Will the Milwaukee Brewers Be a Playoff Team in 2013?
A Lifetime Milwaukee Brewers Fan
Milwaukee Brewers Optimism for 2013
The Milwaukee Brewers will begin their 2013 season spring training during the latter half of February. Milwaukee fans are anxious for the new season to start, with hopes that the beginning of the 2013 campaign will see a continuation of the club's success experienced at the end of the 2012 season. Although Milwaukee failed to make the playoffs in 2012, a number of younger players, especially pitchers, performed very well, giving fans optimism for the 2013 season. After analyzing the 2012 season, this article will present five keys for the Brewers being a playoff team in 2013.
The Milwaukee Brewers in 2012
When spring training began in 2012, Milwaukee was confident of making the playoffs because all five of its starting pitchers, closer, and eighth inning set-up man were returning from the playoff team of 2011. Although Prince Fielder was lost to the Detroit Tigers in free agency, the club had signed free-agent slugger Aramis Ramirez to hit cleanup behind Ryan Braun. Unfortunately, a series of season-ending injuries to the starting shortstop, first baseman, and starting pitcher Chris Narveson, as well as the implosion of closer John Axford and setup man Francisco Rodriguez leading to numerous blown saves, doomed the Brewers and put them out of playoff contention by the middle of the playing season. Since Milwaukee had no hope of resigning pitcher Zach Greinke after the 2012 season, he was traded to the California Angels for shortstop prospect Jean Segura and other pitching prospects before the end of July. Strangely, however, at this time the team started winning, and through the efforts of young inexperienced pitchers like Mike Fiers, Mark Rogers, and Wily Peralta, Milwaukee made a push for the last playoff spot which was ultimately unsuccessful.
Five Keys for the Brewers Making the Playoffs in 2013
Led by Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, and Corey Hart, the Milwaukee Brewers have more than enough offense to score enough runs to win. Pitching, however, is an unknown which will hold the key to the club's success in 2013. As I see it, there are five keys for the Brewers making the playoffs in October.
The Starting Pitching Must Be Consistent and Successful
When the 2012 season began, the Brewers were confident that its starting staff of Zach Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolfe, and Chris Narveson could repeat its 2011 success. Little did Milwaukee think that by the end of July only seasoned veterans Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolfe would be available to start games. Both Marcum and Narveson were on the disabled list, and Greinke had been traded. After an ineffective Randy Wolfe was released at the end of August, the Brewers found themselves with only one starter of more than one year of experience, Yovani Gallardo. For 2013, Gallardo is clearly Milwaukee's ace with a record of 16-9 in 2012.
As the 2013 season begins, the Brewers only have Marco Estrada and Chris Narveson in addition to Gallardo who have more than one year of major league pitching experience. Estrada has two years of starting experience and a 9-16 lifetime record. In 2012, however, Estrada started 23 games and finished with a 5-7 record and a decent 3.64 ERA. Narveson who is coming off of torn rotator cuff surgery has been starting for three years with a 26-18 lifetime record.
In 2013 the Brewers will be relying on four possible starters with less than one year of major league pitching experience: Mark Rogers, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, and Tyler Thornburg. Of the four, Fiers has had the most experience and success going 9-10 in 2012. Fiers was exceptionally good during his first 2-3 months pitching, but less effective towards the end of the season. Mark Rogers is a 2004 first round draft pick who has been plagued with injuries throughout his career. He pitched well during the time he started in 2012 going 3-1 with an ERA of 3.49. Tyler Thornburg started a few games after Greinke was traded. Although he gave up too many home runs, he showed some flashes of good pitching. Wily Peralta is another top prospect who wasn't very impressive at Triple-A in 2012. After he was called up, Peralta impressed the Brewers with very good pitching during a few starts in September. Peralta finished 2012 with a 2-1 record and fine ERA of 2.48.
The Bullpen Must Save Games
In 2012 the Brewers had the worst bullpen in the Majors with its closers and set-up men blowing 29 saves. John Axford, its stellar closer in 2011 with a league-leading 46 saves, couldn't protect the ninth inning lead in nine games. Eighth inning set-up man, Francisco Rodriguez, also blew a lot of games. If the bullpen had not led the league in blown saves, the Brewers undoubtedly would have made the playoffs.
In the 2013 season, Milwaukee will give Axford another chance to regain his supremacy based on his performance in 2011. If Axford should falter as the closer, the club probably will call on the set-up man, Jim Henderson, to save games. Henderson had some success as a closer in the second half of 2012. He finished the season with a 1-3 record, three saves, and a 3.52 ERA. Another approach will probably be to have a closer by committee.
The roles of other set-up men for the Brewers is an unknown since they parted ways with sixth, seventh, and eighth inning set-up relievers like Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras, Kameron Loe, and Manny Parra. During this past off-season, Milwaukee signed free agent left-handed relievers, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez. Gorzelanny has seven years of both starting and relieving experience with a career 44-45 record and ERA of 4.41. Gonzalez has been pitching for 11 seasons with a lifetime record of 17-21. He has 56 career saves and a fine 2.94 ERA. The Brewers also traded for a right-handed reliever, Brad Bodenhap. Bodenhap has five years of experience and a career 4.08 ERA. In addition, minor league players such as Michael Olmstead, Johnny Hellweg, and Brandon Kintzler will be competing for spots in the bullpen. If all or most of these players can achieve success, the Brewers should make the playoffs.
The Bench Must Be Stronger
Much like the starting pitching and the relief pitchers, there are questions about Milwaukee's bench players. Reserves Travis Ishikawa and Nyjer Morgan are gone from the 2012 Brewers. The only real consistently good player on Milwaukee's bench is backup catcher Martin Maldonado who hit .260 last year. Long-time prospect Mat Gamel will be a candidate for reserve infield or outfield duty. Gamel was starting first baseman in 2012 until he tore his ACL at the beginning of the season. Logan Schafer could take Nyjer Morgan's place in the outfield, although Logan only has limited major league experience. Tyler Greene who was disappointing in 2012 could also make it as a reserve infielder depending on his spring training performance. The biggest question mark for the bench is finding a veteran shortstop backup for the young Jean Segura.
Good Play from Center of Diamond Players
Second baseman Rickie Weeks, shortstop Jean Segura, and center fielder Carlos Gomez must provide good consistent play for the Brewers to make the playoffs. Rickie Weeks was awful during the first half of 2012 hitting only .199. He did much better during the second half of the season hitting for power and finishing with a .230 average, 30 points below his lifetime average. Segura couldn't hit well during his first month up with Milwaukee but finished well with a .258 average. Billed as a good defensive player, he made more errors than I expected. Carlos Gomez probably has some of the best athletic ability on the Brewers but has underachieved due to bad hitting discipline and not being able to get on base. If Gomez can get on base, his blinding speed makes him a constant threat to steal, and his throwing arm and defense are outstanding.
Key Players on the Brewers Must Stay Healthy
If the Brewers are to make the playoffs in 2013, key players like Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, and Corey Hart must stay healthy. If one or more of these players was lost through injury, the team's offense would suffer. With Milwaukee having inexperienced pitching, the Brewers can ill afford to lose Yovani Gallardo for the season.
The biggest keys for the Milwaukee Brewers making the playoffs in 2013 will be found in the quality of its starting and bullpen pitching. Also, if the team can avoid injuries to key players, it should be playing in October of 2013.
Will the Milwaukee Brewers Be a Playoff Team in 2013?
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn