Are you ready Milwaukee?
With 1.75 million tickets already sold by the Brewers box office - a 10 percent increase compared to last year around this time—you certainly seem ready.
And the concern is not so much whether fans are ready to pick up where they left off last season, when a record number of over 3 million fans walked through the gates of Miller Park.
The real question is whether the team is ready to match the excitement created last season that to this day inhibits the state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee.
Many experts have already published their predictions for the 2009 season, and it does not come as a major surprise that according to most of them the Brewers are projected to take a step back this season.
It can't be otherwise after losing two pitchers who could be the aces of any pitching rotation. CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets were instrumental in getting the Brewers to the playoffs last season for the first time since 1982.
And it is pitching that will determine the fate of these Brewers. Certainly, the Crew can just try to outscore the opponent in every game but slumps happen to even the best hitters, and any inconsistency at the plate could be detrimental to the Brewers hopes for a second straight postseason appearance.
And it does not help that the Brewers are a team that relies too much on the long ball.
Sure, watching Prince Fielder take mighty swings at the ball sending rockets out of ballparks or to the upper decks of stadiums is pretty awesome, but there is nothing more disruptive to opposing teams than a team that can consistently manufacture runs in the good old fashioned way all the while putting pressure on opposing pitchers by loading up the bases.
Well, now that Ted Simmons is gone—and there are three coaches out there who at one point or another were at the helm of a team in the majors last year—the Brewers may break away from the habit of swinging at everything that moves in the air.
The potential on offense is certainly there, and in my opinion—and more about this later—one person on offense holds the key to the car.
So what will it take for the Brewers to make it 2-for-2? There isn't a one-sided answer to this question, and if there was, then the answer would be "A lot."
Instead of speaking in general terms, the approach I choose to take is to break down the importance of production of every player individually and rank them in reverse order of how instrumental they could be for the team this season.
What follows is not a ranking of how good the players on the Brewers roster are - if that were the case you would logically expect to see Braun, Gallardo and Prince Fielder heading the pack.
This is not what you should expect here.
It is merely a list telling you which players will need to step it up the most compared to previous years for the season to all come together for the Brewers.
I will not separate position players from pitchers, but will bundle the bullpen into a single category. At the end of the slides I will offer my prediction for this season as well as a separate look at what the future holds for the Brewers.
So here is how I rank this year's Milwaukee Brewers in terms of level of performance instrumentality in 2009.