The Brewers are coming off of an 80 win season in which their position players earned the right to pummel their pitchers into a big pile of replacementness. The position players accumulated 26.1 WAR, good for 2nd in the NL, while the pitchers only managed a measly 3 WAR, good for last in the NL. However, this post is supposed to be about their chances in 2010, so let’s not dwell on the past. The Fans and PECOTA have the Brewers at 78 wins and CHONE has them at 81, all of which gets them 2nd or 3rd in the Central with a 15-20% chance of getting into the playoffs. Clearly, they are not eliminated from the race before the season starts, but a decent number of things will have to go their way for a playoff berth.
The Brewers’ everyday lineup is built on two stars, a high upside young guy, and some average-ish filler. This model in not too dissimilar from their division rivals the Cardinals, it just so happens that the Cardinals players are projected better at most of the positions. As an interesting aside, both teams have their two stars projected to amass ~45% of the WAR for their starting eight. Those two stars, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, both project to hit well above average, which more than makes up for their below-average defense, and places both in the top 20 of projected WAR for position players.
Alcides Escobar’s mean projection is a slightly above average to above average glove and a slightly below average bat at a premium position, but he probably has the widest distribution of the Brewers’ position players given the lack of data off of which to project. Carlos Gomez is somewhat similar in that he projects to be more glove than bat and probably has a pretty wide range of outcomes considering his relative lack of experience still. The big question about Gomez is how bad the bat will be. CHONE projects a 0.323 wOBA, while most other systems have him hovering in the 0.300 range. At 0.323 he is likely a well above average player, but it would be hard for his defense to be good enough to be anything more than average with a 0.300 wOBA.
Rickie Weeks, if healthy, could surpass his projections as they are all based off of a fairly low playing time assumption. Corey Hart is two years removed from a 4.5 WAR season, and has seen his offense and defense decline. His projections meet in the middle of his last two years and that one good one. The rest of the starting eight, Gregg Zaun and Casey McGehee, project to be below average to sniffing average.
As a whole the Brewers’ staff projects to be better than the 3 WAR they put up last year. Yovani Gallardo is back at the top of the rotation after posting a 3.97 FIP last year and will probably be good for 3-4 wins this year. Randy Wolf comes over from the Dodgers and slides into the number 2 slot after posting numbers similar to Gallardo last year, but with a lower upside for the upcoming season. Next up in the rotation is Doug Davis, who is back for a second go-around with the Brewers and projects to be right around average. The last two spots theoretically should go to David Bush and Manny Parra, but that implies that the Brewers will see Jeff Suppan and his 12.5M as sunk cost.
The bullpen also projects to be better this year, with Trevor Hoffman back slinging changeups in the closer role. They also have solid depth with LaTroy Hawkins, Carlos Villanueva, Mitch Stetter, and Todd Coffey all projecting to have FIPs in the high 3s or low 4s.
Clearly the Brewers have some pieces in place to be contenders, but their chances this year will likely hinge on a Weeks comeback, a big jump for Escobar, and some substantial improvement on the starting pitching side.