Looking into the Crystal Ball: 10 Predictions for the Milwaukee Brewers in the Second Half of the Regular Season
To say that the Milwaukee Brewers have had an unwavering season thus far would be foolish.
A season that began on a 0-4 note, 2011 has been anything but predictable for Prince Fielder and company. But when you take all things into consideration, 2011 has been quite successful given the preseason expectations.
Nevertheless, the Brewers take their (49-43) mark into the mid-summer classic, where (for the first time in franchise history) Milwaukee will send three starters in Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks.
So, just as we did at the beginning of the season, here are 10 bold second-half predictions for the first-place Brew Crew.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @doppler9000.
To be plain, it's been a rough go-around for Casey McGehee in 2011.
A season removed from leading Milwaukee with 104 RBI, McGehee currently stands at 33 RBI, 4 HR and a .221 BA, and is on the cusp of losing his starting job to recent call-up Mat Gamel.
Before being called up to the Brewers prior to their three-game set in the Bronx, Gamel was arguably Milwaukee's best minor-league prospect based on statistical output—and his production at the major league level should transfer well.
All in all, it's been a great run for McGehee, but his struggles and inconsistencies thus far will ultimately cost him his starting job.
Prince Fielder, in a contract year nonetheless, has done anything and everything the Brewers need of him thus far in 2011. Amassing 22 HR, 71 RBI and a .302 BA, Fielder is the surefire leader in the NL MVP race to this point. If Milwaukee finds their way into the postseason, it'll be from Fielder's sheer production.
Although he probably won't admit it himself, Fielder is clearly the front-runner for the NL MVP at the midpoint of the season, and—by our own calculations—will be the clear favorite to win the award at season's end.
If the Brewers continue to impress and make a deep playoff run, there's no denying Fielder is MVP.
This one should come as no surprise, but expect even more incredibly imaginative contributions from Milwaukee's boisterous offseason pickup in the second-half.
Again, not everything can be picturesque for the Brewers in 2011, and it seems their road misery will continue to live on as the second-half of the season draws nearer.
To date, Milwaukee currently sits at 16-29 in road games thus far—the worst road winning percentage of any first-place team.
There's no denying that a team with World Series aspirations must be able to convert in hostile environments, and the Brewers are no exception.
Much improvement is yet to be had, but don't expect the Brewers to pull a 180 on the road in the second-half.
Many teams use the trade-deadline as incentive to upgrade their roster, but from the looks of the market, don't expect any dig deals from the Brewers.
As we reported back in June, the Mets' Jose Reyes would be an immense rental upgrade from Yuniesky Betancourt in the season's final months, but rumors suggest New York won't try to deal away their star-studded pupil.
Granted, GM Doug Melvin may take to the market for another dependable reliever, but anything other than that seems to be outlandish at this point.
I'd love every prediction to be as positive and reassuring as the next, but that just isn't the Brewers, and it certainly isn't realistic by any means.
Zack Greinke, Milwaukee's primary offseason addition, has underachieved to this point in the season, carrying a 5.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a 7-3 overall record—a far cry from his 2009 Cy Young-award winning season in which he boasted a 2.12 ERA and 10-5 record through the first half.
That being said, it's hard to measure up to what CC Sabathia was able to accomplish in his three months with the club back in 2008. Because, let's face it: Brewers fans have become a bit spoiled when it comes to top-notch pitching late in the season.
If things don't turn around for Greinke as the second half commences, don't expect any type of turnaround.
Easily Milwaukee's most outspoken hurler, John Axford remains optimistic about the club's 2011 season on his Twitter page.
He should be.
In his first full-time stint as the Brewers' go-to man in the ninth inning, Axford has exceeded the expectations and will only continue to flourish. Carrying a 2.90 ERA, 53 SO and 23 saves through the first half, Axford is certainly headed in the right direction.
If things keep up, he'll easily surpass the 45 saves mark heading into the postseason.
When it's all said and done, Ryan Braun will be the greatest Brewer of all-time (he's signed through 2020), and this season will become a testament to a truly historic career in Milwaukee.
Despite missing a handful of games over the last week of the first-half, Braun still ranks fourth in BA (.320), fifth in RBI (62), seventh in OPS (.962) and 13th in SB (19) in all of baseball. If not for a lingering calf strain, who knows where he'd be.
At a glance, you'll come to realize Braun currently maintains 16 HR and 19 SB. If things keep up, he'll reach the exclusive 30/30 plateau—a club that includes some of the game's greatest. This hasn't been done since Ian Kinsler gathered 31 HR and 30 RBI back in 2009.
An induction would mean Braun is arguably baseball's most productive left-fielder, and would only add to his ever-growing legacy as an all-time great.
As in years past, the NL Central is void of any true powerhouse team, as many (Milwaukee included) top teams continue to hover around .500 ball heading into the All-Star break.
This could not work out any more perfect for a Brewers squad that remains neither assured nor established.
Yet despite their recent woes, Milwaukee currently finds themselves atop the division with a 47-42 mark, with their best baseball ahead of them.
It won't be easy by any means, but expect Prince Fielder and company to explode in the second-half with an NL Central title to their name.
When you think about some of the best teams in baseball (i.e. Philadelphia, New York, Boston, San Fransisco), most wouldn't quite put the Brewers in the same category. A weak NL Central shows us how little respect is earned even when being first-place in your respective division.
But for the doubters and naysayers out there, criticize no more—because the Milwaukee Brewers are on a mission in 2011.
The mission: Win big and make history.