Meet the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers

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by Andrew Coughlin

 

They won their division last year by 6 games, yet this years' division has had a nice makeover since.  Good or bad for the Brewers? Only 162 games to go and we will find out.  

The NL Central will be tough in 2012.  Milwaukee's payroll exceeds the $100 million mark for the first time in the club's history.  Brewers fans hold some of the reponsibility for the payroll increase by supporting their team, but owner Mark Attanasio is the main check writer and he continues to show that he wants a winning ballclub.

When asked about this, the Brewers' GM simply put it this way, “It’s called the price of winning,” said Doug Melvin.

Let's take a look at the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers.

Infielders

Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Rickie Weeks, Mat Gamel, Johnathan Lucroy, Cesar Izturis, Travis Ishikawa and George Kottaras

The whole infield has been revamped.  Fielder, Betancourt and McGehee are gone.  Enter Ramirez, Gonzalez and Gamel.  Defensively they should be better than they were last year.  Weeks will need to cut down on his errors and it's yet to be known how good Gamel will be at first.  His teammates have been raving about him during spring training and for good reason.  Gonzalez will be a nice sight at SS because: 1. he's that good at the position and 2. Yuniesky Betancourt was that bad.

Offensively, I like this infield.  Two keys to the season for this entire offense will be how well Mat Gamel and Rickie Weeks hit.  Gamel will have tremendous pressure on him having been given this opportunity.  GM Doug Melvin knew a couple of years ago that Gamel would be replacing Fielder in the lineup.  Now it's his time to show what his left-handed bat can do.  Leave it to Manager Ron Roenicke to displace the pressure from the young hitter so that he can just go out and hit the ball the way he's been hitting in the minors for years now.

Weeks has yet to have his breakout year and I expect this to be the season he does so, if he can stay healthy.  Last year he was well on his way and then he went down with an ankle injury.  He came back to finish the regular season and playoffs, but you could tell his rhythm and momentum were off.  Weeks could easily hit 30-35 HRs and nobody would be the least bit surprised.  

If Weeks has a monster year and Gamel is just sufficiently capable near the bottom of the lineup, Fielder's departure will be less painful for the offense to endure.  I believe their offense could be better and more versitile in Roenicke's second year coaching and the style of play he likes to employ.

Outfielders

Ryan Braun, Nyjer Morgan, Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki

The two big stories for the outfield coming into this season were: 1. Braun beat his drug suspension and 2. Ryan Braun beat his drug suspension.  Nobody thought he would get off and a Brewers team without Braun for the first 50 games of the season would have been an essential 50 game head start for the Cardinals and Reds.  Now Milwaukee has their MVP back with a chip on his shoulder.  I think Braun could put up even better numbers than last year, even without Fielder behind him for protection.

The CF platoon of Morgan and Gomez will again be an efficient, circus/variety show of the utmost clownage and vaudvillian purportion that Roenicke will allow.  Both of these guys will be checked with the addition of Aoki, who was to be insurance for the Braun issue.  What was going to be a weakness with the inevitable Braun suspension before the season started is now a strength moving forward.

Starting Rotation

Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson

Brewers' fans must feel pretty good heading into a season and seeing a starting rotation that certainly will be a strength for a viable playoff contender?  And the starting pitching makes them a viable contender.  The confidence at the frontend of the rotation with Gallardo and Greinke will trickle down to the 3-4-5 starters.  Gallardo needs to figure out a way to go deep into games and pitch efficiently, while keeping his strikeouts up and his walks down.  Every one of these guys attacks the strike zone, which makes them so effective.

Greinke's going to have a Cy Young caliber year.  His potential was shown in 2009 when he did win it and he seems a lot more comfortable, relaxed and mature in Milwaukee than he did in his first year.  By all accounts, he didn't have his best year last season and he still won 16 games, while missing the first month.  He's a cerebral pitcher with all the talent in the world.  He just needs to harness that killer instinct on the mound. Look for him to put it all together this year.

Bullpen

Jon Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe, Jose Veras, Tim Dillard, Marco Estrada and Manny Parra

By far the best setup and closer combination in the NL Central and maybe the entire majors.  There will be a lot of 7 inning games if these two can stay healthy.  The main concern heading into the season will be the 6th and 7th inning roles.  This is one of the few uncertain issues on this ball club facing Roenicke.

Last season the Brewers used only six starters.  Marco Estrada and Manny Parra will be set in the long relief roles, but if something happens to any of the starters, these two guys will be the ones to step in.  As a starter, we waited for Parra to live up to the flashes of talent he's shown in the past.  He's a lefty that has very nice stuff and a low to mid 90s fastball.  Let's hope he's more comfortable with his role in the bullpen  If he can stay healthy this year and step up a bit, Parra could be an important member of this relief staff.

Manager

Ron Roenicke

This will be the second year managing for Head Coach Ron Roenicke.  He couldn't have asked for a better first year, winning a franchise record 96 games and taking the division crown.  With the departure of slugger Prince Fielder, Roenicke might have to be a bit more creative in his approach at scoring runs this year.

The rivalry that bloomed between the Cardinals and Brewers last year extended to the far reaches of the main dugout seat.  Ron Roenicke and Tony LaRussa will no longer have the in game chess matches they had last season, much to the dismay and also the delight of Roenicke. (As much as Roenicke may like the retirement of LaRussa, I'd bet he would like another crack at besting the Hall of Fame Manager.)

Roenicke can now supplant himself as the best Manager in the NL Central this year.  But I sure will miss his contemptable attitude towards LaRussa, as exemplified not only in a plethora of games in 2011, but also by this quote, "personalities, when they leave, sometimes do change how guys feel about that other squad. Even manager to manager—it is a little different not having Tony over there.”  When asked to explain in further detail what that exactly meant, Roenicke said, “There’s a lot of specific things I would rather not get into, sorry.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2012 Milwaukee Brewers. 

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