Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Prince and his Braun

 During the baseball offseason the Milwaukee Brewers acquired 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals. The move was overshadowed by the Boston Red Sox adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, and Cliff Lee going to the Philidelphia Phillies, but I predicted that with that move the Brewers had just locked up the next World Championship. I also predicted that they'd be playing against the Red Sox in that championship, but by now everyone knows of their historic collapse. I did predict Jacoby Ellsbury would have a much better season than Carl Crawford however. Although I was wrong about the Red Sox, I am still standing by the Brew Crew.

Most people believe the Phillies are unstoppable with their fantasy like rotation of  Doc Halladay (2 time Cy Young award winner), Cliff Lee (2008 Cy Young award winner), and Cole Hamels (2007 World Series MVP), but what's overlooked is how their offensive production has decreased this year and they have some questions in the bullpen.

The Brewers have neither. They have an extroadinary offense anchored by the best 3-4 combination in Ryan Braun (.332/33/111 and 33 stolen bases) and Prince Fielder (.299/38/120), both in contention for the National League MVP. However they have great talent surrounding their two super-stars. All-star Rickie Weeks is at second and provides the rare skill set of power and speed at the top of the order. Nyjer Morgan, although often a controversial character, is a stellar leadoff man with exceptional speed and a flare for the dramatic. Corey Hart packs a big bat in right field, smacking 26 home runs out of the ball park after a career year last season where he had 31 round-trippers and 102 RBI. Although his stats are down from last year as well, third baseman Casy McGehee has great potential at the hot corner and when he's on his game the Brewers are tough to beat. He produced 23 home runs and 102 RBI last season, but only 13 home runs and 67 RBI this year.

Prince Fielder has been the heart and soul of Brewers since his arrival in the big leagues in 2005 but may be leaving for a historically lucrative contract this offseason. Instead of upsetting the chemistry of the team, they have rallied around Prince in efforts to persuade Prince that money is not everything and he should stay with a winner. Fielder has hit well against Halladay and Lee this season, .429 (3-7, 1 RBI) against Halladay and .800 (4-5, 2 doubles, 2 RBI) against Lee. His fellow basher Braun has success against the duo as well .667 (4-6, 1 HR, 1 RBI) against Halladay and .333 (2-6) against Lee. However they have gone a combined 1-8 against Hamels in 2011.

 With the addition of Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets at the trading deadline to set up closer John Axford, they now have arguably best 8th and 9th inning duo in the game.
Axford has not blown a save since April and amassed very impressive stats with an ERA of 1.95, 46 saves in 48 opportunities, and had 86 strikeouts in 73 innings. K-Rod added proved to be a solid set up man after years as a closer, putting up a 2.64 ERA, recorded 17 holds, racked up 79 strikeouts in 71 innings and did not give up a run in the month of September. He has been somewhat controversial in the clubhouse, upset with the fact he has not had an opportunity to close out a few games as promised by the Milwakuee front office, but he has still performed exceptionally well.

Another Brewer acquisition that went overlook was the addition of Shaun Marcum to the starting rotation from the Toronto Blue Jays. Marcum went 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 strikeouts in 200.1 innings, and went an impressive 8-3 in away games with a 2.22 ERA. The radar gun does not light up when Marcum is on the mound but he is a crafty pitcher with a plus change up and has provided great stability in the number 3 spot in the rotation. Veteran lefty Randy Wolf has been an above average number four starter, going 13-10, 3.69 ERA, and 134 strikeouts in 212.1 innings.

But the real story, and the reason why I believe the Brewers should start getting sized for rings, is their two aces, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke. Gallardo went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA while striking out 202 in 207 innings. Their number 1b, Zack Greinke, went 16-6, 3.83 ERA, 201 K's in 172 innings. Now I know their numbers are not nearly as impressive as Halladay and Lee, or even Lee and Hamels, but combine their strong arms with their powerful bats and shut down bullpen and they are a better overall team than the Phils.  Pitching does win championships but if it was decided on pitching alone then the Atlanta Braves of the 90's should of had five World Series Championships. Stuff wise, Greinke and Gallardo, are just as good as Halladay and Lee, and they don't have to face their own line up.Gallardo was dominant in game one in the National League Division series, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks at home, throwing eight strong innings, allowing one earned run while striking out nine.

The Brewers will most likely have to defeat the Phillies to get to the World Seires, and it will take seven epic games. But they will win. And they will be facing the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Due to the National League winning the All-Star game, the Brew Crew will have home field advantage where they have a major league best 57-24 record this season. If I'm right on this prediction, as well as the University of Wisconisn winning the National Championship, the state of Wisconsin will have experienced the winning of the Super Bowl (Green Bay Packers), the National Championship, and the World Series in one year. What a great time to be a cheesehead.

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