Sports to the Nth Degree: What does 2009 hold for Milwaukee Brewers?

David Taintor

The Milwaukee Brewers barely squeaked into the playoffs last year and have since lost their two best pitchers, their closer and several other integral parts from last season’s team. It is because of this that many popular sports Web sites are predicting that the Brewers will not make the playoffs this coming season, and will not be one of the top 10 teams in the league.

I disagree.

Yes, the Brewers no longer have Ben Sheets, who pitched well enough to be the starter for the National League in the All-Star Game, and CC Sabathia, who was one of the most dominant pitchers to ever play the game at the end of last season.But all is not lost. The Brewer’s will have young phenom Yovani Gallardo back from injury and have just signed ex-Cardinal Braden Looper. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind the Brewers were 49-39 and in sole possession of the Wild Card spot before they traded for Sabathia. Gallardo replaces Sheets and Looper replaces Villanueva from the pre-Sabathia rotation. That, and the fact that up-and-comer Manny Parra should continue to improve, and Dave Bush’s flashes of brilliance at the end of last year suggest that this year’s rotation should be better than the one that had the Brewers 10 games over .500 in early July last year.

In the bullpen, the Brewers will see numerous changes. Closer Salomon Torres retired and relievers Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse left in free agency. These loses have been countered by a number of good moves by General Manager Doug Melvin. All-time saves leader and new Brewer closer Trevor Hoffman’s worst single-season ERA is identical to Torres’s career ERA – Hoffman should offer the Brewers more consistency at the least. Resigning waiver-wire acquisition Todd Coffey, acquiring R.J. Swindle and Jorge Julio, and giving opportunities to Tim Dillard, Mitch Stetter, and Mark DiFelice – all of whom pitched in the minor leagues for the Brewers last year – should offset the off-season bullpen loses.

The offense in 2009 will be pretty much the same as the one from 2008. All the starters – Jason Kendall, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall, Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron and Corey Hart – are returning to their same positions. The Brewers suffered a big loss when energetic bench-player Gabe Kapler signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Brewers countered that loss by signing veteran outfielder Trot Nixon to a minor league deal. In the case of injuries, the Brewers have top prospects Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar ready to fill in if injuries or poor performance diminish the play of one of the starters.

Under Ned Yost, the Brewers suffered collapses after the all-star break seemingly yearly. Melvin addressed this problem by firing Yost before the end of last season and bringing in Ken Macha, who has never won fewer than 88 games as a manager. Willie Randolph and Dale Sveum bring managerial experience to their new positions – bench coach and hitting coach, respectively.

Brewer fans have every reason to be excited about the upcoming season because their team should be contenders for the wild card spot again, if not the division crown.

Gourdoux is a sophomore print journalism major and sports editor of The Spectator.