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While no one sees the Brewers as a pushover, they aren’t expected to win the World Series. And while it’s hard to see them winning it all, the Brewers could actually surprise a few folks this year.
Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and the Brewers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2012 by going on a tear in August and September while providing hope for the future. However, not many people outside of Milwaukee are optimistic about the Brewers’ chances.
The Cardinals and Reds both appear to be better this year, and while I believe that the Reds are clearly the best team in the division, the Brewers can still finish higher than the Cardinals. St. Louis was one game away from the World Series in 2012, but in the NLCS, they were outscored 35-18 by the Giants. I am predicting that the Brewers will finish second in the NL Central, which would be a surprise to a ton of people.
Last year, Ryan Braun posted absolutely incredible numbers, hitting .319 with 41 homers and 112 RBI. Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, could have won the award in 2012 as well, and he will be in the three-hole this season.
That means that he will be knocking in Norichika Aoki, who posted a .355 OBP and .288 batting average in 2012, and Rickie Weeks. He will also be setting the table for another star.
Aramis Ramirez hit .300 with a .360 OBP and 105 RBI in 2012, and while he and Braun aren’t as dominant as Braun and Prince Fielder used to be, Ramirez is underrated. He and Braun will be dominant.
Corey Hart is also a talented player, and he will help drive in Braun and Ramirez in the five-hole. Hart will not be back on Opening Day, but he could be ready by late April. Last year, Hart hit 30 homers and got on base more than one-third of the time.
The Brewers finished third overall in runs scored in 2012 with 776, and while the Brewers were ranked 22nd in pitching, the blame for that is almost solely on the bullpen. Milwaukee focused on upgrading the bullpen in the offseason, and they brought in three relievers to help out.
Tom Gorzelanny posted a 2.88 ERA and can eat up innings, while Burke Badenhop was brought in to eat innings. Mike Gonzalez stifled lefties, holding them to a .179 batting average, and has good fastball velocity. He can pitch to righties too, as his overall ERA was 3.03 and his FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 2.98. Basically, that means that his ERA should have been about 2.98 if everything played out normally in terms of fielding.
Yovani Gallardo anchors a strong rotation with lots of talent, one that posted the 13th best ERA last year among starting rotations. Marco Estrada, Mark Rogers and Mike Fiers are all young, and Wily Peralta is also a prospect with potential.
Gallardo is 60-38 in the last four years, and Estrada posted a decent 3.64 ERA while walking under 1.9 batters every nine innings. These two can take the reins and lead the pitching staff, and if needed, the Brewers can target a pitcher at the trade deadline.
Milwaukee has a great offense and a good pitching staff anchored by a legitimate ace, and I believe that the bullpen will be a lot better, as John Axford still saved 35 games. I believe he can return to his 2011 form, when he saved 46 games in 48 chances.
There are question marks, but the same goes with every team. Milwaukee is complete and has the bats to find success, and I think the pitchers will surprise people and power the Brewers to the playoffs.
And if they do get there, they could go even further.