Record: 34-26, second place NL Central
Manager: Ron Roenicke, 34-26 (.567) lifetime managerial record
Park: Miller Park. Great home run park, especially for lefthanded hitters, but the Brewers’ home also jacks up strikeouts and reduces hits. It plays more like a neutral park than it might seem.
Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Yes sir
Can they pitch? For the most part
Can they field? Yup
Who’s their best player? Ryan Bruan: Now signed through the 2021 season.
2B – Rickie Weeks – R
RF – Corey Hart – R
LF – Ryan Braun – R
1B – Prince Fielder – L
3B – Casey McGehee – R
C – Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS – Yuniesky Betancourt – R
CF – Nyjer Morgan – L
Center fielder Nyjer Morgan, age 30, is the oldest player in the Brewers’ lineup: Everyone else is between 25 and 29, in or about to enter their baseball prime. Left fielder Ryan Braun and first baseman Prince Fielder are 27, while second baseman Rickie Weeks is 28; that trio powers a softball offense that is first in the league in home runs and second in slugging percentage. Hitting home runs is sort of the only thing the Brewers do, though: They don’t walk or strike out all that much, and they don’t see a lot of pitches. The offensive philosophy is more “see the ball, try to hit the ball over the fence, jog back to dugout.” As such, they’re not a great on-base group, ranking 7th in OBP, though most of that falls on the left side of the infield (Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee) and the now-supplanted Carlos Gomez, who all sport sub-.300 on-base percentages. Replacing Gomez with Morgan should help turn some solo shots into two and three-run home runs, and if McGehee figures it out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Brewers finish the year first in the NL in runs scored.
I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence about a team starting Yuniesky Betancourt.
6/7: RHP – Shaun Marcum (vs Chris Capuano)
6/8: LHP – Randy Wolf (vs Mike Pelfrey)
6/9: RHP – Yovani Gallardo (vs Jon Niese)
Miss: LHP – Chris Naverson
Miss: RHP – Zach Greinke
And the rotation is pretty good, too. The Brewers’ 3.97 staff ERA is just 8th in the NL, but only the Phillies’ rotation has more strikeouts and the Brewers are 5th in WHIP. The combination of Yovani Gallardo and off-season additions Shaun Marcum and Zach Greinke give them three top of the rotation dudes that you wouldn’t want to face in a short series. The only thing not to like: Marcum, Greinke, and Wolf are fly ball pitchers, and if there’s one park named after a beer you don’t want to be a fly ball pitcher in . . . well, I guess that’s probably Coors Field. But if you have to pick two such parks, Miller Park is one. It’s a haven for lefthanded home runs, which is particular bad news if you’re a righthanded fly ball pitcher.
Soft tossing Shaun Marcum takes the ball tonight: He lives on well-placed offspeed pitches, lots of sliders, curveballs, and changeups. Moving out of the AL East and into the NL Central, Marcum has the best strikeout, walk, and home run rates of his career, and the lowest ERA (2.78). Wednesday’s starter is lefty Randy Wolf – it’s more fun if you pretend his first name is an adjective — another pitcher who throws a lot of offspeed stuff. Wolf doesn’t miss as many bats as Marcum, and his 3.69 ERA is an okay bet to rise as the season progresses. Thursday night’s affair goes to Yovanni Gallardo, who has a 3.72 ERA and throws his fastball in the 90s. But who cares about that pitching stuff – Gallardo is one of the best hitting pitchers in the majors, with 9 career home runs in 223 plate appearances. That’s about a 24 home run pace over a full season. Hey, Bud Selig: I would probably be more interested in watching a Carlos Zambrano/Yovanni Gallardo home run derby than this season’s actual home run derby.
C – Wil Nieves – R
IF – Craig Counsell – L
IF – Josh Wilson – R
OF – Carlos Gomez – R
OF/1B – Mark Kotsay – L
40 years old, Craig Counsell (.515 OPS) hanging on, but is probably starting to get those “hey, maybe you should take a retirement trip” vacation brochures placed in his locker like Ken Griffey Jr. did last season. Futility infielder Josh Wilson is already on his third team this season, and his seventh overall in five majors league seasons; he’s 3 for 8 with 2 home runs to being his Brewers career – he had hit just 7 home runs in his pre-Milwaukee career — so maybe he’s found a home. Lefthanded hitting Mark Kotsay is in a loose platoon with Corey Hart in right field, so he could get a start against Mike Pelfrey on Wednesday.
RHP – John Axford
RHP – Kameron Loe
RHP – Marco Estrada
RHP – LaTroy Hawkins
RHP – Sergio Mitre
LHP – Zach Braddock
RHP – Tim Dillard
A 3.12 ERA ranks the Brew Crew bullpen 5th in the NL, and the supporting stats are just as optimistic. They’re less of a strikeout group than the starters, but get far more ground balls. Mustachioed closer John Axeford and Marco Estrada are the only swing and miss arms; everyone else belongs more to the “throw-nothing-but-sinkers-for-strikes” school of thought. Sergio Mitre has a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings despite just 9 strikeouts. LaTroy Hawkins has an 0.63 ERA in 14.2 innings with just 7 strikeouts. Kameron Lowe, another sinkerball pitcher, has been the real workhorse; he’s on pace to pitch in . . . does math . . . 3,013 games this season. Just one lefty out there, Zach Braddock.
And those were some things to know about the Milwaukee Brewers.