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The big question surrounding the flurry of moves made by the Milwaukee Brewers is, “Are they contenders now?” Many people tend to say no, they were horrible last year and are a ways off. However, I tend to disagree, and say yes they are, much like a lot of people that acted on impulse in saying yes. I certainly think they are contenders in the arguably mediocre NL Central.
Now, when I say they are contenders, that doesn’t mean they don’t tank and go down the drain, but just that they’ve got a good chance to impress in 2011. They acquired Yuniesky Betancourt, Shawn Marcum, and Zack Greinke. They only gave up a couple of below average players and prospects in both of the deals, so ultimately, they are playing for the now. And you have to like their prospects for the year.
They bring back a nearly intact starting lineup from last year that generated the 4th most runs in the National League and is one of the best home run hitting teams in the league. The main weakness last year was the mess that they called their pitching staff. The only positive notes in the pitching staff were Yovani Gallardo, proving he’s a front end starter, and the emergence of John Axford, showing he can be a shutout closer. Now add Greinke and Marcum to the mix. Legit.
There are some risks in adding Greinke, because last year he sported an adequate 4.17 ERA. It’s become pretty obvious his 2009 season (2.16 ERA) was a fluke. He does have a great chance of becoming a good #2 or #3 starter, because his previous numbers, take away 2009 and he’s never had an ERA better than 3.47. Granted he’s still generally young (27), and he consistently improved with each year (2007-2009), and maybe 2010 was a fluke, but we’ll never know until it’s opening day in baseball. We also can’t forget about the AL to NL factor, with an easy example being Doc Halladay (2009-2.79 ERA; 2010-2.44 ERA.) It just goes to show that pitching to 8 instead of 9 really does matter.
Another thing the Brewers have working in their favor is the fact that the NL Central is pretty weak. While you can count on the Cardinals bolstered offense to propel them to a playoff worthy record, it won’t be anything too special. The Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs last year for the first time in a decade, but it’s still to be determined if they can follow up success with more of the same.
Expect the Brewers to be an immediate contender this year. Possibly earning a wild card spot or even taking the division.