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Sorry Brewers fans; you’re better off staying at your tailgate

first_imgMilwaukee, like its Rust Belt brothers Cleveland and Detroit, has seen better days — but not many better than yesterday. While the skyline may not be terribly imposing, the roof of the Brewers’ Miller Park is; and yet, in a rare April occurrence, it was wide open. Even though many projection systems peg the Brewers to finish third in the NL Central, high expectations permeated throughout the stadium parking lots like cheap beer and cooked meat.Unfortunately, game time weather doesn’t win baseball games, as the Brewers fell to the Rockies 5-3 in their 2010 season opener. And while Day 1 is no time to overreact, it’s a more than acceptable point to reiterate the inevitable: This Brewers team, as currently constructed, is destined for mediocrity.That’s not to say that yesterday’s game was a microcosm of the Brewers’ flaws. Yovani Gallardo, despite picking up the loss, generated plenty of groundballs — and thanks to Seth Smith, strikeouts — and should remain in the NL Cy Young race as long as the Giants’ offense holds Tim Lincecum back.On the flip side, if you’re expecting Carlos Gomez to repeat Opening Day’s stat line (4-5 with a double, a home run and two runs scored) any time soon, you should probably also stop telling yourself that Dad just left to get cigarettes 25 years ago. Despite what Brian Anderson says, Gomez is not an “excellent bunter,” and stellar center field defense can only carry an outfield so far when it’s flanked by Ryan Braun’s bad reads and Jim Edmonds’ 39-year-old body.Of course, it’s not like a lineup’s two-hole hitter is going to get a high-number of at-bats, and yet, for at least one day, that’s where manager Ken Macha put Gomez. Which raises the question: Is Macha a mad-scientist or a master strategist?Neither. He’s just desperate. After Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the closest thing this line-up has to a reliable contributor is either the annually underwhelming (and injured) Rickie Weeks or Casey McGehee, whose one year of major league success is up against a lackluster minor league track record. Hell, Edmonds didn’t even play baseball last year, and yet he earned Opening Day’s right field grass over arbitration case-winner Corey Hart (although Edmonds, unlike Hart, is a left-handed hitter, which may explain the move. What it doesn’t explain is why he faced two left-handed relievers late in the game.)So, despite having a premier 3-4 combination, the Brewers might wind up being the wrong kind of offensive. And then there’s the pitching.The good news regarding the Brewers starting staff is that, barring serious injury or God’s damnation, they shouldn’t be worse than last year. Banishing Jeff Suppan to the DL and Braden Looper to free agent purgatory — he and Jarrod Washburn are this close to starting a garage band — is the definition of “addition by subtraction.”But Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, the Brewers’ off-season pitching acquisitions, aren’t exactly savior material. Wolf especially, coming off a career year with the Dodgers where he pitched 190 innings of 3.23 ERA ball, should see a noticeable decline in performance. Not only is he moving from spacious Dodger Stadium to the much more homer-friendly Miller Park, but a considerable piece of his shiny 2009 ERA was his BABIP (or batting average on balls in play), which was 30 points lower than his 11-season average. Essentially, giving big contracts (3 years/$29.75 million) for career years might not be a great idea. Although Suppan seems to have worked out alright.The expectations for Davis are significantly lower, but it goes without saying that fans won’t enjoy Davis’ outings. A professional nibbler, Davis averages over four walks per nine innings. And that’s not because of his wild/fast two-seamer.All of this comes with the caveat that the NL Central is a rather weak division, and Opening Day rosters are often significantly different than what we see in August. But the Cardinals, with the reigning MVP and a strong top of the rotation, are clearly the class of the division, but if the Brewers do enter the final week of the season in contention, it will most likely be due to the Cardinals playing down, and not the Brewers suddenly becoming world-beaters.But at least if won’t affect your tailgate.Sean Kittridge ([email protected]) played for the Brewers twice in Little League. One year, they won the Chain ‘O’ Lakes Championship over the dreaded Phillies. His main contribution was his enthusiasm.last_img read more

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