2009 Milwaukee Brewers Team Preview

2009 Milwaukee Brewers Team Preview
by Badger of Predictem.com

For the first time in over 25 years the Milwaukee Brewers will enter a Spring Training as a playoff baseball team looking to get back in
again in 2009. Their performance in the National League Divisional
playoffs versus the Phillies (out in four games) left a lot to be
desired, but at least they made it there and had a chance.

The Brewers had a chance last season because of their trade for C.C.
Sabathia, who put the Crew on his back and carried them to a 90-72
record and into the postseason. The big lefty, who went 11-2 with a
1.65 ERA including seven complete games and 3 complete-game shutouts
as a Brewer in just 17 starts, put the exclamation point on the
season and cast his future as a rich man with his playoff-clinching
victory over the Cubs on the final day of the season.

General manager Doug Melvins gamble last year paid off with a
playoff appearance, but this year he may pay for that one-hit wonder.
Sabathia is gone now, and so is longtime staff ace Ben Sheets, so
young, home-grown pitchers Yovanni Gallardo and Manny Parra will need
to pitch beyond their years for the Brewers to repeat last years
performance in 2009.

The Brewers will do it with a new skipper too, as Ken Macha was hired to run the ship after Ned Yost was let go down the stretch last
season. Ironically, two of the men that Macha was chosen over, Willie
Randolph and interim-manager Dale Sveum, agreed to join Machas staff
and will serve as the bench coach and hitting coach, respectively.

2009 World Series Odds 40-to-1
2009 NL Pennant Odds 17-to-1
2009 NL Central Division Odds 5-to-1

Like most teams in Major League Baseball, the Brewers have concerns
with their pitching. The oddsmakers clearly agree, as they are at the
same odds level (40-to-1) as the Marlins, Giants and Reds, three
teams the Brewers still think the are better than despite their staff

Offense One of the reasons for optimism for the Brewers is that their young everyday lineup is still growing up and maturing. With
the core of this team still all under the age of 26, there really is
no way of telling how much better they can all get.

Ryan Braun (37 HR, 106 RBI) and Prince Fielder (34 HR, 102 RBI)
provide the bop in the heart of the lineup. Do-everything right
fielder Corey Hart had his second-straight 20-20 season, getting 20
homeruns to go with his 23 steals. Those three together with
shortstop J. J. Hardy (24 HR, 74 RBI) and leadoff hitter Ricky Weeks
form the young nucleus of talent that Macha will build from this season.

Keep an eye on the progress of Weeks during the 09 season, as new
bench coach Willie Randolph just happens to be a former second
baseman, the same position the talented (89 R, 19 S, .342 OBP) but
underperforming (.234 BA, 15 E) Weeks plays. A mentor role by
Randolph could finally help Weeks achieve in his fifth season in the

The Brewers then surround the young nucleus with solid veterans up
the middle with Mike Cameron (25 HR, 142 K in 120 G) in centerfield
and Jason Kendall. Bill Hall (.225, 15 HR) had lasik-eye surgery in
the offseason to try and keep hold of playing time in front of vet
Mike Lamb and top-prospect Mat Gamel at third.

Pitching If there is such a thing as being okay after losing
Sabathia and Sheets from the starting rotation, then the Brewers are
about as okay as it gets. The Brewers rotation will hinge upon two
major questions: if young hurlers Gallardo and Parra can step up, and
which Dave Bush will the Brewers get this season?

Gallardo missed all but four games last year with a knee injury, but
he appears to be healthy again and has the command and the moxie to
become an ace. The lefty Parra (10-8, 4.39 ERA in 29 starts) is at
times dominating, only to lose it in a snap and loose control of the
game. They both need to progress as big leaguers to give the Brewers
a righty-lefty combo at the top of the rotation.

Last year Bush seemed to turn the corner at midseason, going 7-3 with
a 3.23 ERA in his final 18 starts of the season. If the Brewers get
that Bush, and not the one that was 2-7 and getting tagged around so
bad he was demoted to Triple-A at one point, then the Brewers could
survive the season. They also have veteran Jeff Suppan (177 IP) and
free-agent pickup Braden Looper (199 IP with the Cardinals) to eat
innings at the back end of the rotation, so the Crew is okay at the
start of its post-C.C.-n-Sheets rotation.

Bullpen After Eric Gagne flamed out as the Brewers closer in 2008,
Salomon Torres came on to convert 28 of his 35 chances as his
replacement. But Torres walked away from a nearly 4-million player-
option in his contract and retired this offseason, leaving the
Brewers and their bullpen in dire straights.

The Brewers went out and filled the hole with all-time saves leader
Trevor Hoffman, who converted 30 of 34 chances in San Diego last
season before he was shown the door. Hoffman will need to be stellar,
as the Brewers have nobody proven behind him in this years pen.

Todd Coffey and his heavy sinker (2.78 GO/AO in 26 games as Brewer
last year), Carlos Villanueva and former Atlanta Braves righty Jorge
Julio (34 K in 30 IP) will compete for the job as set-up man to
Hoffman. The Brewers will also have a healthy David Riske back after
arm troubles limited him to 42 innings in 2008, so they should be
able to get Hoffman the ball for save situations. Mitch Stetter will
replace Brian Shouse as the one-out lefty specialist in the pen.

Gambling Review/Preview

Betting on all of the Brewers games in 2008 would have netted you a positive bankroll, as they finished +589 last season (49-32, +345
home; 41-40, +244 on road). However, they were a terrible runline
team (-934) and trended toward playing under the total (69-81).

Bush not only rebounded on the field, but he also rebounded at the
window for bettors towards the end of 08. The Brewers went 15-14 in
his 29 starts for a +115 take. Suppan also won as a starter (+111),
so you should be able to find good underdog odds to pounce on when
those two are on the bump.

At 40-to-1, the Brewers are considered a sizable long shot to win the World Series in 2009. Realistically, their offense could put together
a terrific season and carry them into the postseason once again. But
once there, their pitching would be exposed and it is too weak to be
worthy of a long shot wager on the futures board.

The best futures option with the Brewers is the 5-to-1 odds on the NL
Central Division title. If the Cubs dont win it, the next best
option is the Crew, and 5-to-1 is enough to get me to throw some
lunch money at it.