The Milwaukee Brewers are stuck in limbo. Decent enough to contend for a playoff berth and not start a full-blown rebuild. Realistically, though, it's probably around a .500 team with no shot at a World Series. The Brewers have a wins total of 79 on 5Dimes MLB odds.
Recap of 2014
Milwaukee was a very up-and-down team last season. Most had the Brewers projected for fourth in the NL Central yet the team jumped out to a 20-7 start. It led the division by five games on May 1, by four on June 1, by 6.5 on July 1 and by 2.5 on Aug. 1. Surely the playoffs were a lock? Not so much. In its final 36 games the Brewers won just 11 times. Milwaukee finished 82-80, third in the NL Central and eight behind division champion St. Louis despite spending 153 days in first place. The Brewers were six games out of a wild card spot.
Sure, injuries could be partly blamed. Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, to name two guys, really slowed down in the second half of the season because of injuries. But injuries are a part of baseball. Guys like catcher Jonathan Lucroy and outfielder Carlos Gomez had really strong years, as did starting pitcher Wily Peralta.
Manager Ron Roenicke led the Brewers to 96 wins and the NLCS in 2010, his first season, but the team hasn't been back to the playoffs since. Might he be on the hot seat? The 2015 Brewers will look largely like last year's version so perhaps ownership believes more in the team that was good for much of the season instead of worrying about the one that collapsed.
Outlook for 2015
Yovani Gallardo went into last season as the team's clear ace but he underachieved with an 8-10 record despite a pretty solid 3.51 ERA. Milwaukee tried to trade him during the season but was unsuccessful. To save some money and because Gallardo can be a free agent next winter, the team shipped him to Texas this winter for shortstop prospect Luis Sardinas. The Brewers previously had dealt another starter, Marco Estrada, to Toronto for first baseman Adam Lind. He will be the every-day guy at first and should be an upgrade over last year's platoon of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds, who are both gone. Also gone is second baseman Rickie Weeks, who was also part of a platoon for the most part.
The key is getting Braun back to his 2011 NL MVP self. However, the question has to be asked as to whether Braun was a superstar because of PEDs. He was suspended a huge chunk of 2013 and then last year hit just .266 with 19 homers and 81 RBIs. Braun did battle a thumb injury much of the season -- he was batting .301 on July 26, but he hit just .209 with five home runs and 20 RBI in his last 53 games -- and had it surgically-repaired after the season.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez also was injury-prone in 2014 and hit .285 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs in 133 games. Ramirez already has said he will retire after this season. Shortstop Jean Segura was an All-Star as a rookie in 2013 but slumped last year to a .246 average and saw his on-base percentage drop 40 points and his slugging nearly 100. Which guy is he? Scooter Gannett (.289, nine HRs, 54 RBIs in 440 at-bats) now takes over as the clear full-time second baseman. The All-Star Lucroy (.301, 13 HRs, 69 RBIs) and center fielder Gomez (.248, 23 HRs, 73 RBIs, 34 steals) are the clear catalysts on the offense. Lucroy missed much of the spring with a strained hamstring but should be ready for Opening Day, so keep that in mind while making your MLB Picks.
The pitching staff looks decent 1-4 with Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54), Matt Garza (8-8, 3.64), Peralta (17-11, 3.53) and Mike Fiers (6-5, 2.13). No true ace there, and Garza always lands on the disabled list at least once a season. Peralta's 2014 season might have been a fluke, maybe Fiers' too. Jimmy Nelson is a highly touted youngster who will take the fifth spot and why the team felt comfortable trading Gallardo. Nelson, 25, didn't look ready as a rookie, going 2-9 with 4.93 ERA in 69.1 innings. Milwaukee began camp not sure who its closer would be and was in discussions with Philadelphia about Jonathan Papelbon. Instead, the Brewers decided to re-sign Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod had 44 saves last season after replacing Jim Henderson as closer just before Opening Day. One worry was the 14 homers Rodriguez allowed.
Milwaukee Brewers Season Win Total: It doesn't help the Brewers playing in the NL Central where there are now no easy wins with the Cubs so much improved. If Braun returns to pre-suspension and pre-injury form this could be a very nice lineup. The pitching staff looks mediocre at best. Go 'under' the wins.