Its Tuesday so I'll step aside for Tuesday's Brewer Blog with Andrew Dunn-Bauman
Five Certainties for the Brew Crew
The 2014 Brewers are a difficult team to gauge in terms of potential...with so many questions marks surrounding this team from fans and pundits alike, here are my 5 things “guaranteed” to happen for the Crew in 2014:
#1: Aramis Ramirez hits .250 or lower through the month of April
Ramirez has been a traditionally slow starter throughout his career. Last year he shocked the world hitting .385 headed into May...but that was after appearing in just four games in April due to a knee injury. I fully expect another slow start from Ramirez this season, which translates into added pressure on Ryan Braun. Braun needs protection in the lineup, and a lack of early production from Ramirez could turn ugly if Braun starts pressing and expanding his zone. Combine this with circus that will undoubtedly surround Braun all season long and...
#2: Ryan Braun doesn’t hit .300
Braun averages 36 home runs per 162 games with a .312 lifetime batting average, but this is the year his production dips. Despite the calm, cool, collected vibe he effortlessly and constantly emits, there’s just too much pressure on him this year. Baseball is a game best played in a clear frame of mind, and that’s going to be next to impossible for Braun this season. He obviously has a lot to prove; to the MLB, to his teammates, and most importantly to the fans of Milwaukee. It’ll be tough to keep that weight off his mind when digging into the box.
I think he will still hit 30 homers this season, taking some healthy cuts to prove the banned substances he took weren’t boosting his power numbers, but the homers will come at the expense of his batting average. Between the pressure this season will bring and the necessity for some new (legal) medication for all of his nagging injuries, I can’t envision a season where Braun goes for .300/30 again.
#3: Ron Roenicke will underutilize the expansion of Instant Replay
For those of you concerned about games slowing down too much with the addition of manager challenges, making nearly all plays reviewable, fear not about the Brewers manager doing his part to slow down the proceedings. “I don’t need anything to make my job more difficult. And this is going to be more difficult,” Roenicke said of the replay expansion. “I don’t know if you need to replay something when you need five angles and super-slow-motion to see it. I don’t care about those plays. I care about the obvious ones that can change a game.”
That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the new replay system, and seeing as Roenicke is not one to hop out and argue with umpires too often, I don’t see him challenging plays as often as most managers will this season.
#4: Team ERA drops from 3.84 last season
For the Brewers to be successful this year, team pitching needs to be a strength. The Crew posted a 3.84 team ERA last season, middle of the pack in the MLB at 16th. However, the staff seemed to figure things out a bit after the All-Star break, posting a 3.42 ERA in the second half of the season. The team returns most of its bullpen this year, and bolstered its starting rotation with the addition of Matt Garza. Yovanni Gallardo and Kyle Lohse both figure to be solid mainstays in the rotation, and having Marco Estrada as the number five starter (who posted a 3.87 ERA last season) is a situation almost any team would be happy with.
Wily Peralta is the “X” factor on this club. He had a very rocky start to 2013, but managed to turn things around, posting a 3.15 from July 1st onward. He showed the capability to go deep into ballgames, something the bullpen will desperately need as the season wears on, and has the potential to be a standout performer in his second season in the bigs. I see him shining this year in the middle of a very stable rotation, and therefore....
#5 The Brewers make the playoffs
Don’t get me wrong. The Crew has no shot at winning the NL Central. Barring something catastrophic, the Cardinals will take the division crown once again. And even if they falter, most people have the Brewers pegged as the third most likely candidate to challenge them in the division. There’s just too much competition. The NL Central could quite possibly be the best division in baseball this season, and with two Wildcard spots in each league, I see three NL Central teams making the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
The Brewers will have to duel it out with the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates for a wildcard spot, but with an improved pitching staff and an unsuspended Ryan Braun, I see them sneaking into the playoffs with 90 wins.
It’s sure to be a highly entertaining season in Milwaukee and in the NL Central, and I’m more than ready for the season to get underway. With another “polar vortex” settling in this week, I know you are too.
Agree with your analysis, but what about Hank? Will he be the team mascot in Milwaukee?
All signs are pointing to yes on that front...the team has said he will be making the trek north if no owner claims him by the end of Spring Training, and I'm sure the PR staff is dying for a positive distraction. I don't think he'll beshort on places to stay either...looks like Yo is pretty fond of him in particular. But how does Bernie feel about all of this?! -ADB