Thursday, March 29, 2007

NL Central Preview - Chopper

Here’s an amalgamation of all my Brewer Breakdowns along with a NL Central preview.

2007 Crew - The GOOD:
- Starting Pitching: The rotation is deep, experienced and healthy…for now.
- Depth: It wasn’t too long ago reserves like Gabe Gross, Craig Counsell, Zach Jackson and Damien Miller would be everyday starters.
- Youngsters: Although not completely polished, guys like Weeks, Prince, Hall and Hart all have all-start potential…and should get better, not worse.
- Position Upgrades: The ’07 version of the Brewers should be better at C, CF, Closer (A full year of CoCo), and #3 starter (Suppan).
- Closer: CoCo Cordero was lights out in a Crewr uniform. No more 9th inning meltdowns by Turnblow.
- Health: Knock on wood, JJ, Ricky and Ben are out of the infirmary and onto the ball yard.
- Butch Wyneger: He’s gone, which can only help Brewer hitters.
- Dale Sveum: Last year’s 3B coach and his windmill-esque left arm is now the bench coach.
- Johnny “Eric” Estrada: How nice is it to have a good hitting catcher? It’s been a while.
- NL Central: Yes, the NL Central is wide open.

2007 Crew - The NOT SO GOOD:
- Strikeouts. This lineup is going to whiff a TON. 5, count ‘em 5, guys have a good shot at 100 Ks: Hall, Weeks, Prince, Jenks, and Hart. That’s reminiscent of the Sexson, Burnitz, Jose Hernandez days.
-Injuries: We are talking about the Brewers….they will have injuries.
-Defense: Only JJ and Jenks can be considered above average with the glove.
-Bullpen: Capellan and Turnbow have to have big years.
-Fundamentals: I’m talking about getting picked off bases, airmailing the cut off man allowing the opponent to take an extra base, errors, leaving a leadoff double go to waste, the pitcher not putting down a good bunt, etc. The Cardinals don’t do these things, the Brewers do.
-What about power: Prince and Hall can mash, but who else remembers this team scoring like 1 run a game after the Lee trade?
-Yost is still managing. I don’t like his moves.
- Schedule: Of course it all evens out in the end, but check out the first and last months of the season…brutal.
-Expectations: 4 ESPN “experts” pick Milwaukee to win the Central. Everybody seems to think they have 85+ win talents. I’d rather be under the radar and sneak up on teams.
- Jim Powell: He’s annoying.

All NL Central Team:

C – Michael Barrett (Cubs). Wow, not a lot to choose from here.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Estrada (Crew), Yaddy Molina (Cards)
1B – Albert Pujols (Cards). They say he's 27. Whatever...then how did he play with Jack Clark? HM: Lance Berkman (Astros), Derrek Lee (Cubs)
2B – Freddie Sanchez (Pirates). Who knew this guy won the NL batting title?
HM: Brandon Phillips (Reds), Rickie Weeks (Brewers)
SS – David Eckstein (Cards). Yikes! I’m looking for the best smelling pile of poop here…
HM: Jack Wilson (Pirates), Cesar Izturis (Cubs)
3B – Scott Rolen (Cards). If healthy, almost the best in the biz.
HM: Aramis Ramirez (Cubs), Edwin Encarnacion (Reds)

OF – Alf Soriano (Cubs). Might have roller skates in CF, but 40-40 is hard to argue against.
OF – Jason Bay (Pirates). The most underrated player in baseball. Period.
OF – Carlos Lee (Astros). Might hit 50+ bombs with that LF fence.
HM: Billy Hall (Brewers), Adam Dunn (Reds)

SP – Chris Carpenter (Cards)
SP – Roy Oswalt (Astros)
SP – Carlos Zambrano (Cubs)
SP - Bronson Arroyo (Reds)
SP – Benny Sheets (Brewers)
HM: Aaron Harang (Reds), Jeff Suppan (Brewers), Ian Snell (Pirates)

RP – Francisco Cordero (Brewers)
HM: Jason Isringhausen (Cards)

1) St Louis: 84-78

They win by default. Just can’t pick Milwaukee or Houston. The Cards still have the best hitter in baseball (Pujols), he best pitcher in the NL (Carpenter), the best defense in the division, a defensive catcher (Molina) who completely eliminates the opponents running game, and a manager (LaRussa) who can out-drink a camel.

2) Milwaukee: 83-79

I just can’t do it. Just can’t give them 2 more wins and the division.

3) Houston: 80-82

The Berkman/Lee duo is potent. Just pencil in Lee for: .280, 38 bombs, 115 RBI, 14 SB…it’s like clockwork. That 120 foot LF wall might get him 52 homers. I’m betting on bounce back years from Brad Lidge and Morgan Ensburg. Jason Jenning’s sub 4.00 ERA at Coors Launching Pad was impressive, but the end of the rotation sucks.

4) Cubs: 79-83

I don’t buy the hype. I still see Zambrano and a bunch of guys in the rotation…overpaid guys at that. Alf was a good signing. Everyone else they was iffy. Aramis is a perfect guy if he’s in a contract year after the club’s 15 games out. Lilly and Marquis are junk. Seriously, who would you rather have: Marquis for $7 million per (6.02 ERA in 06, Career: 4.48), or Tomo Okha for $2 million per year (4.84 ERA in 06, Career: 4.04)? Ryan Dempster is a 9th inning gas can. Everybody raves about the lineup, but they’ve got Jacque Jones and Michael Barrett hitting 5 and 6…yawn.

5) Pittsburgh: 76-90

I’ve picked the Buccos to break out for about 6 straight years now, why not make it 7? Looking at the numbers you would think the rotation is straight junk. It’s not. In fact, it’s full of young talent that just needs innings. The bully is also better than you think, even without Mike Gonzalez. He was traded for…your new Pirates starting first baseman, Adam LaRoche! Fred Sanchez, LaRoche and Jay Bay makes for a solid 3-4-5.

6) Reds: 73 – 89

80 wins last year was a small miracle. This team isn’t that good. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang won’t replicate their 2006 seasons. Bet on it. The lineup has a few bats with some thunder, but nobody scares you. I like the gritty Ryan Freel in CF, he’s a straight up “baseball player.” Their top 3 relievers are named Majewski, Stanton, and Stormy Weathers. That’s a problem. Look for plenty of 9-8 line scores involving the Reds this year.

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