Milwaukee Brewers Brewing Up Trouble for the NL Central in 2011

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Milwaukee Brewers Brewing Up Trouble for the NL Central in 2011
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
What the NL Central division race should look like this season (the Pirates are the team that's left out)

Our fourth stop on the 30 in 30 is the Milwaukee Brewers.

Due to my schedule preventing me from writing yesterday, I'll be making up for it by covering two teams today. Consider it a 2-for-...Wednesday? Something like that.

The brew crew finished the 2010 season one game ahead of the Astros, two games ahead of the Cubs and nine games back of the Cardinals.

How many games ahead or behind each of those teams will this season's Brewers be? A large part of the answer to that question is the production of newly acquired former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

The Brewers also welcomed Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays to their rotation this offseason. The addition of these two talented pitchers gives the Brewers a rotation that can match up with nearly every team in the National League.

If one thing is certain about this team, it's that they are ready to win NOW. The question remains though, does this team have enough to make a serious push in the NL Central. 

Let's take a look at that Milwaukee's lineup and starting rotation should look like this season.

C- Jonathan Lucroy
1B- Prince Fielder
2B- Rickie Weeks
3B- Casey McGegee
SS- Yuniesky Betancourt
LF- Ryan Braun
CF- Carlos Gomez
RF- Corey Hart

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SP- Zack Greinke
SP- Yovani Gallardo
SP- Shaun Marcum
SP- Randy Wolf
SP- Chris Narveson
CL- John Axford

This Brewers lineup has a solid heart of the order with Braun, Fielder, McGehee, Hart and Weeks. Each of these players had over 20 HR and 80 RBI last season. 

These five are also the only everyday starters remaining in this Brewers lineup, as Alcides Escobar was a part of the Greinke deal.

Betancourt will be the replacement for Escobar, as he was also a part of the Greinke deal, although I think he is a slight downgrade at the position.

Lucroy and Gomez are the other two starters, both are very young and have a lot of potential. If the Brewers can get solid seasons from both, expect this lineup to cause a lot of problems for the rest of the NL Central.

From a pitching standpoint, this rotation is solid. If Greinke pitches like he did in 2009, the Brewers will have gotten the better end of the trade. He still has the stuff to be an ace, there's no question about that, and with a better supporting cast, I think we can expect another great year from him.

Gallardo as a No. 2 man is impressive, and emphasizes the depth of this Brewers rotation. Winning 14 games last year with a 3.84 ERA and 200 K, at the age of 24, he has the potential to become a superstar. 

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Not much pressure in KC. Expectations can't be higher in Milwaukee, can Greinke live up to them?

With Greinke and Gallardo at the top of the rotation, what more could you need? Well, the Brewers obviously didn't think they had enough, so throw Shaun Marcum (a 13-game winner with a 3.64 ERA, 165 k, and an astounding WHIP of 1.15) into the mix.

If that wasn't good enough, the Brewers still have Randy Wolf as their No. 4 starter, and if Narveson can bring his ERA down a bit, this is a solid five man rotation.

Not many questions left for this Brewers team, but what does remain, are answers. For a team that barely finished third in the NL Central, the expectations couldn't be higher. 

Are playoff expectations justified? I'm not so certain, but with a solid lineup and rotation, this team will definitely make some noise in the NL Central.

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