The New Look Brewers for 2014?
It is hard to imagine the trepidation and fear everyone connected with the organization must have concerning the upcoming season. Why else would management play it so conservative? Look at the roster. It is virtually the same as last season except for absence of some less than major league talented players like pitchers Gonzalez and Badenhop.
OK, the Brewers added a nice young left-handed middle-reliever from Kansas City in the Aoki trade and spent some bucks on free agent Matt Garza. But the position players are virtually the same as last season. How many games difference will the acquisition of another #3 starter add to the paltry number of wins the team managed to achieve last season? 4 more wins? 5 more wins? Now that brings us to a 78 and 86 season win-loss record, if the rest of the pitching staff is essentially identical to last year.
With the addition of 32 year old K-Rod it is really identical!
Where else can we look for some real improvement? Davis playing the full year should even be better than last year. The same with Scooter Gennett at 2b. Secura may not tire in the late months of the season too having cut back his winter league play. How many extra victories do we see coming from this improvement? Let us be generous and say 8 more wins from these three. That puts us at 12 or 13 more wins than last year.
But even before I mention the debacle at 1b without Hart, what can be reasonably be expected out Ramirez at 3b? Is he healthy enough to go for a full season? It is not his bat, but his legs that worry me more. He hit reasonably well (.280) for ½ season he put in. His power numbers were OK at 49 rbi and 12 HR. But on what basis do we say with confidence that with just the elixir of off-season rest his shaky knees are going to allow him to run or field well. This spot spells trouble to me, and I am going to subtract 3 wins. That puts us back 10 games better.
Can we expect better play from our backstop duo? I’d call it a draw with the same players. I’d like seeing a better throwing arm from our starter, and better hitting from the second stringer. These will become more important if the Brewers are competitive.
That leaves first base. As nice a fielder and doubles hitter as is Overbay, he barely makes the cut on any major league team, and he has been with most everyone it seems. Reynolds and Fernandez are strike out kings. Again, it becomes more important the more competitive the Brewers. I personally do not like any of these options. The only way the Brewers can improve at 1B is to put Braun there, and play Caleb Gindl in right field. Gindl can post enough better numbers than a year ago with the additional experience and steady play. Moreover he has cannon for an arm that would be a vast improvement from the very average defensive play of Aoki who played very deep because he did not go back on balls well. Gindl may be able to hit .290 like Aoki too, but with a little pop in his bat besides. I was so sick of looking at how close the outfielders played behind the infield for Aoki I am glad he is gone because he was blocking progress instead of being that player who could possibly get hot and carry a team. Put Gindl in right field and move Braun to 1B. Ernie Banks carved out a nice few extra years to his career moving to first base, and maybe Braun could do the same. The problem for Braun in the infield was throwing the ball, not catching it.
Make those two moves and I will add 8 games to the win total. With consistent pitching and continued success with the relief staff, we could win 91 games and make the play-offs. Don’t do it and the Brewers won’t get out of April alive with the schedule they have of facing the Cardinals and Braves six times, let alone going to WS Champion Boston for games 4, 5, & 6 after opening with three games against tough Division Champ Atlanta. They could be zero wins and six losses right out of the chute without blinking an eye and never recover.
I am terrified of what another poor season start will do to this team. I hope they see the right moves and make them.
J. D. Thorne