Are the Brewers the Favorite in the Central?

If the Brewers’ upcoming season were a game of poker, Doug Melvin just pushed all his chips to the center of the table. The acquisition of Zack Greinke shows that the Brewers want to contend in what is likely Prince Fielder‘s last season with the team. After finishing near the bottom of the NL in almost every major pitching category, the Brewers made starting pitching a priority this off-season. With their core offensive players returning, will their off-season acquisitions be enough to push the Brewers to the top of the NL Central standings?

The Brewers might be trying to win now, but as Marc Hulet explained in an earlier post; the Brewers traded away three major league-ready players. Both Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar were penciled in as starters, and Jeremy Jeffress was a likely candidate for the bullpen. Unfortunately, the Brewers don’t have solid replacements for any of those players.

Carlos Gomez is expected to start in center field following Cain’s departure. While Gomez dazzles in the field and on the base paths, his career .293 OBP leaves much to be desired. Despite his struggles at the plate, Gomez’s defense should make him a useful contributor during the upcoming season. In his first press conference with the Brewers, Ron Roenicke emphasized being aggressive on the bases, which should play into Gomez’s strengths.

The scariest aspect of the Yuniesky Betancourt acquisition is that (gulp) Melvin has already penciled him in as a starter. Betancourt carries a rather infamous reputation among the stat-community, and it’s safe to say he isn’t the answer for the Brewers. There is a chance that Craig Counsell returns to the team, but likely as Betancourt’s backup. Offensively, the Brewers will need to succeed despite employing both Betancourt and Gomez as starters.

Their pitching rotation, however, has drastically improved this off-season. The acquisitions of Greinke and Shaun Marcum give the Brewers one of the best rotations in the National League. Though many considered Greinke’s 2010 a let-down, he was still worth 5.2 WAR, better than any pitcher on the Brewers’ roster. Yovani Gallardo might be named the opening-day starter, but Greinke will be the best pitcher on the team next season.

Shaun Marcum carries incredible value as a third starter. Despite missing the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Marcum turned in the best season of his career in 2010. Though most pitchers typically struggle with control following the surgery, Marcum posted one of the best BB/9 rates of any starting pitcher last season. Brewers’ starters posted the worst BB/9 rate in the league last season, so Marcum’s ability to limit walks will be a welcome addition to this rotation.

The Brewers’ biggest threats in the Central are the Reds and the Cardinals. While neither team has been particularly active during the off-season, both are expected to contend in 2011. The Reds are the reigning NL Central champs, and will continue to rely on the development of their young talent next season. A healthy Edinson Volquez will strengthen the rotation, but the Reds remain relatively unchanged heading into 2011.

The Cardinals have made a few moves this off-season, but none of them are considered major acquisitions. Lance Berkman may still have some value left in his bat, but his poor defense could offset those gains. Ryan Theriot and Jake Westbrook are useful players, but neither are game-changing talents. Once again, the Cardinals’ success will depend on Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and the strong 1-2 at the top of the rotation.

Of all the teams in the Central, the Brewers have made the largest strides this off-season. While the Reds and Cardinals focused on marginal improvements, the Brewers completely overhauled their rotation. The Reds and Cardinals should compete for the division, but the Brewers’ off-season acquisitions will be tough to beat.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


104 Responses to “Are the Brewers the Favorite in the Central?”

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  1. Jeff in So. Indiana says:

    The Reds haven’t improved much, but continued development from:

    CF Drew Stubbs
    RF Jay Bruce

    and all their young, cost-controlled pitching should make them better than the Brewers.

    The Reds are also deeper and can stand up to injuries (other than Votto), while if the Brewers lose any of Fielder, Gallarado, Braun, and Grienke I don’t see it.

    I sure like the Reds in 2012 and onward better than the Cardinals or Brewers.

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    • Scout Finch says:

      What does Scott Rolen have left in the tank?

      His slugging dropped from .548 to .420 from 1st to 2nd half. Wasn’t that related to chronic back issues that aren’t likely to get much better?

      If he’s the guy backing up Votto, that could spell trouble.

      Do any of these 3 NL Central contenders have a bullpen worth a salt? That should be the aspect that really separates the three. Consider the effect the strength of the Padres pen had on their success. The Giants pen certainly did their job down the stretch.

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      • Rob says:

        The Brewers bullpen is loaded. It has Axford, Braddock, Loe, Parra and Hawkins (if healthy).

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      • blackout says:

        “Do any of these 3 NL Central contenders have a bullpen worth a salt?”

        Despite our closerbeing Francisco Cordero, the Reds had, and have, a very solid ‘pen. I don’t think anyone knows if Arthur Rhodes can come close to replicating last year’s All-Star (yes, I know) season, but he, Nick Masset, Bill Bray and Logan Ondrusek were extremely solid by year’s end. I’d expect Aroldis Chapman to remain in the ‘pen this year, and if all the starters come out of ST ready to pitch (big if), then either Homer Bailey or Travis Wood will end up in relief.

        STL has a solid ‘pen too from my viewings. Franklin, Boggs, Motte and McLellan pitched well and they’ve got promising young arms to bring in this year in Adam Riefer and Eduardo Sanchez. I think P.J. Walters probably plays better in relief as well.

        MIL is weaker for losing Jeffress, but still has Axford and Braddock, Stetter was up and down in my viewings, and LaTroy Hawkins was LaTroy Hawkins. I’m wondering if some of their starting prospects don’t get pressed into relief service; guys like Scarpetta, Peralta and Rivas could all be useful out of the ‘pen though it could cost them needed development time. Rivas seems like the best candidate as he’s the most polished and would miss the time the least. Scarpetta and Peralta could both use at least another year of minor league innings as starters.

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      • Jason461 says:

        This is the point where someone notes that bullpens fluctuate wildly one year to the next and it’s pretty impossible to say who’s will be really good from one year to the next.

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      • blackout says:

        “bullpens fluctuate wildly one year to the next”

        I’ll agree to fluctuate, but wildly? As a rule? Surely some bullpens are relatively stable from one year to the next.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        I think he means BP performance fluctuates wildly

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      • GiantHusker says:

        I haven’t looked it up lately, but I believe that the bullpen is about 10% of the value of a team. That doesn’t mean a team can contend with a pen as bad as the Diamondbacks, but it is unlikely to be the deciding factor among 3 contenders, as long as they have at least average-minus relievers.

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      • blackout says:

        “I think he means BP performance fluctuates wildly”

        That’s how I took it, and the question still stands. “Fluctuates wildly” sounds great, until you have to define fluctuate and wildly.

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  2. Jason461 says:

    This seems rather knee-jerk. The Brewers finished way back last year. Certainly, they are in the conversation now, but marking them as favorites is a bit much.

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    • Brandon H says:

      I think when you take the Brewers 4th and 5th starters and replace them with Grienke and Marcum you will see a substantial positive swing. Keep in mind that wins added to the Brewers are also wins subtracted from their opponents.

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    • Alex says:

      They also blew a ton of saves early in the year, and had Suppan pitching until they decided to pay him to stay away. If you replace Hoffman’s first 3 months with Axford’s season numbers and Suppan’s with any other starter they had last year that alone would be 10+ wins.

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    • Xeifrank says:

      Brewers have a good shot at finishing .500 this year.

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  3. Heather says:

    Why on earth would anyone start Yuniesky Betancourt for any reason? There are utility guys who could produce better numbers than he could.

    Heck, Counsell could out-produce Betancourt as the starting SS. David Eckstein could out-produce Betancourt as the starting SS. Heck, Wilson Valdez could out-produce Betancourt at SS. All of those folks would probably be available, and at a lot less money.

    What is it about Betancourt that makes GMs/manager say, “Hire this man!”

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    • jlebeck66 says:

      Greinke is exciting every fifth day; Betancourt will be cringe-worthy every day. They should see if JJ Hardy can play short… oh wait, they dumped him for Carlos Gomez to make room for Alcides Escobar… ugh.

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    • Dan says:

      The only thing I can see is a good k% at 9.6% career and a career 88.2% contact rate. Both pretty darn good. I guess if that does it for a GM. It doesn’t really help him do anything with the bat, but I guess he’s not striking out. Maybe GM value that a lot more than we all think, at least from the non-power guys.

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      • Dealer A says:

        Don’t assume that Doug Melvin told Dayton Moore that he had to include Yuni in the trade. I’m sure Doug wanted nothing to do with Betancourt, but the trade probably wouldn’t have moved forward without him. At least the Royals agreed to pay his buyout for next season. And besides the fact that Melvin has made comments indicating that Yuni is the starter, I’m willing to bet he’s going to do everything in his power to find a replacement before the season starts.

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    • Ezra says:

      From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

      “Melvin said Yuniesky Betancourt, who came with Greinke in the trade, will be the starting shortstop and likes his offense and says his defense is underrated.

      “I think he’s an exciting player who is still young,” said Melvin. “He led their club in RBI. I think he will do OK in the field.””

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      • Rob says:

        And we all hope that’s Melvin speak for “I’m not going to bad mouth a guy I just got”

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      • PL says:

        Did he really just say that he liked Betancort because he led the pathetic Royals in RBI? Who is Doug Melvin and why does he have a job?

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      • grandbranyan says:

        I love it when people dissect everything a GM says to the media as if it means anything at all.

        Part of a GMs job is saying stupid things to the media to keep the casuals happy even if you know what you’re saying while true doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

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  4. Scott says:

    I think as long as the Cardinals stay healthy, they’re probably the forerunners. If they can keep Freeze and Garcia healthy, they should tear through most teams. Heck, I would be surprised if Berkman becomes an expensive bench player in favor for Jay.

    The real weaknesses are the Cardinals depth, not the starters.

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    • Brandon H says:

      Keep in mind that any ball hit to the outfield corners is not only going to land without being caught, but will also threaten for an insider. It’s a good thing the Cards are a groundball heavy rotation.

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      • blackout says:

        I don’t think Holliday is a bad defender, so you’re basing that on Berkman I take it? I doubt TLR lets Berkman butcher flies all year if he’s as awful as you’re forecasting.

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    • chuckb says:

      Jay’s not that good. If he becomes the Cards’ starting RF, they’re not going to be that good. He’s a platoon guy, a 4th or 5th OF sort of guy.

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    • joe says:

      Berkman is going to have plenty of days off, and is going to gain from getting back to NL Central pitching. Regression is in his favor on all counts. He’s more likely to be 3.75-4 WAR player than a 1.9 as the fan projections have him at.

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      • Dustin says:

        You really think 4 WAR with him playing in the outfield?????? I just don’t see it. He would have to have a monster year with the bat.

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    • Ender says:

      Brewers and Reds are co-favorites. Cardinals are a small step back but obviously right in the hunt.

      The rest of the NL central doesn’t really have a chance unless they make some noise before the season starts or get some crazy random season from a player like Bautista had last year.

      The Brewers were probably a .500 talent team last year. They got off to a completely rotten start and played .500 ball from mid May on. They also never really went on a hot streak like most teams do. Greinke and Marcum are replacing below replacement level innings so they are worth at least 6 wins between them and easily could be worth as many as 10 or 11. They also take a ton of strain off of the bullpen as the Brewers will have 4 solid pitchers instead of just 2.

      The Reds played a little over their heads but not too much. They are a legit mid to high 80 win team.

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  5. Dustin says:

    Heck yeah the Brewers are the favorite in the NL Central. They had a top 5 offense in most categories last year. The only two changes are SS and CF. Whoever plays SS can’t do much worse offensively than Escobar last year, and Cain only played for a portion of the season.

    A Greinke/Gallardo/Marcum/Wolf/Narveson is darn right scary, and should rival for a top 3 rotation. Fielder should be gearing up for a career year to land a huge contract, and Braun is bound to bounce back.

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  6. Rob says:

    There was no reason to expect Jeffress to be in Milwaukee’s pen.

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    • blackout says:

      “There was no reason to expect Jeffress to be in Milwaukee’s pen.”

      Other than the fact that that’s where he ended up at the end of this season and that he can’t start, yes, there was no reason to expect that.

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      • Rob says:

        This coming season. He was in the pen because he asked to be last season after his suspension. Milwaukee has 5 good short guys already. Milwaukee would have tried streaching him out again most likely.

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      • PL says:

        I still can’t see the Cardinals not winning the Central. Milwaukee is going to win 85+ but they dont have Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright, Rasmus, Garcia etc.

        It still blows my mind how STL did not win the Central last year. Their pythag was 91-71, they had unreal pitching and offense….sometimes things just dont work out.

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      • Jason B says:

        Probably doesn’t help that they got little-to-no-offense from 3B (after Freese went down)…

        Or CF (when Tony L was in a snit and sat Rasmus for some ridiculous reason or another)…

        Or SS…or 2B…or C.

        Other than that the offense was fairly solid.

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      • blackout says:

        “He was in the pen because he asked to be last season after his suspension.”

        No, he was in the ‘pen because he has no third pitch and average to below command of the two he does. Per my response below, as soon as he’s in the minors he’s exposed to the possibility of a lifetime ban for violating drug policy. Speculating wildly, wouldn’t it be nutty if demotion to the minors was exactly the sort of thing that caused him to light up again, and in the very situation where that would be most damaging to his career? Why take that chance when he’s ready for the majors?

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      • grandbranyan says:

        As long as he is on the 40 man he cannot be suspended for another positive test.

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      • Socrates says:

        PL – My personal criticism of “Pythag” is that it doesnt hold up with extreme differences in the rotation. I believe for it to work you essentially need to run it for each starting pitcher.

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  7. GZ says:

    You asked a question in the title to this post but didn’t really answer it. Can I have an answer please?

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    • R M says:

      You will have to put your bib on first, because you are asking to get spoon fed an answer that is clearly there.

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      • GZ says:

        “The Brewers will clearly be tough to beat”

        Is this the answer? If one assumes the Reds and Cards are good, 90-win type teams, the author completely fails to explain how upgrading from two replacement level guys to Marcum and Greinke will generate 15 additional wins.

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      • R M says:

        Plus, you are completely mixing Pythag and WAR. Chose one and stick with it! I just added up the WAR of Cardinals major cardinal bats and SP’s and came up with about 35. Considering you did that with the Brewers and came out with 28 before the additions of Grienke and Marcum, I don’t think the Brewers have as much ground to make up as your logic suggests.

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      • redsfandan says:

        “Plus, you are completely mixing Pythag and WAR. Chose one and stick with it! I just added up the WAR of Cardinals major cardinal bats and SP’s and came up with about 35. Considering you did that with the Brewers and came out with 28 before the additions of Grienke and Marcum, I don’t think the Brewers have as much ground to make up as your logic suggests.” – R M

        I could be wrong but I think what GZ was referring to was how Milwaukee won 77 games last year. So, they’d need Greinke/Marcum to help them win almost 15 more games to win the division if the Cards/Reds are 90 win teams. Possible? Sure. But I wouldn’t say it’s a given either.

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      • Sid the Snake says:

        Yeah, that’s exactly what he was referring to, and what I took issue to. Where did this 15-game gap come from? He made it up. Like I said, even if I’m a few wins off, it looks like the gap is much closer when you use WAR, close enough for Grienke and Marcum to actually be game-changers.

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      • R M says:

        Woops, looks as though I’ve revealed my secret identity.

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    • R M says:

      The answer is that the Brewers are now certainly in the hunt, but that the teams are too close to definitively call them a favorite. Really, the only reason you would declare a favorite between these three teams is as a guess for bragging rights at the end of the season if you guess right.

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    • chuckb says:

      Sometimes the information provided asks the reader to make up his own mind. That’s what higher level thinking is. Sometimes it’s challenging, but that makes it more exciting, too!

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  8. greenfrog says:

    I love the Brewers’ front three, but Wolf I’m not so sure about. He seemed to take a step backwards last year (big increase in WHIP, Ks/9IP were down). He’s now 34 and has had his share of injury problems in the past.

    I think the Brewers could use another decent starter. They also need to shore up at CF and SS. If they can do those things, then yes, they should be considered among the favourites (note spelling: I’m Canadian) for the division or wild card.

    P.S. Milwaukee fans are going to love Marcum. He has tons of pitching savvy, and is a great athlete, teammate and competitor.

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    • Sal Bando says:

      For some reason Wolf was atrocious over the first half of the season, but he looked a lot more like his 2009 self as the season progressed. I think he’s a pretty solid fourth starter.

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    • Dustin says:

      Every team could use another decent starter. Expecting them to get another pitcher is asking for too much. They must work within a budget as a mid-market team and they seem to have done quite well. The rotation they have in place now is the best they can get, not to mention the best they will have for a very long time with no prospects in the system.

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  9. GZ says:

    Okay, I’ll answer the question. No. The Brewers arent’ the favorites. By pythag the Reds won 92, the Cards 91, the Brewers 76.

    Mark the Reds down to 88 wins due to general regression (arroyo’s league low babip, 18 war from Bruce/Votto/Rolen, general awesomeness from the likes of Cairo, Hernandez, etc..).

    The Cards underperformed in some areas (3B, SS, 2B), got lucky w/r/t the health of the big four, but got unlucky with Penny, Lohse, and Freese going down. Keep them at 91.

    The Brewers got 28 war from their big six. Seems about right – maybe a little less from Weeks, maybe a bit more from Braun. Marcum and Greinke are worth 10 wins (taking into account the league switch and being charitable), a year of Gomez and Yuni instead of Escobar/Gomez/Cain is a -1 move and potentially much worse. That puts the Brewers at 85 wins.

    Sooo… your 2011 NL Central standings:

    Cardinals 91-71
    Reds 88-74
    Brewers 86-76
    Astros 70-92
    Pirates 61-101
    Cubs 26-136

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    • R M says:

      If you are going to challenge the author and give your own answer, at least do it right. Pythag is a simple calculation based off of runs scored and runs allowed….you can’t use it to determine the difference between 2 teams’ total WARs. Like I put up top, I quickly added up the major players on the cardinals (as you did for the brewers) and came up with something around 34-35 WAR, which is easily in grasp for the Brewers with the additions of Marcum and Grienke.

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    • R M says:

      In fact, your “guesstimates” for the Cardinals and Reds are….just that, guesses. Then you start adding up the WAR of the Brewers, which you should have done for all 3 teams if you wanted to do a true comparison and not just a blatantly opinionated bash post.

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    • thegeniusking says:

      Are the Cubs using little leaguers next year?

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      • chuckb says:

        too many people are neglecting the Cubs. They still have a solid rotation, Marmol and Wood in the pen, and a pretty good lineup, assuming Ramirez stays healthy. I wouldn’t make them the favorites and even if they finish 4th, they should be above .500. I could see 4 85-90 win teams in the NL Central in 2011.

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      • R M says:

        LMAO I just noticed that. I gotta give it to GZ, that’s funny.

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      • Jason B says:

        I will take the “under” on 4 85-90 win teams in the NL Central in 2010.

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    • Jeff in So. Indiana says:

      Yes, the Reds bench, Rhodes and Arroyo, etc. are due to regress.

      But the small sample eyetest was showing that a healthy Bruce and Stubbs were putting it all together at the end of next season and could be progressing.

      I think Scott Rolen’s back is a big question mark and maybe the key to another division crown.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Methodology aside, I agree with your conclusion. Obviously, most understand that there isn’t much that separates MIL, CIN, and StL, so they should be sardined for much of the year. I’m not certain the Cubs can really stay healthy enough.

      Good thing the Cubs got hot in September 2011 and finish with a 10-game win streak to reach 26 W for the season. But, Soriano did hit 26 HR with a .211 BA, so the fans were appeased. Also, the hot streak at the end gave CHI “hope for 2012″. *grin*

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    • tonysoprano says:

      I think the answer is no one really knows. More trades, signings, injuries and suspensions can all happen.

      And I’m old school…numbers only paint a small picture. Heart, desire, intelligence, drive…those all play a part.

      The article is thought provoking and that is all that can be asked for. No one has a crystal ball.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        No one has a crystal ball.

        … which is why advanced statistical analysis is supposed to move the game forward.

        I would have preferred to see a position-by-position (WAR-based) analysis among the 3-teams … and get an idea for what projections would say about “the favorite”.

        In reality, the ‘favorite’ is going to be the team that stays healthiest during the season.

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  10. joeiq says:

    It’s obvious to me the Cubs will win it all :) Bounceback year from Pena and getting rid of Lou and his -10 manager WAR will be all it takes.

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  11. FMerejo says:

    Agree with GZ…

    From the article: The Reds and Cardinals should compete for the division, but the Brewers’ off-season acquisitions will be tough to beat. (End quote).

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  12. Stan says:

    The Brewers now have two marquee players in Fielder and Greinke, two all-star caliber players in Gallardo and Braun and three probably good but unpredictable players in Weeks, Marcum and Hart. Their bullpen is below average, they have no depth and they have no farm system. They don’t even have a theoretical possibility for decency for a fifth starter. Viewed even though the rose-colored glasses of their being in the NL Central, I don’t see a championship contender here. What I see is a team that has a puncher’s chance of winning the division and following that with a quick playoff exit.

    That might be fun for Brewers fans to think out in comparison to most years but I can’t believe any member of the national media could see more here.

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    • Flharfh says:

      “Their bullpen is below average”

      The Brewers had one of the best bullpens in the league last year, ninth in MLB by ERA, and that includes Hoffman’s April implosion.

      “They don’t even have a theoretical possibility for decency for a fifth starter.”

      Are you serious? The Brewers’ fifth starter will be either Chris Narveson (4.22 FIP, 1.7 WAR last season) or Chris Capuano (also 4.22 FIP, and .5 WAR through only 66 IP.) Both are average to above average fifth starters.

      The Brewers are legit contenders for next year, and probably 2012 if they can replace some of Fielder’s production (which I think will be easier than most people think).

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      • Flharfh says:

        Correction – the Bullpen data I was using was mistakenly from 2008. Still, Axford, Braddock, Loe, and Parra were all above average last year. The data is skewed by Hoffman and Suppan’s atrocious performances out of the pen.

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      • blackout says:

        “The Brewers’ fifth starter will be either Chris Narveson or Chris Capuano”

        I keep forgetting Capuano because I was so impressed with Narveson in his late season starts. I agree that either one should be fine at the end of the rotation, and the sixth guy simply goes to make the ‘pen stronger. I like the strikeout ability that Narveson showed, and Capuano’s injury history points to relief as a good way to prevent further damage, but who knows?

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      • Stan says:

        I’m completely serious. If you think either Capuano or Narveson would be on any other contender’s radar for their rotation without the word “emergency” next to their names then you’re not familiar enough with the term “sample size”.

        Axford, Braddock and Loe were all average its true. They also fall into the Narveson/ Capuano category of guys who came out of nowhere. Moreover, that’s only three guys. If you’re counting on Manny Parra for anything then you’re bound to be disappointed.

        I find it odd that Brewer fans like yourself don’t realize that your staff was actually pitching staff was actually pitching far, far, better than expected, not worse. Now you want to assume that you’ll get the same production out this group of retreads.

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      • David says:

        Stan: are you saying that Kyle Kendrick (or Joe Blanton), Dice-K, Scott Feldman, etc. are significantly better options than what the Brewers have? I mean, do the Yankees even have 5 starters on their major league roster?

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      • Sal Bando says:

        Hey, Stan: Narveson had a 4.22 FIP last season. Are you just ignoring that?

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      • Sal Bando says:

        Also, Braddock is average and came out of nowhere? Please don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about, it’s really annoying…

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      • blackout says:

        “Narveson had a 4.22 FIP last season”

        And didn’t his FIP improve as a starter? A lot of that was compiled in relief.

        It is SSS with him, and Capuano is an historically good pitcher with major injury concerns, but we’re talking #5 starter, Stan. I’m not sure looking around the league that they’re “emergency” options, or worse than other teams’.

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    • chuckb says:

      “They don’t even have a theoretical possibility for decency for a fifth starter.”

      I disagree. First of all, they could sign one of the available free agents on the market — someone who is trying to come back from a poor or injury plagued season. Or, at some point, Parra could turn into a good pitcher. He’s got good stuff. Even if they go w/ Narveson (4.33 xFIP in 2010), he’s no worse than Lohse. The division’s not going to be won or lost based on who the 5th starter is.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Agreed. Arguing about teams’ 5th starters is pretty moot.

        I like the research article (maybe at TT’s blog), where there aren’t really any “5th starters”, just a group of guys that fill in the role from time to time.

        How many 5th starters make 30 starts a season? Or stick in the “5th Starter” role for the whole year?

        5th starters are a bad run of games from becoming the “long reliever”.

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    • Geoff says:

      Braun is better than Fielder. He had a “down” year that 90+% of the league would love to have. He just never was the same after getting hit in the wrist by a pitch.

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      • Sal Bando says:

        Braun was looking more like himself by the end of the season, but there was a long stretch after the HBP where he was just awful. I expect a huge season from him in 2011.

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  13. Flharfh says:

    “There was no reason to expect Jeffress to be in Milwaukee’s pen.”

    With Axford, Loe, Hawkins, Braddock, and Manny Parra already locks for spots, and and like five other guys vying for the other one or two, I think its pretty safe to say Jeffress would have started the season in the minors.

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  14. blackout says:

    “I think its pretty safe to say Jeffress would have started the season in the minors.”

    I’m not so sure, unless they wanted to give him starter innings which doesn’t make sense because he’s got no third pitch and is unlikely to develop good enough command of the FB and CB to start. And even if he went to Triple-A out of ST I doubt he would have remained there long. Once back in the minors he was exposed to the possibility of a lifetime ban if he violated the drug policy. Doesn’t make much sense to court that when he had little left to prove.

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    • Justin says:

      Not true…he’d remain on the 40 man in the minors…he wouldnt be tested for pot

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      • blackout says:

        “he’d remain on the 40 man in the minors”

        I see the point, but still disagree that based on current ‘pen options that he was automatically relegated to Triple-A.

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  15. Confused says:

    The Brewers finished last season 37-40 in the NL Central. The Reds were 49-30. The Brewers lost season season series to the Cubs and Astros, and were 3-11 vs the Reds. I don’t see how the addition of 2 starting pitchers and a decline in offense suddenly makes this team competitive in this division.

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  16. SCBCF says:

    Narveson & Capuano are perfectly adequate 5th starters. Heck, the Cards were throwing Jeff Suppan out there as their 5th for a couple months last year.

    The Brewers also were playing and pitching some players at the end of the year which probably dropped a couple wins from their total…they were out of it early last year.

    I could see all three top NL Central teams as fairly close after this trade. The Brewers pen could use another arm, their defense is still questionable and their depth is worrisome. The Reds are likely to regress a little and the Cards are probably better than they showed last year, especially if Carp has another year left in him. They all look like high-80s wins teams to me…someone will likely surprise into the 90’s and take this thing. I’d probably say 35% Reds, 30% Cards, 30% Brewers and 5% field.

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    • blackout says:

      “The Reds are likely to regress a little”

      I think so too. As a Reds fan I can attest to the remarkable number of one-run and/or late-inning victories. I think that further improvements from Bruce and Stubbs and members of the rotation could offset some of that, but I expect things to be tough this year. I’m glad MIL made the trade as I’ve always been a fan of theirs and this makes for a much more competitive division. And as I’ve said elsewhere, my chances of seeing a Greinke start just improved drastically, which makes the potential damage to the Reds completely worth it imo.

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  17. Nate says:

    I might be wrong about this, but I assume the Brew Crew will platoon CF w/ Chris Dickerson. The Bill James projection is .272/.363/.422, which might be a fine 2nd hitter for the Brewers.

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    • Jason461 says:

      As someone who watched Dickerson in Cincy the last several years, I will tell you right now that the only thing you can count on is him getting hurt. He’s a really nice guy, but cant’ stay on the field for anything. Counting on him to get significant PAs is risky.

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      • Nate says:

        Could be. I often have him as my 4th OF is 2009 strat-o-matic. He puts up solid numbers there, but gets hurt all the time. Haha.

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      • blackout says:

        “As someone who watched Dickerson in Cincy the last several years, I will tell you right now that the only thing you can count on is him getting hurt.”

        As another someone who watched Dickerson in Ciny, let me second that.

        He is a really nice guy, and he plays up a lot better in CF (he has far less power than his frame would lead you to expect and was, intriguingly, a much worse LF than CF here), but he does get hurt a lot.

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  18. Jim Lahey says:

    Same formula as the Cardinals – build the roster around your 4 stars: 2SP, 1 1B, 1 LF

    I’d have to say I like the Brewers to beat out the Cardinals this year. The Reds are more of a tossup in my mind.

    Brewers having McGahee, Weeks, Hart with better options for 3/4/5 starters makes up for it. Assuming Rasmus won’t play full time (or else the Cards have the CF edge by a mile).. the cards are better at.. 1 position? catcher

    Anyone else want to applaud Dayton Moore for getting rid of Betancourt finally? I do. They might yet get out of the cellar at some point this century.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Same formula as the Cardinals – build the roster around your 4 stars: 2SP, 1 1B, 1 LF

      That’s pretty darn interesting, huh?

      Of course, for both teams it’s probably more coincidental than by design. Certainly both teams would have liked for their 3B’s to be more consistent. MIL looks decent here.

      Both teams were frustrated with their SS, and MIL could likely be more frustrated with their new one, while StL lets all the 2B’s out there sign with other teams for peanuts. TLR loves him some gritty Skip.

      Look at all the positions that StL is superior to MIL, then look at the positions where MIL is superior to StL. Where exactly is MIL getting an edge? In some cases they’re even (maybe), but, I’m not seeing where MIL is passing StL by.

      I do think the teams could be a muddled group of mid/high 80ish win teams fighting for the only playoff spot to come from the division.

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  19. guffybear says:

    how long will the Brewers have Fielder ?

    can they keep him all year and then let him walk away as a free agent ? or will they trade him for a SS and or CF and put D Lee in his place

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  20. Newcomer says:

    Looks like Orlando Cabrera’s got a new suitor.

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    • redsfandan says:

      Maybe. Going from Escobar to Betancourt will hurt.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yuni is awful…even so I’m not sure Cabrera would represent an upgrade there. (Unless they got him in a “we’re going to fling a whole lotta poo at the wall to see if any of it sticks” type of acquisition.)

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    • blackout says:

      “Looks like Orlando Cabrera’s got a new suitor.”

      That’s exactly what I said at minor league ball.

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  21. Flharfh says:

    ” If you think either Capuano or Narveson would be on any other contender’s radar for their rotation without the word “emergency” next to their names then you’re not familiar enough with the term “sample size”.”

    I don’t understand what you mean. Both Capuano and Narveson have been remarkably consistent over their careers. (Capuano 4.35 ERA; Nareveson 4.74). Those two are as good of fifth starter options as most other contenders have. The only contender I can think of off hand with a significantly better fifth starter is the Giants, and they’re paying him ace money to be the fifth dude. (Zito)

    “Axford, Braddock and Loe were all average its true. They also fall into the Narveson/ Capuano category of guys who came out of nowhere. Moreover, that’s only three guys. If you’re counting on Manny Parra for anything then you’re bound to be disappointed.”

    Parra has disappointed as a starter, but he was very good out of the bullpen last year. And those guys you mentioned were well above average (Axford a 2.75 FIP Braddock 2.9 FIP) – they may be in line for some regression, but still.

    “I find it odd that Brewer fans like yourself don’t realize that your staff was actually pitching staff was actually pitching far, far, better than expected, not worse. Now you want to assume that you’ll get the same production out this group of retreads.”

    Did you follow the Brewers last year? The Brewers opening day rotation in 2010 was Gallardo/Wolf/Doug Davis/Jeff Suppan/Narveson. Davis, Suppan, and Hoffman’s seasons were atrocious; Suppan was one of the worst starters in MLB last year. Dave Bush also tossed some well below average starts. The important thing is that none of those four guys are on the team anymore.

    Doug Melvin replaced Jeff Suppan, Doug Davis, and Dave Bush with Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

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    • blackout says:

      “The only contender I can think of off hand with a significantly better fifth starter is the Giants”

      Red Sox maybe? I’d also hazard that the curious nature of the Reds rotation (less top heavy, contingent on realizing upside) might make their likely fifth starter (Bailey or Wood) potentially better. But you have to dig to find viable arguments.

      “The Brewers opening day rotation in 2010 was Gallardo/Wolf/Doug Davis/Jeff Suppan/Narveson”

      That s/b Bush, not Narveson, right? Narveson started the year in relief?

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    • dutchbrowncoat says:

      “Those two are as good of fifth starter options as most other contenders have. The only contender I can think of off hand with a significantly better fifth starter is the Giants, and they’re paying him ace money to be the fifth dude. (Zito)”

      jeff niemann and wade davis would like a word with you. as would jeremy hellickson for that matter.

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      • Kris says:

        Kris Medlen/ Mike Minor
        Mike Leake/ Travis Wood/ Aroldis Chapman?
        Daisuke Matsuzaka
        Edwin Jackson (once Peavy is healthy)
        Alex Sanabia
        Jorge de la Rosa
        Scott Kazmir?
        Joe Blanton
        Rich Harden/ Justin Duchscherer
        Barry Zito
        Wade Davis/ Jeremy Hellickson
        Derek Holland

        OK, not all of these are significantly better, but all are comparable or better. Depending on whether Scott Kazmir remembers how to pitch or not.

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  22. Chad Bro Chill 87 says:

    I wouldn’t say the Brewers are the favorites, but they are certainly in the conversation for making the playoffs next year. I like that Doug Melvin is pulling a page out of the Kenny Williams playbook. Also, anybody wanna play gamecube?

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