Will the attention from Ryan Braun‘s PED speculation become a distraction?
The good news for the Brewers is that Ryan Braun will be playing a full season this year if he stays healthy. The bad news is Braun’s suspension was overturned not on his innocence, but a question of chain of custody. Whether or not Braun was actually innocent or guilty, the entire team will hear questions throughout spring training and surely into the start of the regular season. Eventually, as with any situation the media continually questions about, it could become a distraction. Especially depending on how Braun handles it.
If the team struggles or perhaps if Braun starts extremely hot and the questions continue, it could easily become a distraction. Also,there’s the potential threat from MLB executives to appeal the arbitrator’s decision in federal court. I’m sure they would like to avoid a long, draw- out ordeal in court, but they also don’t want players thinking drug suspensions can easily be overturned in future cases.
Is Mat Gamel ready to take a major role in Milwaukee?
What do you do with a player who can’t field a lick at third base and has been waiting for a way to make the major league roster for five seasons now? If you answered make him your choice to replace the second best hitter in Milwaukee history at first base, you are correct.
Mat Gamel has struggled to make contact in his small sample at the major league level. He currently holds a 34.5 percent strikeout rate in the majors and a batting average of .222. Clearly he hasn’t had enough games yet, with 85 played in the last four seasons, but for someone with a .301 average in Triple-A he is quickly gaining the Quad-A player tag.
He’s been given the first base job which should hide his porous defense, but his bat needs to come alive. His power looked ready to peak in Nashville last season with 28 home runs and a .540 SLG. Obviously he could never replace the numbers Prince Fielder has put up in Milwaukee, but the team won’t allow him to be a consistent out by striking out every third at bat.
Will stellar pitching be wasted in to many low scoring games?
The Brewers could have the second best pitching staff in the NL, with only the Phillies ahead of them. They have three potential ace pitchers in Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo. On top of that all three are between the ages of 26 and 30.
The three pitchers may not be considered workhorses and have had some minor issues over the past two or three years, but all three, along with Randy Wolf, can consistently total 180 to 200 innings each season. According to Oliver projections, the Brewers rotation shapes up like this:
Name IP W L ERA WHIP K BB HR K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WAR Greinke, Zack 200 13 8 3.42 1.17 204 47 17 9.2 2.1 0.8 4.5 Marcum, Shaun 200 12 9 3.52 1.2 155 50 21 7 2.3 0.9 4.2 Gallardo, Yovani 200 13 9 3.64 1.27 206 70 20 9.3 3.2 0.9 4 Wolf, Randy 200 11 11 4.31 1.34 127 65 24 5.7 2.9 1.1 2.5 Narveson, Chris 165 9 8 4.2 1.37 130 59 18 7.1 3.2 1 2.2
Not too many teams in the NL can go into the season with hopes to get that from their starting five, but the offense will have to do its part as well. After finishing third in the National League last year in runs scored, the team will need to find a way to replace at least some of the offense Fielder supplied. If Gamel or new third baseman Aramis Ramirez don’t produce, the team could be facing more and more pitching duels and be on the outside come playoff time.
Has the NL Central become one of the more competitive divisions?
The NL Central sent the joke of the playoffs each season at tone point, and arguably the weakest World Series champion in 2006 with the 83-78 St Louis Cardinals. Since that season though, the division has never had a winner with less than 91 wins, and two of the wild card winners from the division.
This season should be no different, The Cincinnati Reds have loaded up and look prepared to contend for the division. The Cardinals have the addition of Carlos Beltran and return of Adam Wainwright as they attempt to deal with a similar loss of a major contributor, Albert Pujols.
Can Aramis Ramirez replace enough offense to keep the Brewers competing for the playoffs?
The Brewers were able to make a solid addition this offseason in slugging third baseman Ramirez. He isn’t the on-base and power threat that Fielder was, but has been a top third baseman for the past 10 seasons. Since 2001 he ranks eighth in wOBA among all third baseman. He has been more injury prone over the last two seasons, but has missed major time during pnly one season.
The problem with Ramirez is, much like Fielder, his defense is poor and his baserunning will cost the Brewers runs as well. In 2011 Ramirez had his lowest UZR in his career at -9.4, which finished above only Mark Reynolds among third baseman who qualified. If Gamel struggles defensively at first this year, the pitching staff could struggle in front of this troubling defense.
He cost the Cubs 4.9 runs in his base running according to FanGraphs. That was ninth worst among all players last season. Ramirez is in Milwaukee to do two things this season—hit for some power and supply some runs. If he can prove 2011’s UZR was an outlier and provide at least below average or acceptable defense, the Brewers will have made an effective choice in adding Ramirez.