The Brewers just finished up their first of three games in a weekend series against the rival Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. Let me say that the game was not played crisply by either club. The 7-4 loss dropped the Brewers' record to 3-5 on the season.
Even in a short amount of time, it's plain to see where this team is and where it might be going. Here are eight things that we have already learned from the Brewers' first eight games of 2011:
1. The Brewers are far from full strength
That is one thing that is indisputable. Getting Corey Hart, Zack Greinke, Jonathan LuCroy and LaTroy Hawkins back will strengthen the Brewers immensely in their starting rotation, in the bullpen and offensively. Having a better defensive catcher behind the plate on a daily basis will make the pitching staff that much better.
2. Nyjer Morgan is the real deal
He has shown the energy, passion and hard-nosed play that the team has been lacking for some time. Did I forget to mention his blazing speed? And then there is his alter ego, Tony Plush. I'm not sure what to make of that, but it sure is interesting. I have to admit that I started following Tony Plush on Twitter today.
3. Rickie Weeks is still not good defensively
Some readers have tried to convince me otherwise, but when you still can't catch a pop up, you're not good. Tonight it cost the Brewers the game. That is totally unacceptable. If you're going to make the playoffs, that can't happen. While it may be just a case of a lapse in concentration, it is still bothersome.
4. Yuniesky Betancourt is who he and everyone else says he is
He has virtually no range in the field, but he can drive in a run now and then. With Weeks at second base, the Brewers need a better defensive shortstop. They can't afford to have poor defense up the middle.
5. Yovani Gallardo is a true No. 1 starter
Prior to this season he had shown flashes of that, but he has brought his A+ game right from the start. That will take a little pressure off Zack Greinke when he returns, which sounds like it may be sooner than expected. That's a good thing.
6. Shaun Marcum has yet to find his groove
Missing some time in spring training set him back a little. When you are a pitcher that relies on pitch movement and location, you need all the time you can get on the mound before the season begins. That didn't happen for Marcum. He took a positive step forward from start one to start two. I expect the same into start three and beyond.
7. Carlos Gomez is a knucklehead
He seems like a nice enough guy, and it sounds like he worked his tail off this spring. His problem is that he becomes a deer in the headlights at the plate. He forgets everything he has worked on and reverts to his old habits. If that continues, he will find himself a bench player sooner rather than later.
8. Ron Roenicke is a major league manager
He is clearly not overwhelmed and is more than willing to listen to both the numbers and his gut as well. The players respect him and love playing for him. That sentiment has been expressed by a number of players, including both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Roenicke doesn't prevent the players from being themselves and playing to their strengths. Some players felt that wasn't the case in previous seasons.
So there you have it. We've learned a lot about the Brewers already, and we will no doubt learn more tomorrow and each game after that. Some people jumped off the band wagon after the 0-4 start, and they know who they are. The rest of us will bill there until the end. The odds are it's going to be an exciting ride.
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