Well we've got 15 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the Milwaukee Brewers
Lineup: This should be the best lineup in the division. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder make this merry-go-round move, but the speedy Carlos Gomez and (we think) ready to (finally!) break out Rickie Weeks will be superb complementary pieces. Corey Hart had a down year last season, but if he makes one simple fix (swing more! His in-the-strike-zone swing percentage dipped 8% from 2008-2009 and his overall swing percentage dipped from 54% to 46%) then he should rebound to his above-average past. Casey McGehee, despite the goofy spelling of his last name, was a good contributor last season, and should be a serviceable stopgap for prospect Mat Gamel. And speaking of prospects, SS Alcides Escobar is a wizard with the glove and should be able to hit for some decent average this season. Gregg Zaun is the only distinct negative here, but he's a catcher, and there aren't a lot of teams who can count on having a reliable hitter behind the dish, so that doesn't concern us too much.
Rotation: What does concern us is the pitching. Yovani Gallardo is a stud, and the unquestioned ace of what is, unfortunately, an extremely mediocre staff. Randy Wolf was a nice free agent signing, but right now, he looks like their second-best starter...and that's not a recipe for contention. Doug Davis and Jeff Suppan (whom we always confuse, despite their being altogether dissimilar save for a distinct tendency towards 'average') will man the 3 and 4 spots here, and the 5th spot will likely go to Manny Parra or Dave Bush. Honestly, we'd rather see them admit the mistake that was the Suppan signing and send him to the bullpen and use both Parra and Bush as full-time starters, but the likelihood of a middle-market team like the Brewers admitting a sunk cost on an investment (however ill-advised) as expensive as Suppan is extremely slim. So they've got six nominal starters, but no one to be especially excited for.
Bullpen: The same is true of the bullpen. Trevor Hoffman continues to break his own all-time saves record with every game he closes out, but he's 43. And that, if you're unclear, is never, ever a good thing for a professional athlete. LaTroy Hawkins is the setup man here, which let's just move on before we start laughing too hard to finish this; Carlos Villanueva (whom we still feel should be a starter for a team with enormous rotation deficiencies viz the Brew Crew) is a potent arm in the 'pen, and you could do worse than Todd Coffey. But David Riske and Schott Schoeneweis are has-beens, and unless Claudio Vargas proves that 2009 wasn't a fluke, there are not a lot of reliable options here.
Overall: This team can hit with the best of them, but the pitching is lacking save for a few (ok, very few) bright spots. Yovani Gallardo, Carlos Villanueva, Claudio Vargas, and maybe Randy Wolf are the only really reliable arms here, which won't be enough to compensate for the impressive lineup that the latter-day Harvey's Wallbangers will be trotting out.
Predicted Record: 77-85, 4th place NL Central
Beer: Miller High Life. Yeah, it's cheap and not, like, a good beer. But when it's ice cold (like the early season in Milwaukee) then it's an enormously refreshing brew (which is key come the humid Milwaukee winters). Plus, y'know, Miller sponsors their park, so there's that. And all of that was a prelude to the fact that this franchise probably won't have the money to retain the wonderfully talented - but prohibitively expensive - core of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo. So...um...at least the beer is cheap!