Friday, March 4, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Milwaukee Brewers

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo
The Brewers picked up Zack Greinke in the off-season to be the ace of their staff, but in reality they already had someone who has Ace abilities. That's Gallardo, who has had several seasons of very good pitching, and really hasn't had a bad year yet.

He's been in the league four years, but one of those years he only had 4 starts due to a torn ACL while covering first base on a ground ball. The 4 years he has pitched, have been not only dominant, but consistent, especially the last two seasons.

In those seasons he pitched 185.2 and 185 innings each, his era was 3.73 and 3.84, and he struck out 204 and 200 batters. Basically his two seasons were almost identical, which is one of the reasons he is so important this year.

Those numbers were as the Ace of the staff, except for a short time when CC Sabathia was on the team. A number one is a guy the team can lean on for a win every five days. Gallardo was close to that, but wasn't quite to the caliber of a guy like Greinke, but he still is just 25 years old.

Two factors lead me to believe this will be the year that Gallardo puts it all together and becomes a top level starter in the National League.

First is his age, he is coming into his prime, and is coming off of two seasons where he pitched a solid innings total, but wasn't overworked. His arm should be fresh, so combined with him being in the prime of his career, he should break out this season, and improve on already very good numbers.

The second reason is because the pressure will be off. He's the number two guy in town, which means that he will not only pitch against other teams two, but also won't be expected to carry the team. The Brewers brought in Greinke to be their go to guy, I imagine Gallardo wants that to be his role. He's out to prove he is the ace of the team, but won't have the pressure of having to win every single start.

Something very concerning about Gallardo is how he sometimes just doesn't have his stuff working and it leads to very bad starts. Last year he had six starts where he gave up 5 or more runs, including a stretch in August where he gave up 6+ runs in 3 straight starts.

An ace is the kind of guy who even when he doesn't have it, will still have a productive start. Last year Greinke struggled overall, but 2 years ago, he had just 2 starts all year where he gave up 5 or more runs. Gallardo improved last year in this aspect, but if he wants to make the jump to elite starting pitcher, he'll have to continue to lower his bad start numbers.

The Brewers have as good a shot as anyone to win the NL Central. With the loss of Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals are very beatable. The Cincinnati Reds are young, which could lead them to regress. If Gallardo steps up and gives the Brewers a top notch 1-2, they could be contending for the division title.

Others considered: Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun: There was talk before last season that these two could be the best combo in the middle of any lineup in the league. They had decent years, but neither one really played to their potential. The Brewers need these guys to be power hitters they once were in order to carry the lineup...Rickie Weeks: He is coming off an amazing season, but everyone knew he could hit, the question is, can he stay healthy all year long? If he can I expect another monster year from Weeks...Zack Greinke: I touched on it before, but he's coming off of a down year. The Brewers needs him to return to Cy Young form at the top of their rotation.

Quick side note: I'm going to go one team at a time, but still put two up per day. This gives more space for each team, and easier for sort-ability.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians  Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers  Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers New York Yankees


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