Opening Day: How many wins for the Brewers in 2013?
I have them at 82-80 this year. Good enough to be competitive well into September but not quite as stacked as the likes of St. Louis, Cincinnati, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In fact, just looking back over that list the common denominator is outstanding pitching. The acquisition of Kyle Lohse takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of unproven guys like Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers and stabilizes the top of the rotation. But the unknown is just how effective Peralta, Fiers and Marco Estrada will be over the course of an entire season. The Brewers would need anywhere from 28-32 starts from all three (assuming they stay healthy all year) as well as 180 to 200 innings. Now that's not to say that none of those guys can be effective for the entire season but the unknown is just how well these guys will do over the next six months.
There's no question the bullpen should be better. How could it be any worse than last year? 2012 was a strange if not fluky year for the bullpen and certainly a rebound is in order after bringing in new guys like Michael Gonzalez and Burke Badenhop. And surely John Axford won't have nearly as many as blown saves as he did in 2012.
That should translate into wins, right? Not necessarily. In 2011 Axford gave up just 16 earned runs. Last year that number ballooned to 36. We don't know which Axford shows up this year so let's just meet in the middle and say he gives up 26 earned runs. Those excruciating one run losses would be wins only if the Brewers maintain the same offensive output as last year. Remember, the Brewers led the National League in runs scored, home runs and stolen bases. They know how to score. Are the Brewers as potent this year? Corey Hart is sidelined until mid-May and Aramis Ramirez has the reputation as being a slow starter. So right away the Brewers might find themselves challenged to repeat last year's numbers. Rickie Week won't likely have a deep slump that he had in the first half on last season but he never bat above .280 for any month during his second half rebound. Ryan Braun should put up MVP-like numbers again but what if he gets hurt or worse suspended?
Then there's the difficulty of the National League Central. Without the Houston Astros gone the NL Central gets a little addition by subtraction. Chicago is still at least a year away but they should be a bit better than last year. Pittsburgh is no longer an afterthought though the Pirates need to show they can compete into September. At the top there's Cincinnati and St. Louis, two teams with loaded lineups, solid starting rotations and dependable bullpens.
So we're looking at a starting rotation that has potential but is unproven, a bullpen that should be better but will still need a boost from the offense and a division that could be the most competitive in the NL. It's not impossible but a trip to the postseason might be a bit too much to ask for this year.
In case you missed it, here are my NL predictions.