a long time to let it heal after he got suspended for 65 games in the Biogenesis scandal.

2. Pitching: Brewers’ pitching in the first half of the year was terrible. The month of May was by far the worst month for the Brewers. They went 6-22 in May and gave up 148 runs in that month. In comparison, Brewers pitchers didn’t give up more than 115 runs in any other month. The pitchers really got it going in the second half of the season. If our pitching staff can pitch all season long like what they did in the second half, this team can go places.

3. Ryan Braun: Braun had a pretty bad year last year. He had an injured thumb that caused him to go on the DL for the first time in his career and completely sapped him of his power. By the time of his suspension he had only nine home runs and was striking out more often at the plate. Then he got suspended. 65 games, or the rest of the season, for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Even so, Braun is still the best player on the team. He will make the move from LF to RF this year to make room for the power hitting Khris Davis whose defensive capabilities limit him to LF. It will be interesting to see how Braun plays in RF and how he does at the plate.

Team Preview

Starting rotation:

1. Yovani Gallardo

2. Kyle Lohse

3. Matt Garza

4. Marco Estrada

5. Wily Peralta

Gallardo will make his fifth Opening Day start. Lohse pitches like the actual Ace of the staff and is a solid contributor to the team. Garza, the new addition has had troubles in Spring Training but the hope is that he will get it together and be worth the $50 million. Estrada has been in the rotation for a while. He started firing on all cylinders late last year and proved to be a quality starting pitcher. Peralta is the youngest of the five starters. He showed flashes of his talent last year, but needs to keep it up all season long. He needs to be more consistent, if he does that, he has the look of a future No. 1 starter.


Closer- Jim Henderson, Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon Kintzler,Zach Duke, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Wei Chung Wang

Jim Henderson is the incumbent closer and did well last year. K-Rod is the backup closer and serves as a setup man. Kintzler will serve as the other setup man did extremely well in roles in the 7thand 8th inning last year. Duke is the lefty specialist. Will Smith is another lefty option. Thornburg will be the long reliever and will come in if the starting pitcher goes out early or gets in trouble. Wei Chung Wang is the interesting guy here. He’s a Rule 5 draft pick we took from the Pittsburgh Pirates, a 21 year old lefty, who has never played above Rookie ball, must stay on the 25 man roster all year; otherwise we must return him to the Pirates.

Projected Lineup:

1. CF Carlos Gomez

2. SS Jean Segura

3. RF Ryan Braun

4. 3B Aramis Ramirez

5. C Jonathon Lucroy

6. LF Khris Davis

7. 1B Lyle Overbay

8. 2B Scooter Gennett

9. Pitcher

Carlos Gomez has been named the Leadoff man to replace Nori Aoki. Lyle Overbay will most likely start on Opening Day because he’s a left handed hitter, and Mark Reynolds is a righty.Julio Teheran of the Braves is the pitcher the Brewers’ will face on Opening Day and he’s right handed. Strategically, it’s best to put more left handed hitters in against a righty, which is also why Gennett is playing over Weeks at second base; Gennett is a left handed hitter and Weeks is a right handed hitter.

Season Prediction

The NL Central is the toughest division in Baseball. The Cardinals are the reigning NL Champions and it doesn’t look like they are slowing down any time soon. The Pirates and the Reds were both of the Wild Card teams in the NL last year. The Reds have a good team and they will be in contention for the NL Central for years to come. The Pirates had their first season over .500 since 1992. It’s also the first time they made the playoffs since that time. The Brewers have the talent to challenge allthree of these teams. If they can stay healthy, the Brewers have a good chance to make the postseason. I still have a hard time seeing the Brewers winning the NL Central outright, the Cardinals are just too good. But the Wild Card is definitely the more likely option. The Brewers can beat out the Pirates for the last Wild Card spot and make the postseason. And if you get to the postseason, just about anything can happen.

Prediction: Wild Card