During the off-season, a close friend and fellow baseball fanatic made a startling confession – he was changing his team allegiance. My friend was raised in upstate New York rooting for the Yankees. As a kid, he almost pissed his pants when he met Don Mattingly. As a college kid in Boston, he taunted Red Sox fans passionately. But, as of April 1st, he’ll no longer be cheering on the Bronx Bombers. Instead, he’ll be watching his first game as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
For years, I ribbed my friend for being a part of the “Evil Empire.” Once he admitted to his change of heart, I laid into him, even more, for jumping ship the second an iceberg was in sight. Yet, he claimed that wasn’t behind his decision. To him, the Yankees had become boring. The expectations for the Yankee team were that they could spend their way out of any problem. They were a team that didn’t have to draft well or focus on developing players. They could just buy them, if their prospects didn’t live up to the hype. As a fan, it became harder and harder for him to feel invested in and root for a team full of mercenaries. So, he decided to cheer for a bunch of Pirates instead.
My friend is excited for the start of the season. He knows the road will be bumpy as the Pirates fight an uphill battle. To him, it’s refreshing. A playoff birth for the Pirates would be a huge story, much like how the Orioles and A’s galvanized their respective cities last year. Heck, even finishing above .500 would be a big deal for the Pirates, considering they haven’t had a winning season in 20 years.
Hearing my friend describe his hopes for the Pirates in 2013 got me thinking, what do I want to see out of the Brewers this year? Of course, there’s a difference between what I think will happen and what I want to happen. Personally, I feel like the Brewers are in baseball purgatory. They’re not rebuilding, but expectations are far from high. So I slid on my beer goggles and looked at the Crew’s upcoming season through the eyes of an inebriated optimist. And I saw…
A League-Average Bullpen
I’m not asking for perfection, just improvement. Instead of converting 60% of their save chances, come up to the league average of 70%. Instead of blowing 29 saves and losing 33 games in relief, I would love to see the bullpen only blow 18 saves and lose 22 games in relief.
Last year, I was repeatedly reminded that a bullpen only makes headlines when blowing games. Consider it a smashing success if, this year, the only thing we hear about out of the bullpen is how John Axford has decided to sculpt his facial hair.
85 Quality Starts
85 QS is exactly what the Brewers had in 2012. Gallardo had 25 QS himself, which tied for second best in the league with Kershaw, Price, and Verlander. If the Brewers’ young pitching staff can pick up the 13 by Greinke, 12 by Marcum, and 8 by Wolf, I would be impressed.
That said, a starting rotation with a ton of QS doesn’t always guarantee a good season. The NY Mets led the league with 101 QS last year and went 74-88. Still, if the Brewers’ young starters can consistently go six innings and give up three or fewer runs, I like the team’s chances. Especially considering that the Brewers’ offense averaged 4.79 runs a game last year.
Last year, only two teams did it, the Rangers and Yankees, and they had the benefit of the DH. Milwaukee came surprisingly close by scoring 776 runs, the third best in baseball. I have to admit, it was hard finding much that last year’s offense could improve on but this seemed like a good goal.
Cracking 800 runs can only be good news for the Crew. It means Braun and Ramirez continue to be two of the best run producers in the game. That Rickie Weeks has a bounce back season. That Carlos Gomez’s second half numbers weren’t an aberration and he’s worth every cent of his new extension. That Lucroy, Hart, and Aoki contribute consistently. And, most importantly, that Segura is an upgrade at SS from the various batting black holes that played there in 2012.
A Road Record of .500
Last year, the Brewers were 34-47 on the road. In 2011, they were 39-42. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last season Milwaukee played better than .500 ball away from Miller Park. And, even then, they were only one game over at 41-40.
I would love to see Roenicke find a cure for the Brewers’ road blues. Maybe it’s as simple as providing the team with better coffee while out-of-town, as Greinke suggested last year. Ok, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that. Either way, winning half of their road games is key to accomplishing my last, beer-goggled hope for the 2013 season –
90 Wins and/or a Playoff Birth
The Brewers won 83 games last year and the bullpen was a dumpster fire. It can’t be that bad again, right? So they pick up a few games from the bullpen and, thusly, improve upon their 24-32 record in one-run games during 2012.
The rest is simple and falls into place as described above. The offense holds serve as one of the best in the league. They get good, not great, production from their young and inexperienced pitching staff, equal to what the Oakland A’s got last year. They play better ball while on the road. And, most importantly, they stay healthy. Allowing their bench players to stay bench players and not expose the team’s lack of depth.
To consider 2013 a success, all I need is meaningful games in September. Well, late September, preferably. Doesn’t seem that far-fetched, does it?
Let us know what you hope to see out of the Brewers’ 2013 season below. I need to grab myself another beer.