Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Season Starts Today





As I type this right now, there are little more than 4 hours til pitchers and catchers officially report to duty. I am not overstating my case when I say that this is one of the most important seasons in Milwaukee Brewer history. If the team comes together, stays healthy, and Ned Yost keeps from meddling, this season could lay the foundation for 4-7 years of incredible success. If they stumble, the results could be another decade of futility and embarassment. This season is as pivotal as 1993 (following a 92 win season with 69 wins ended the 90's early for Milwaukee). The Brewers must contend, and must contend all year long.



With that in mind, there are a few things that I feel are necessary for Milwaukee to stay in contention:



1. Dave Bush, Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan must stay healthy.

- It is likely Sheets will miss a start or two. He's an unlucky guy. The key is limiting the damage. The Brewers were completely unable to fill the two gaps left by Sheeter and Ohka last season. I honestly feel this season they can absorb the loss of a few starts by their "Top 5." If they need to fill two spots in the rotation, however, the Brewers will likely struggle. Allowing Jackson or Villanueva or Hendrickson to pitch after a string of successful outings will take some of the pressure off and not make their single start so damn important. Last year there were times when Milwaukee was counting on the young guns to play stopper, that can't happen this season. Milwaukee must have 4 of their 5 starters healthy at all times.





2. JJ Hardy has to find his stroke.

- Milwaukee has a first basemen. Milwaukee has a second basemen. Milwaukee does not have an answer at third right now. With that hole at third it is imperative Hardy hits. Hardy plays great defense, that isn't a question. If he can go out there and hit .265 with an OB of .340+ he will solidify the infield. Everyone knows third base is going to be a question, the Brewers can't afford the whole left side of the infield to be up in the air. Also, no one wants to have to see this day in and day out:



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3. Yost MUST stick to the left field platoon.

- He already teased us with it. Yost has to stick with it. It has to work.





The biggest question that has to be answered (besides 3B) is who is going to lead off? Weeks strikes out so much that I hope Hardy starts out on fire and gets on base at a torrid pace, making the decision easy. If that doesn't happen, here is the line up I see, although I could see Hart fitting into that 2 hole pretty easily.



Weeks

Hardy

Fielder

Hall

Jenkins/Mench

Estrada

Koskie/Graff

Hart

Pitcher



If Koskie comes back it's more up in the air. It could shake out with the Brewers taking a Chicago approach and hitting Hall first, screwing up the entire lineup.



I didn't mention bullpen because obviously the bullpen needs to perform. It's a given. Yost has to dump a guy a lot quicker than he did with Turnbow last season.



Well folks, here we go. Curtain rises on the most pivotal Milwaukee Brewer season in more than a decade.



The photo of Miller Park at the top of the post is from WisDoc's flickr.com photostream.







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