Blog Entry

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Posted on: February 23, 2012 7:10 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 11:34 am
 
By Matt Snyder

Every baseball fan has surely heard by now, considering our 24-hour Twitterverse of a news cycle, that Brewers' left fielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not face a 50-game suspension. There's plenty of discussion to be had on the matter from many different angles, but in this particular entry we'll focus on the 2012 NL Central race.

Had Braun been suspended, the Brewers could probably have been counted out in the NL Central. Replacing Prince Fielder and 50 games of Ryan Braun with Aramis Ramirez wasn't gonna cut it for a team that was largely dependent upon offense last season, en route to the Central division title. Replacing Fielder's production with some Ramirez and hoping for improvements in several other areas? Well, that actually sounds doable.

Then you look around the Central. On paper, we can count out the Pirates, Cubs and Astros. Obviously games aren't won on paper, otherwise the Diamondbacks would have finished last in the NL West as most expected last season. It's just that this is all we have to go on right now, and the Pirates, Cubs and Astros appear very overmatched by the Cardinals, Reds and now Brewers (again).

And right now, the Brewers have just as good a shot as any of the three. They went 96-66 last year and lost a major piece, for sure, in Fielder. But they did sign Ramirez to fill a gaping hole at third base. He can hit cleanup to protect Braun. There are other areas that can improve as well. All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks only played 118 games last season, while Corey Hart was held to 130. If those guys can stay on the field a bit more, there's an offensive uptick. Alex Gonzalez represents a strong upgrade at shortstop over Yuniesky Betancourt (really, who wouldn't?).

Pitching-wise, the Brewers have the ability to be better as well. Improvements should be expected from Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in their second Milwaukee season. Yovani Gallardo has become a legitimate ace. The eighth and ninth innings should be dominant, with John Axford now having established himself as a lock-down closer and Francisco Rodriguez along for the full season as the eighth-inning guy.

Braun wins appeal
If the Brewers are looking outside and hoping for the optimistic spin, it's possible. Let's try it:

• The Cardinals lost the presence of Albert Pujols from the lineup. Can Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman stay healthy while also fighting off age regression? Speaking of age, how much longer does Chris Carpenter hold up? And Adam Wainwright is coming off Tommy John surgery.

• The Reds are stronger, for sure, but they're hardly a cinch to be a great team. You could make the argument there are question marks at catcher, shortstop, third base, center field and left field. Mat Latos was a good get, but how does he deal with a hitters' park instead of spacious Petco Park as his home field?

Obviously, we could spin things in favor of the Cardinals or Reds in a similar exercise, but it's the Brewers day with the Braun announcement.

The bottom line is I'm not sure who I'll be predicting in the NL Central, but it's between the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers. A few hours ago, it was just the Cardinals and Reds in the mix. In the time it takes to snap your fingers, the Brewers were thrust into the mix. Braun is that important.

We now wait for the actual games to see if everything plays out as expected, because what the "paper" says means nothing. Still, one cannot dispute that the Brewers already have their first big victory of the 2012 season.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Comments

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:36 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Having a real honest online debate about anything has turned February into a tolerable mess.
So I will pull back on accusing you of being clueless, concede that -- yes, the Pirates, Cubs and Astros are pretty lame.

I really never saw the Brewers as being out of the mix anyway.

I don't know much more about anything than anybody.





Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:26 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

If I took issue with people for disagreement, I'd never be able to sleep. I don't care about the disagreement or the fact that you think you know more about baseball than I do. As I pointed out in my previous post (I'll be more direct this time), you basically told me I wasn't allowed to dismiss the Pirates, Astros and Cubs because games aren't played on paper -- even though I said as much in the post, even providing an example. We actually agree, but it's February, so "paper" is all we have to go on right now. If you don't ever want to think ahead and instead only concentrate on what has already happened, that's your prerogative ... but you aren't the only reader we have. We cater to a huge audience.

Yes, you are a smart commenter. I don't waste time replying to readers who aren't smart. I just think your latest attack of my credibility was completely off base.

Thanks.

- Matt



Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:17 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Just curious, Matt. Why is it that you accuse me of being the "smartest person in the room?"
Is it because I disagree with you and say so? Hmmmm ... I see that a lot on these boards.
Or is it because I can spell and use proper English?
That would be unlike the ones who just call you a "moran."
So if it's about delivery, I can stoop to the lowest common denominator. That's fairly easy to establish here.
FWIW, I don't take any of this too seriously. If I did, I'd be writing sports again ... instead of being retired from it.







Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Well, gee Matt ... of course they don't play the games on paper. I thought I could leave that out as a rather obvious point.
And as you are wont to point out, "if they stay healthy" is a robust caveat.
You dismissed the Cubs, Pirates and Astros as irrelevant in an effort to support the concept that the Brewers, Reds and Cardinals are relevant.

I don't have to be the smartest person in the "room" to get that.







Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:40 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

You go Matt.



Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

johnU11:

As you often do in your attempt to look like the smartest man in the room, you ignored the parts of the above post to make you point -- this time where I said games aren't played on paper (and even used the '11 D-Backs as an example). Ignoring in this fashion blows your "argument" out of the water and makes you appear desperate to prove your point.

I understand you think you know more about baseball than I do. That's fine. Believe whatever you want. Just try to make better arguments in trying to prove it next time.

- Matt



Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:18 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

I am also lightly amused by the Cardinal fan's assertion that losing Pujols and Fielder is a "wash."






Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:02 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

I am reminded that even though the teams below you aren't contenders, you still have to beat them.
This isn't all about which of the three -- Brewers, Cardinals or Reds -- is the best among the three, but which of the three will win the most games.

Brewers did poorly on the road last year. Awesome at home.
Cardinals came prepared to win the long season and got great mileage out of support players.
Reds had a pitching staff implosion and a center fielder who strikes out more often than I would.

My problem with this sort of "analysis" is that the premise starts off -- Cubs, Pirates, Astros all suck -- so moving on to the contenders ... that ain't how baseball is played, Matt, and I do truthfully wish you'd write something this spring that shows you have a clue about the grand game.








Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:22 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Brewers are winning the division. Anyone that can't see that is stupid.




Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:04 am
 

Brewers back in NL Central mix ... on paper

Even with Braun playing a full season, I just don't see the Brewers winning the division. They will be contending for sure, but I don't see them quite as strong as the Cardinals and Reds.

Even though the Cards lost Pujols, and that will hurt, they added Beltran, who should fill some of the void, and a full year from Furcal at SS. Plus if Wainwright is healthy, that is a big boost for their pitching staff, making them pretty solid.

The Reds should be strong too; their pitching is deeper than the Brewers, and have a pretty good corner outfielder themselves in Bruce. Wherever they decide to use Chapman, relieving or starting, he will provide a big asset for the team.

I think the Cardinals are the team to beat, if Wainwright and Beltran are healthy. The Reds might beat them out, but I don't see the Brewers being quite as strong as those teams. They will be up there though.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com