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Stu’s Top 10 reasons the ’07 Brewers WON’T make the playoffs

Hi guys–My name is Stu…Dave calls me his “evil twin brother”–anyway, my idiot brother was stupid enough to have left his MVN account open, and after reading Robert’s post, then Daniel Rathman’s assessment, and then Adam McCalvy’s piece, I thought I’d give all you namby pamby eternal optimists like my brother Dave a reality check before spring training starts.
Anyway, like Letterman, here’s my Top 10 reasons why I think that the ’07 Brewers won’t make the playoffs (Dave will probably give you his Top 10 reasons why they might later on):
10. A new catcher calling pitches–Johnny Estrada has only worked with one of the starters before, Claudio Vargas. It’ll take him a few weeks, if not months, to learn how to work with these guys…what pitches work, and when. Unless Yost has Estrada work entensively with these guys in Maryvale, look for a number of bad pitches early on.
9. Yost’s lack of playoff experience as a manager–the Brewers, under Yost, have yet to be in a serious, down-to-the-wire run for either a division crown or wildcard spot, so Brewers’ skipper Ned Yost could second guess himself…Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, and Phil “Scrap Iron” Garner have all been there and won’t make the same mistakes twice.
8. Lack of speed and baserunning–last year, the Crew was only successful at stealing a base 65.7%, 12th best in the NL…also 12th in the NL in number of stolen bases with 71 (yeah, yeah, I know, I know, the “World Champion” Cardinals had fewer…but they weren’t “world” champions because they never beat the Ham Fighters, did they now?).
7. Ben Sheets’ durability–Let’s face it, Sheets is the Brewers’ best pitcher…and has the potential to be a 20-game winner (or so my brother thinks)…but how many seasons have the Brewers’ gotten 30 starts from him? Well, okay, he started 34 games in each of the 2002, 2003, and 2004 seasons…but only 22 games in ’05, and just 17 in ’06. Can fans really expect him to start 30 games anymore? Even in ’04, the last time he made 34 starts and got his ERA down to 2.70, he was still 12-14 on the season.
6. Chris Capuano’s stamina–face it, Cappy downright stank after his All-Star appearance last season…actually, after June–after June he was 2-8, with a 5.04 ERA. Okay, okay…he had a respectable 1.22 WHIP during that stretch, and actually struck out 69 while walking only 22…and averaged over 6.67 IP/start…but he also gave up 19 gopher balls after June, versus just 10 in the first three months.
5. That dang ol’ third OF spot–platooning NEVER works…and starting Geoff Jenkins versus righties while starting Kevin Mench against lefties is supposed to make everyone happy? It could work, but shuffling outfielders every day makes me leery.
4. Suspect setup men–Derrick Turnbow stumbled in the second-half last year. The aging Matt Wise, who Yost will only use every other day, couldn’t finish the season last year. Brian Shouse is the lone lefty and turns 39 at the end of the season, and was jetisoned by the Rangers last year, not exactly a clubhouse full of promising arms (oh, and he went to a high school whose nickname is the “Flaming Hearts”). José Capellan had a 4.88 ERA after the All-Star break last season, and Dennis Sarfate is, for all intense purposes, a rookie.
3. Lack of offense out of 3B–If Corey Koskie comes back, we’ll have a .261 hitter (.343 OBP); if not, Graffy will fill-in until Ryan Braun is ready. But the Cards counter with Scott Rolen (.296/22/95 and an .887 OPS), while the Cubs have Aramis Ramirez (.291/38/119 and a .912 OPS). Koskie’s OPS was a respectable .833 before getting hurt.
2. Poor defense–although it will (again) be a focus point of the Yost and his staff during the ’07 stint in Maryvale, the Crew’s starters this season are the same as last season (in the IF)…the Brewers finished ’06 with 117 errors, 6th highest in the majors, and 26th in fielding percentage (compare that to the Cardinals who had 98 errors and a .984 fielding percentage, while the Tigers had 106 and .983, respectively). More importantly, however, is when the errors happen–the Brewers allowed 70 unearned runs last year…while the Cardinals only allowed 41.
1. Lack of proven hitters–having a starting line-up with a pair of dominating .300 hitters back-to-back not only means more baserunners and more opportunities to drive in runners, it also means fewer opportunities for opposing pitchers to intentionally walk one hitter to get to a weaker hitter. The Brewers’ finished ’06 with a .258 BA (27th), .327 OBP (26th), 730 runs (27th), 1400 hits (29th), 180 HR’s (15th), 20 triples (tied for 25th) and their top everyday hitters were Prince Fielder, Geoff Jenkins, and Bill Hall…who hit .271, .271, and .270, respectively. Additionally, if .380 OBP is the equivalent to a .300 hitter, the Crew only had one player reach that mark last season–reserve OF Gabe Gross at .382. True, one can hope that budding stars Hall, Fielder, Weeks, Hart, and Hardy all improve over last season…but the Crew added a new hitting coach for ’07, so that adds another learning curve into the mix.
Sorry, guys…I hate to be such a wet blanket…while there is reason for optimism, things need to change for the better for this team to contend…which is why the start of each season is always the best.
Stu Hannes
Copyright 2007