Pitchers and Catchers have reported to the Brewers spring
training home in Maryvale, Arizona and the Brewers spring training is
underway! Manager Ned Yost and GM Doug Melvin are happy with the players they
have in camp. Was it a productive off-season for the Brewers? Well let’s answer
some of the question marks from last year.
Let’s start with defense; the Brewers finished tied for 12th
in the NL with the Nationals. Defense has been a problem for the Brewers and GM
Doug Melvin felt he had to make a few moves to tighten up the defense.
Melvin felt the Brewers needed to be stronger in center,
third and catcher. Did he solve the problem in center? Bill Hall did an
adequate job in center, given more time I’m sure he would have been an above
average in center.
Centerfielder, Mike Cameron was available and that gave
Melvin and opportunity to sign a quality centerfielder. By signing Cameron, gave
Melvin a chance to solve what he thought was a problem at third.
Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun made an immediate impact when
he was brought up in late May. There was no question about his offense, it was
his defense at third that was troubling (35 errors). Most of his errors were on
throws. Melvin and Yost decided to move Braun to left and move Hall to third.
Hall a natural infielder had been the Brewers shortstop in 2005 and also played
quite a few games at third and second.
Melvin felt he needed to sign a catcher; Johnny Estrada was
basically an offensive catcher and had trouble throwing runners out. He had the
worst caught sealing percentage in the NL. In comes Jason Kendall; a better
defensive catcher whose offense has slipped the last couple of years. He also
has trouble throwing base stealers out. The majority of the Brewers pitchers do
not do a good job in holding runners and this is something that really needs to
be addressed in spring training. If it isn’t, we will see the same results as last year with
maybe a tad bit more success with Kendall behind the dish.
I believe with those changes the Brewers will be better
Now the pitching: Starting pitching is strong. It will
really help if Ben Sheets stays healthy all year, he anchors the starting
rotation along with Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Yovani Gallardo. Chris Capuano, Claudio Vargas, Manny
Parra and Carlos Villanueva will be competing for the number five spot in the
rotation. The bullpen, which wore out in the second half,, will still have some
question marks. The Brewers lost closer Francisco Cordero to the Reds, Melvin
signed closer Eric Gagne along with relievers David Riske, Solomon Torres and
Guillermo Mota. The starters are the key
for the bullpen; the starters need to go deeper in the ballgame. Too many times
a starter only went 5, maybe 6, innings and not pitching deep into the games
will wear out your bullpen. The one good thing with Riske, Torres and Mota is
that you have arms that can throw more than one inning in relief and can be
used on back to back days.
The other question: Can Gagne come back to the form he has a
few years ago when he was one of the premier closers in baseball? If not,
Derrick Turnbow will do the closing.
All in all the Brewers did improve themselves for the
upcoming 2008 season. It should be a very competitive Central Division. The
Cubs, Reds and Astros all made improvements during the off season. There are
high expectations for the talented Brewers. With Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Rickie
Weeks and JJ Hardy anchoring the infield, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in the
outfield, you have the core of the team.
Now, the Brewers will have to stay healthy and play solid
defense along with solid pitching, to help out a strong offense. This could be
the year the fans have been waiting for since 1982!
I am back online and will be taking your questions.