What's with all the long faces around here? I've just read a second comment in the past few days that says we're not going to contend in 2010.
While I admit I tend to be a tad overly optimistic about most things Brewers...what's not to like about 2010?OK, let's say we don't make any other significant moves, and that none of our Moldy Halama pitching projects works out except as AAA depth or something.
Last season, we finished at one game under .500, which is astounding the more I think about it. Let's look at what we have now.
Last season, our starters were atrocious. To a man, they all underperformed. Dave Bush, an ERA more than 2 runs worse from the previous season. Parra, 2 runs worse. Looper, a run worse. Even Suppan was worse than 2008, and 2008 had been his worst season since 2003. Even if we did nothing at all and started the same 5, it's hard to imagine a repeat of 2009's pitching suckitude. Instead of doing nothing, though, we have a new pitching guru and landed arguably one of the top FA pitchers out there. Plus, DM seems to be indicating that Suppan has a pretty short rope this time out --- I wouldn't at all be surprised if we see a Bill Hall-esque dismassal if he can't get his ERA under 5. I think there's reason to expect at least an average pitching staff in 2010, which would be leaps and bounds better than last season.
It's a little tough predicting relief pitching, and last season's relievers were pretty good. However, our top relievers are all coming back (Hoffman, Vargas, Coffey, Stetter), and we're adding another guy with a sub-3 ERA in LaTroy Hawkins. Did we overpay to get Hawkins? Probably. Still, 4 of these guys had ERAs under 3 last season. If one were to get excited about relief pitching, well, this would be worth getting excited about.
Offensively, we rocked last season, and there's a lot to like this season too. There's no reason to expect down seasons from Prince and Braun, the big guns in our lineup. We'll likely see a drop offensively in Cameron to GoGo Gomez, and there will be questions about Rickie being able to match the production we got when he went down last season (though he was hitting pretty well at the time), or about McGehee duplicating last season's success. Still, there's reason for optimism too: we wasted more than 1000 ABs on .650 (or less) OPSs of Hardy, Hall, and Kendall. Escobar is putting up encouraging numbers this winter, especially in walk totals, and, though no juggernaut, Gregg Zaunn is hands down a better hitter than Kendall. Finally, even if Hart isn't the .892 OPS hitter from 2007, he's not likely to be worse than he was last season, his worst offensive season as a starting rightfielder. Plus we have Mat Gamel pacing in the dugout (or in Nashville) waiting for the call. We may not improve on last year, but I don't see us being worse either.
Although third base may be our defensive Achilles heel, the defensive news is that we upgraded defensively from good-defense guys (Hardy, Cameron) to jaw-dropping amazing defensive guys (Escobar, GoGo Gomez).
And all this assumes that DM is done looking for players, and that Gamel doesn't find much playing time. I mean, we were a .500 team despite full seasons from two of the worst players in the game today at their position (Kendall, Suppan) and a pitching staff that didn't have one guy meet the previous season's or career norms. On the flip side, the only player who seemed to be playing better than one thought he was capable of is McGehee. If McGehee regresses to the mean (if you can say that about a rookie), then there's reason to think that the 5 or so underperformers from 2009 can pro-gress to the mean in 2010.
Sure, there will be injuries and underperforming. Still, I think we'd have a better 2010 than 2009 with the exact same players, and we went out and signed better ones. What's not to like?