The Milwaukee Brewers came into their first spring training workouts this week with what looked to be a plethora of question marks and concerns about their club moving forward. But when news broke over Ryan Braun’s reported successful drug-testing appeal to Major League Baseball that would eradicate his previous 50-game suspension, a large chunk of their uncertainties were put to bed.
But even with Braun now set to join the Brewers in Maryvale Baseball Park in Arizona for what now looks to be a promising start to their NL Central title-defense, there are plenty of question marks concerning Milwaukee as preseason workouts and games begin to commence. Let’s take a gander at a few of those question marks.
Is Rickie Weeks Anywhere Near Full Health?
Rickie Weeks has grappled with injuries throughout his career, but his latest wound could be a real concern moving forward. Suffering a serious ankle injury in late July, Weeks’ struggled to find his rhythm offensively after returning late in the regular season and all through the postseason. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was quoted earlier this week saying that an injury of Weeks’ magnitude will likely have an impact on how well he is able to perform on a day-to-day basis. If that’s the case, then what should Brewers fans expect out of Rickie Weeks this season? How well is his ankle currently? These are just a few questions concerning the future of Milwaukee’s second baseman as spring training heats up.
Veteran relievers Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins were able to bridge the gap between Milwaukee’s starters and their go-to late-inning relievers with great efficiency last season. Unfortunately, both left through free-agency this past winter — who will step up and assume that key role?
Cameron Loe has always been considered at the very least a serviceable middle-inning reliever but has been inconsistent at times. Newly-acquired right-hander Jose Veras (left) has proved to be a strikeout-oriented relief-man throughout his career. How about Marco Estrada or potential 22-year-old call-up Wily Peralta?
Needless to say, Ron Roenicke and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have quite the conundrum on their hands as opening day creeps closer.
Can Mat Gamel Be Trusted?
Mat Gamel has been waiting in the wings for his shot at the full-time staring job at first-base for a while now. And while he brings a tremendous amount of minor-league proficiency, his short-lived tenure in the big-leagues has been disheartening to say the least.
Since breaking through to the majors back in 2008, Gamel has logged 194 plate appearances but has only a .222 BA to show for it. He has also notably struggled with strikeouts and is probably below-average with the glove, as well.
According to Brewers beat-writer Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gamel says he’s currently in the best shape of his life and has refined his craft considerably over the offseason. If that holds true, Gamel could be in for a breakout season at first-base. But right now, Brewers fans will have to see it before they can believe it.
General manager Doug Melvin inked three-time Japanese batting champ Norichika Aoki last month to help fill the void that would have been left by Ryan Braun if not for his overturned suspension. But with Braun now back in the picture, where does (and will) Aoki fit in?
With his potent bat and substantial experience playing every corner of the outfield, one would have to assume that manager Ron Roenicke can find a spot for Aoki in the lineup — but where and how often will he take the field?
Is Shaun Marcum Past His Postseason Woes?
After a scintillating regular season where he staked his claim as arguably baseball’s best away-from-home pitcher, Shaun Marcum struggled greatly during postseason play. In his first three career playoff starts, Milwaukee’s first preeminent offseason acquisition logged just 9.2 total innings and conceded 16 runs, all of which were earned. He only managed to strike out five batters and allowed an uncharacteristic three home runs, additionally.
Marcum is a seasoned veteran with a ton of experience but his postseason mishaps have left fans worried throughout the offseason. Will he rebound and return to his steadfast self or will his indelible struggles perpetuate into this season?
Expectations for newly-acquired veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez will be very high this season. After watching Yuniesky Betancourt commit 21 errors in 149 games last season with little dependability in 2011, Gonzalez will be on a rather short leash when it comes to making mistakes in the field.
But do fans even need to worry? Gonzalez, who has north of 12 seasons playing shortstop at the major league level, has become notorious for his efficiency and range with his glove. With a career .972 fielding percentage and 4.23 range factor, he’s been one of the most dependable defensive shortstops in baseball since entering in the league in 1998.
Nevertheless, two questions need to be asked: Firstly, Will Gonzalez’s defensive capabilities be worth the $4.25 Million the Brewers will fork over to him this season and secondly, and more importantly, will there be a noticeable difference between Gonzalez’s game and Betancourt’s game in the field?
Ryan Braun may be back, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the Brewers’ problems on offense. Now without Prince Fielder for the first time in close to eight seasons, free-agent addition Aramis Ramirez now likely protecting Braun in Milwaukee’s lineup. The appropriate question now worth asking is: Can Ramirez provide adequate protection for Braun this season?
Ramirez, who will turn 34 years young in July, has seen his production slip gradually over the past few seasons, and hasn’t put together a “full” season since he played 149 games back in 2008. Will his aging body hold up as the season progresses? For that matter, will his waning bat even be enough to give the 2011 NL MVP protection? His production at the plate will go a long way in determining whether or not Milwaukee makes it back to the postseason.
It’s been a long, difficult, often perplexing offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers and their fanbase. But if recent indications prove valid, things may take another turn for the worse.
Last month, we learned from a report leaked by ESPN that Brewers left fielder and recently named 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun had reportedly tested positive for either a performance enhancing drug and/or banned substance during Milwaukee’s historic playoff run last October. Major League Baseball subsequently gave Braun a 50-game suspension for his actions, and Braun is currently in the appeal process.
Many fans remained optimistic regarding the future of their beloved left fielder, however, Braun’s appeal to the league doesn’t seem likely to be overturned, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote. Should Braun not be in Milwaukee’s lineup on opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals, there are dozens of potential directions manager Ron Roenicke might set his starting lineup. Let’s take a look at the most logical approach to how it might look.
1. CF Carlos Gomez
Carlos Gomez is still very much in the prime of his career and with the opportunity to be the everyday starter in center-field to start next season, I expect him to be where he batted on opening day 2011: At the top of Ron Roenicke’s lineup.
Being one of the fastest center fielders in baseball as well as being one of the best bag-stealers (he has a career 78% stolen base percentage), Gomez clearly should be Milwaukee’s lead-off man to start next season. Granted, he’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts and work on getting on base, but I still believe he’s the right man for the job.
2. LF Nyjer Morgan
Nyjer Morgan probably fits the bill to be the Brewers’ leadoff hitter better than anyone on the roster. Based on what he did last year in the No.2 hole, though, he’ll probably stay put — at least for opening day.
In 429 total plate appearances, Morgan spent 352 of them batting second — exactly 82 percent. In that role, he batted .310 with two HR and 31 RBI, 46 runs and a .353 on-base percentage that finished as one of the best OBP in the National League. Without having to split time in center-field with Carlos Gomez to start the season, GM Doug Melvin will be able to adequately judge whether or not Morgan is worth re-signing at season’s end. If he can bat over .300 as he did in 2011, there’s no question he’s worth keeping around.
I have to admit — Rickie Weeks originally came to mind as the best option to take Ryan Braun’s spot in the lineup, but after doing my research, I found Corey Hart is simply the better overall substitute. Not only did Hart’s numbers from a season ago (26 HR, 80 RBI, .510 SLG, .226 ISO) trump Weeks’ (20 HR, 77 RBI, .468 SLG, .199 ISO) from a power standpoint, but their career statistics also marginally favor Hart.
Since entering the league in 2005, Hart has stockpiled 124 home runs, 425 RBI, a .487 slugging percentage and maintains a 19.6 K%. Weeks, who also broke onto the scene in 2005, has 109 home runs, 314 RBI, a .435 slugging percentage and has struck out 22.6 percent of the time. While the raw numbers don’t substantially favor Hart over Weeks, the subtle contrast coupled with how strong he finished his 2011 campaign should give Hart the nod.
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez
After agreeing to terms with Milwaukee to a three-year, $36 Million contract, Aramis Ramirez knew expectations would be high with Prince Fielder on his way out. However, with Braun’s suspension now likely to be upheld, expectations have risen considerably. The pressure on Ramirez to help carry the Brewers through the first 50 games next season is mounting quickly. So, where does he best fit in Milwaukee’s lineup?
Ramirez, 33, has a great deal of experience hitting third and fourth, and his bat seems to be the best possible protection for Corey Hart to start the season. He’ll probably hit behind Braun once his suspension is up, moreover.
5. 2B Rickie Weeks
If Rickie Weeks can stay healthy, for a full season, for the first in his career, there’s no doubt he’ll reach 35 home runs and there’s an outside chance he could hit 40. He has a tremendous amount of power that has concealed itself over the past few seasons, and I’ve gone on record saying that if not for injury last season, he would have been the is the best offensive second baseman in baseball.
I originally had him batting third, but quickly found out Corey Hart would be better suited for the job. That consequently puts Weeks fifth in Roenicke’s lineup and inherent protector of Aramis Ramirez to start next season.
6. 1B Mat Gamel
Mat Gamel has been an exceptional talent at the minor league level for a number of seasons, but there are some concerns over how well his game will translate as a full-time starter in the big leagues. In 171 career at-bats, the 26-year-old holds true to a .222 BA, .309 on-base percentage and in 2009 (his only true taste of the majors) he struck out in 36.5 percent of his plate appearances. He has a lot of upside and potential but he definitely has his work cut out for him at the start of next season.
That said, there isn’t yet a discernible spot for him in Roenicke’s opening-day lineup. He could potentially be placed in a number of spots to start the season. Given how evident his power was in triple-A last season, though, I can’t see him falling any lower than sixth in the order.
One of Melvin’s preeminent goals of the offseason was to upgrade at shortstop. He accomplished just that in signing Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $4.25 Million deal with a $4 Million 2013 option.
During his 12-year career, Gonzelez has become one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, harboring a .981 fielding percentage and 5.938 zone rating last season at 33 years of age. His hustle in the field will manifest itself early next season.
Gonzalez’s pop at the plate has diminished, but he will still be held accountable to at least a .250/.270/.390 line next season. He has experience batting just about anywhere in a lineup, which will make Ron Roenicke’s job that much easier. For now, though, batting seventh seems to be the most logical spot for Gonzalez.
8. C Jonathan Lucroy
Jonathan Lucroy isn’t a superstar, and he probably never will be. But that’s okay — he’s exactly what the Brewers need him to be: Dependable.
After splitting time Gregg Zaun in 2010, Lucroy inherited the starting role at the beginning of last season, and boy did he make the most of it. In 430 at-bats, he batted .265 with 12 home runs, 59 RBI and boasted a .391 slugging percentage.
In the field, though, he was a superstar. He committed just seven errors (.993 FPCT) despite having to deal with a staff that administered a league-high 70 wild pitches. Lucroy spent 64 percent of his at-bats out of the eight-hole last season. Expect him to be in familiar scenery on opening day this season.
9. P Yovani Gallardo
Yovani Gallardo is just 25 years old and will enter his third consecutive season as Milwaukee’s No. 1 starter. When it’s all said and done, he’ll easily be the greatest pitcher in franchise history.
Last season, he went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA while striking out 207 in 207.1 innings (33 GS). He led all Brewers starters in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and finished with a better K/9IP (8.99) than AL MVP Justin Verlander (8.96). Each year Gallardo continues to better every facet of his game and I suspect him to take the next step and lower his ERA to 3.20 or lower in 2012.
The Milwaukee Brewers have answered nearly all of the question marks that faced them coming into their 2011-2012 offseason, and now wait in anticipation for spring training to commence roughly two months from now. Let’s take a look at how their lineup might look on opening day 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
1. Corey Hart, RF
Nearly half of Corey Hart’s plate appearances last season came as Milwaukee’s lead-off man but I suspect 100 percent of his at-bats to be at the top of Milwaukee’s order on opening day against the Cardinals. Roenicke toyed with a number of players at lead-off before Hart returned to the lineup from an abdominal strain in late April but none definitively fit the role.
In 256 at-bats at the top of Milwaukee’s order, Hart posted a .301 BA, 15 HR, 36 RBI, 47 runs as well as a .366 on-base percentage, roughly comparable to Jose Reyes’ .388 from a season ago. Many feel the Rickie Weeks is best suited here as he clearly has the most background at the top of Milwaukee’s order. However, Aramis Ramirez will need adequate protection and Weeks’ game is slowly converting to power first, speed second. Hart is the right man for the job.
2. Nyjer Morgan, CF
Nyjer Morgan may be best suited to be a lead-off type hitter, but there’s simply no ignoring what he accomplished out of the No.2 hole last season.
In 429 total plate appearances, Morgan spent 352 of them in batting second — exactly 82 percent. In that role, he batted .310 with 2 HR and 31 RBI, 46 R and a .353 on-base percentage that finished as one of the best OBP in the National League. With either Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter, both right-handed, likely to take the mound for St. Louis, expect Morgan to get the nod over Carlos Gomez strictly because of Morgan’s left-handed bat.
No matter what the final verdict is on Ryan Braun’s alleged PED-usage, GM Doug Melvin says he is going about his normal business as through he expects him to be in the starting lineup on opening day. So, we’ll do the same. Do you really need an explanation?
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Aramis Ramirez has lingered in either the third or fourth spot for most of his career, and since the No.3 spot is already taken, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll bat cleanup next season. Out of the cleanup spot last season with the Cubs, Ramirez batted .291 with 8 HR, 32 RBI and a .450 slugging percentage in a feeble Chicago lineup.
While we shouldn’t expect him to completely fill Fielder’s shoes next season, we should expect a solid middle-of-the-order bat that can protect Braun. Anything short of a .275 BA, 25 HR and 85 RBI would be considered inadequate on Ramirez’s behalf.
5. Rickie Weeks, 2B
Gone are the days of Rickie Weeks being Milwaukee’s lead-off man. At 29 years of age and a bevy of past injuries, he’s clearly entering the second phase of his professional career in that he’s much more of a power-first, speed-second type player. Last season, Weeks amassed 20 home runs and 49 RBI with a .269/.350/.468 line despite missing a substantial chunk of his season due to a ankle injury.
With Prince Fielder gone and Ryan Braun still facing a 50-game suspension to start his season, Weeks will much more better suited to be batting either fourth or fifth in Milwaukee’s lineup. He has the potential to hit 30 or possibly even 35 home runs next season and should be the one protecting Aramis Ramirez new season.
6. Mat Gamel, 1B
Incumbent 26-year-old prospect Mat Gamel has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in six minor-league seasons, but filling the shoes of Prince Fielder at first base won’t be a cakewalk by any means.
Last season in triple-A, Gamel managed 28 home runs and 90 RBI with a .310/.372/.540 line. Impressive to say the least, but he’ll need to vindicate his career .222 BA and .309 OBP with the Brewers in a timely fashion. Batting behind Rickie Weeks is most likely the best spot for him on opening day. He’ll be a modest defensive upgrade from Fielder but don’t expect him to be a gold-glove caliber first baseman as he’s been known to be a bit lackadaisical from time to time.
One of Melvin’s preeminent goals of this offseason was to upgrade at shortstop. He accomplished just that in signing Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $4.25 Million deal with a $4 Million 2013 option.
During his 12-year career, Gonzelez has become one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, harboring a .981 fielding percentage and 5.938 zone rating last season at 33 years of age. His hustle in the field will manifest itself early next season, and will be a noticeable upgrade from Yunieksy Betancourt.
Gonzalez’s pop at the plate has diminished, but he will still be held accountable to at least a .250/.270/.390 line next season. He has experience batting just about anywhere in a lineup, which will make Roenicke’s job that much more easy.
8. Jonathon Lucroy, C
Jonathon Lucroy is by no means a superstar talent behind the plate nor in the batter’s box, but 2011 certified just how important he is to Roenicke’s ballclub.
Last season, Lucroy committed just seven errors on his way to a .993 fielding percentage — a commendable feat given Milwaukee’s league-high 70 wild pitches from a season ago. He also posted a 7.87 range factor that ranked fifth-best among all MLB catchers. At the plate, he managed a .265 average with 12 HR and 59 RBI, but garnered a 21.2 K%. Improving his plate discipline and on-base percentage will be key moving forward. Expect him to be in the No. 8 hole on opening day nonetheless.
9. Yovani Gallardo, P
Yovani Gallardo is just 25 years old and will enter his third consecutive season as Milwaukee’s No. 1 starter. When it’s all said and done, he’ll probably be the greatest pitcher in franchise history.
Last season, he went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA while striking out 207 in 207.1 innings (33 GS). He led all Brewers starters in wins, ERA, and strikeouts and finished with a better K/9IP (8.99) than AL MVP Justin Verlander (8.96). Each year Gallardo continues to better every facet of his game and I suspect him to take the next step and lower his ERA to 3.20 or lower in 2012. There’s really no question as to who will take the mound for Milwaukee on opening day.
Updated Starting Lineup and 25-Man Roster Projection
1. RF Corey Hart
2. CF Nyjer Morgan
3. LF Ryan Braun
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez
5. 2B Rickie Weeks
6. 1B Mat Gamel
7. SS Alex Gonzalez
8. C Jonathon Lucroy
9. P Yovani Gallardo
C George Kottaras
CF Carlos Gomez
3B Taylor Green
OF Logan Schafer
RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Zack Greinke
RHP Shaun Marcum
LHP Randy Wolf
LHP Chris Narveson
RHP John Axford
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
RHP Kameron Loe
RHP Jose Veras
RHP Frankie De La Cruz
LHP Zack Braddock
LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Wily Peralta
Fully realizing that much of Milwaukee Brewers fans’ attention is fixated on the heroics of Ryan Braun and company, I’ll make this as simple and to-the-point as possible.
September call-ups Taylor Green, Jordan Schaefer and Michael Fiers have been able to become acclimated with the major-league pace during this historic month of September. Odds are they’ll likely take on a whole new role within Ron Roenicke’s lineup, possibly as soon as next season, with a number of contract dilemmas looming for Doug Melvin and company to deal with this offseason.
Let’s take a look at five prospects we can’t wait to see in 2012.
Mat Gamel, 1B
The 27-year-old Gamel has played, up to this point, his entire career in Milwaukee’s minor-league system, excluding his short-lived stint with the club back in the 2008 season. While this may not be appealing to Brewers fans, seen as how Prince Fielder’s exit will leave a colossal hole in Roenicke’s lineup, we should have confidence with what he brings to the table. His left-handed bat will be an ideal replacement for Fielder next season and into the future. Granted, he’ll need to clean up his rather sloppy defensive habits, however there’s no questioning his raw talent and aptitude at the next-level. A quick fact-check for all Gamel doubters: Since his first full minor-league season in the Brewers’ system way back in 2005, Gamel has registered 105 HR, 503 RBI, has a .304 BA while maintaining a .873 OPS. He won’t be anything close to what Fielder has been, but he’ll be good enough.
Wily Peralta, RHP
If there was one surefire September call-up bound to come to fruition last month, it would’ve certainly been Peralta. Finishing 2011 with a combined 3.17 ERA between AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville, Peralta, if nothing else, would have been a solid addition to add depth to Milwaukee’s bullpen for the strech run toward the postseason. Yet, for whatever reason, that largely anticipated call-up never happened — leaving us all scratching our heads in amazement. Nevertheless, expect to see the 22-year-old Peralta in a Brewers uniform by the end of 2012. With a number of discouraging contract situations looming, such as LaTroy Hawkins, you could make the case for the young right-hander to be in the bullpen on opening day.
Taylor Green, 3B
Unlike many top-tier prospects that have emerged from Milwaukee’s farm system in year’s past, Green has taken a much more unconventional route to the majors in that he has remained relatively unheard of by most Brewers fans. Spending five surprisingly productive seasons in the minors, Green has suddenly vaulted himself into a part-time role, with a full-time role potentially waiting for him in 2012. All Green has managed to do in his six minor league seasons is amass 71 home runs, 402 RBI, 142 doubles and maintain a .831 OPS. If he can transition that success into an everyday role with the Brewers, he’ll have a chance to become a fan-favorite and All-Star candidate in no time.
Michael Fiers, RHP
If you haven’t already heard of him, you might want to change that. The 26-year-old Fiers was recently named Milwaukee’s minor-league 2011 pitcher of the year, holding true to a combined 1.86 ERA with AA-Hunstville and AAA-Nashville. In 10 starts with the Sounds, Fiers went 10-0 with a stifling 1.11 ERA and 69 SO in 64.2 innings of work. His successes in 2011 were enough for the Brewers to bring him up from the minors, making his MLB debut on September 14, where he struck out two while allowing two hits in an inning of relief. Like Peralta, Fiers will more than likely get his shot at Milwaukee’s bullpen by 2012.
Logan Schaefer, OF
Though you’re probably more likely to recognize him from one of Sports Center’s most bizarre plays than for his on-field productivity, we shouldn’t lose sight of what the 25-year-old center fielder brings to the table. His 6’1″, 180-pound frame has enabled him to roam the outfield with great efficiency for three of Milwaukee’s top minor league affiliates in 2011. His bat isn’t half bad, either. Maintaining a .315 BA while accumulating 5 HR, 43 RBI and 16 SB this season, Shaefer was recalled from AAA-Nashville, adding another left-handed bat to Roenicke’s lineup, not to mention add some much-needed speed on the bases. With Nyjer Morgan’s contract situation yet to be handled, Shaefer could potentially be included in Milwaukee’s opening-day depth chart. We’ll have to wait and see.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.
Prince Fielder’s untimely comments have officially been blown out of proportion, not to the surprise of Milwaukee Brewers fans. The fact that Fielder would bring up such a sensitive topic when his own team is in the midst of a deeply competitive pennant race won’t bode well with Brewers fans, either.
Will his comments derail what was once a steamrolling Milwaukee ballclub off the path of success? Is there still an outside chance of Fielder resigning with the Brewers in 2012? Is he still a vegetarian? These are all merely insignificant topics for discussion at this point.
Maybe I’m simply speaking out of utter disgust, but here are six reasons the Brewers are better off without Fielder in 2012.
They Won’t Have to Deal with Any More “Beast Mode”
Okay, so it was cool the first 200 times. Now it’s just straight up uncalled for.
More Money to Sign More Players
The MLB winter meetings were extremely kind to the Milwaukee Brewers last year. They were able to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, among others, to bolster a lagging starting rotation, despite Fielder’s already massive $15.5 million 2011 salary.
What GM Doug Melvin plans to do this offseason will be uncertain at best.
That being said, without Fielder’s contract eating up roughly 20 percent of Milwaukee’s payroll, Melvin will (finally) have the opportunity to test a promising free agent market and/or trade for any number of quality, cost-effective players.
Mat Gamel Won’t Be as Good, But He’ll Be Good Enough
The 26-year-old Gamel was one of the few top-notch prospects the Brewers didn’t deal away in acquiring Greinke or Marcum last offseason. Since being drafted by Milwaukee back in 2005, he has worked his way up through the minors while making a few forgettable MLB appearances along the way.
However, don’t let a few meaningless major-league at-bats get you down. Gamel has tremendous power, accumulating 28 HR, 96 RBI with a .942 OPS in 2011 alone, and will fill the left-handed void in Ron Roenicke’s lineup once Fielder is out the door.
Gamel has arguably been one of the most promising young prospects in the minor leagues over the past few years, and he will be an exceptional talent at the major league level when given a realistic opportunity.
Brewers fans: don’t fret. Help is on the way.
Less Unwanted Media Attention
Don’t get me wrong — Fielder is a once-in-a-lifetime-type player that will likely never be replicated anytime soon. However, the unwanted media attention No. 28 has brought is probably a bit too much for Roenicke’s liking (or mine, for that matter).
By and large, the Brewers have never been a flashy, in-your-face type of organization (Tony La Russa may disagree, but that’s beside the point). They’ve come to be more known as a darkhorse/underdog type of team; probably because they’re MLB’s smallest TV market.
Not to say that I don’t appreciate Fielder’s antics, but there’s no disputing how much redundant media attention Fielder has brought to the Brewers.
It won’t be missed.
The Brewers Can Finally Play Ron Roenicke’s Style of Baseball
Milwaukee’s rookie manager Ron Roenicke is a sure-fire candidate for NL manager of the year. Taking over a team that largely underachieved under Ken Macha each of the past two seasons (80-82 in 2009, 77-85 in 2010), Roenicke has incorporated his aggressive style of baseball into the Brewers this season.
So far, it’s worked handsomely, with exception to Fielder.
Roenicke pushes the limits of base-running on a regular basis, leading to a dramatic improvement in team stolen bases from last season to this season. Collectively, the Brewers stole 81 bases in 2010. In 2011, Milwaukee already has 88 — even with Fielder in the lineup.
From a dynamic base-running standpoint, Fielder isn’t the typical athlete. With him out of the picture next season, the Brewers will be much more lethal on the bases.
They’ll Be Able to Focus on Winning…Not Someone’s Contract Status
The Brewers are in the midst of what could become an all-time great season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean winning is the only thing on their minds.
Clearly, Fielder’s free agency status has impacted everyone associated with the organization as a whole.
That won’t be an issue in 2012.
Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @alecdopp.