The Milwaukee Brewers took a little bit of a step back in 2012 and will be looking to correct a few issues to regain their 2011 form.
The Brewers finished 83-79 in 2012 after a 96-66 record in 2011. The 2011 team also made the NLCS before losing to the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
As the 2013 season nears, the Brewers are looking to put 2012 behind them and return to their form of 2011.
The Brew Crew bring back a ton of offense and a solid rotation. If the bullpen can hold a few leads this season, the Brewers will be in the thick of the race in the NL Central.
Here is a look at how things are looking heading into the 2013 season.
LHP Michael Gonzalez, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Burke Badenhop, RHP Kelvim Escobar, IF Bobby Crosby, 3B Donnie Murphy
LHP Manny Parra, RHP Fautino De Los Santos, RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Shaun Marcum, OF Nyjer Morgan, 1B Travis Ishikawa, C Yorvit Torrealba
Projected Rotation (per official site)
1. Yovani Gallardo (16-9, 3.66 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
2. Marco Estrada (5-7, 3.64, 1.14)
3. Wily Peralta (2-1, 2.48, 1.21)
4. Michael Fiers (9-10, 3.74, 1.26)
5. Mark Rogers (3-1, 3.90, 1.28)
6. Chris Narveson (1-1, 7.00, 1.56)
C: Jonathan Lucroy (.320 AVG/.368 OBP/.513 SLG)
1B: * Hunter Morris (.303/.357/.563)
2B: Rickie Weeks (.230/.328/.400)
3B: Aramis Ramirez (.300/.360/.540)
SS: Jean Sequra (.264/.321/.331)
LF: Ryan Braun (.319/.391/.595)
CF: Carlos Gomez (.260/.305/.463)
RF: Norichika Aoki (.288/.355/.433)
Closer: Jonathan Axford (R) (5-8, 35 SV, 3 HLD, 9 BLSV, 4.67 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
Tom Gorzelanny (L) (4-2, 1 SV, 9 HLD, 0 BLSV, 2.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Michael Gonzalez (L) (0-0, 0 SV, 7 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Jim Henderson (R) (1-3, 3 SV, 15 HLD, 4 BLSV 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
Burke Bandenhop (R) (3-2, 0 SV, 5 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.03 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Brandon Kintzler (R) (3-0, 0 SV, 2 HLD, 0 BLSV, 3.78 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
* Jesus Sanchez (R) (4-1, 0 SV, unknown HLD, unknown BLSV, 1.71 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
Josh Stinson (R) (0-0, 0 SV, 0 HLD, 0 BLSV, 0.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
* Denotes rookie with no MLB stats
Starting Pitching Overview
The pitching is the major reason the Brewers didn't make more noise in the NL Central in 2012. The starting pitching after Yovani Gallardo and a partial season from Zack Greinke wasn't much to hang your hat on.
Gallardo again led the staff in victories with 16. He is definitely the ace of the group and can lead his team to the postseason again with a little support behind him.
The Brewers have some up and coming talent that will hopefully make up the gap behind Gallardo and the departed Greinke.
Marco Estrada performed half way decent in his first season as a starter. While he posted a 5-7 record, he did have a 9.3 K/inning ratio and led the staff with a 1.14 WHIP. Estrada will be a nice compliment to Gallardo.
Wily Peralta was very impressive in his five starts in 2012. He posted a 2.48 ERA and showed he deserves a place in the Brewers 2013 rotation. Plus the guy is only 23 years old and his upside is pretty solid. Peralta pitched fairly well in the minor leagues and stepped it up a notch once he made the big show.
That brings us to Michael Fiers. He also had a solid 2012, his rookie season. Fiers pitched very well in the minors, earning him a promotion to the staff in late May. His upside is also something the Brewers are looking forward to. Fiers showed an ability to get a strikeout when needed, posting a 9.5 K/inning ratio in 2012.
Mark Rogers is another young arm that Brewers fans should be excited about. He is only 26 years old and will probably lock up the fifth spot in the rotation for 2013. He needs to work on cutting down the walks (14 in 39 innings pitched), but he does have an above average fastball. Rogers struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings in 2012.
This was an Achilles heel for the Brewers last season. The Brewers led the league with 29 blown saves. Milwaukee's fans never knew what they were going to get from closer Jonathan Axford. Axford dominated in 2010-2011, but seemed to lose his touch in 2012.
He posted a career worst 4.67 ERA and blew nine saves. Look for Axford to bounce back in 2013 and return his dominant form of seasons past.
The Brewers were happy to let Francisco Rodriguez hit the bricks after his poor 2011. As a matter of fact, most everyone behind Axford was shown the door. Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, and Jose Veras will all play in a different zip code this season.
It is unclear who will be the set-up man for Axford, but signs point to Tom Gorzelanny. He did a nice job for the Nationals as a middle-to-late inning guy in 2012. He posted a career best 2.88 ERA in his first full season in the bullpen.
If the rest of the bullpen can step up and hold the lead their bulging offense provides them, the Brewers could be a force to contend with in the NL Central.
Putting runs on the board wasn't a problem for the Brew Crew in 2012. They led the National League with 776 runs. They also smashed a league leading 202 home runs to help drive in all those runners. There are very few holes in this offense.
Expect the same from the offense in 2013. Led by Ryan Braun, who had an MVP type 2012, and Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers can put up runs in a hurry. Corey Hart chipped in with 30 home runs and while he starts his season on the DL, it would not be surprising to see him pound 20-plus dingers upon his return this season.
The Brewers are hoping Rickie Weeks can shake off a career-worst 2012 and rebound strong in 2013. Weeks has been the catalyst to the Brewers offense in seasons past and he is hoping to return to form this year.
Outside of the Brewers faithful, no one would have expected this team to have such wheels. The Brewers stole a league best 158 bags in 2012. Hence, when Braun and Ramirez came to plate, they often found runners in scoring position.
All three outfielders had 30 or more stolen bases, led by CF Carlos Gomez with 37.
Then there is Jonathan Lucroy. He had a breakout 2012, posting a career best .320 batting average and belting 12 home runs in only 95 games. The Brewers are hoping Lucroy can have a repeat of his 2012 campaign where his OPS was .881.
With Hart out to start the season, the Brewers are hoping for some decent production from rookie Hunter Morris. He showed tremendous power in the minor leagues, but it remains to be seen if he can translate his success to the big leagues.
The starting shortstop will be Jean Segura. I don't think the Brewers are counting on a lot of production from him in 2013. Frankly, with all the big hitters in this lineup, he doesn't need to do much but concentrate on sharpening his fielding skills.
Prospect to Watch
Hunter Morris is finally getting his shot. With Corey Hart on the DL to start the season and Mat Gamel tearing his ACL last week, Morris will be given the chance to lock up first base.
This is the shot every young minor leaguer dreams of. Morris will be doing his best to put Ron Roenicke in a tough spot when Hart returns by hopefully putting up some big numbers.
Morris excelled at AA Huntsville in 2012. He batted .303 with 28 HR and 113 RBI in 136 games last season. One thing he will need to work on to have success at the big league level is patience at the plate.
Morris only had 40 walks in 571 plate appearances in 2012. With no AAA experience under his belt, Morris will be facing a whole new level of pitching this spring. If he can exhibit some plate discipline to go along with his tremendous power, the Brewers should be in decent shape until Hart returns.
The Brewers were some decent pitching and more particularly, a decent bullpen, away from making the postseason in 2012. With an up-and-coming young starting staff, a re-tooled bullpen, and a robust offense, the Brewers can make some noise in the NL Central this year.
Projected Record: 90-72, second in the NL Central