What they did in 2009: 80-82, third in the NL Central. 9-5 vs. the Pirates.
How they spent the off-season: Desperately trying to shore up their depleted pitching staff. They accomplished this at least to a degree by signing Randy Wolf and Doug Davis, plus adding LaTroy Hawkins to their bullpen. They also traded JJ Hardy to the Twins after a terrible season to make room for prospect Alcides Escobar. In return, the suddenly well-traveled Carlos Gomez is now a Brewer.
Lineup: This is obviously their strength, with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder mashing in the middle of their order. They scored 785 runs, third best in the NL last year, though that was with Mike Cameron in center and an extended appearance by Felipe Lopez at second. Gomez is obviously an offensive downgrade in center and Rickie Weeks is a huge question mark with his health issues at second. A bounce back season by Cory Hart could help mitigate that, though, and the Brewers should still have an impressive offense in 2010.
Rotation and bullpen: Wolf isn’t a bad pickup, but the Brewers paid an awful lot for him and given that they’re still saddled with Jeff Suppan’s awful contract that decision seems questionable at best. The problem the Brewers have is that they gave up almost 900 runs in 2009, which means that Randy Wolf and Doug Davis just might not be enough to make a real difference for them. The key may lie in guys like Suppan, Manny Parra, and Dave Bush, who were all pretty terrible last year, upping their performance.
What they can expect in 2010: Honestly, it’s not at all apparent to me that this team is going to be better in 2010 than they were in 2009. Fielder and Braun are awesome, but they’re also the only two guys the Brewers can count on in their lineup heading into the season. Hart and Weeks have been inconsistent at best to this point in their careers, and Gomez and Escobar are huge question marks at the plate even if their gloves are excellent. I’ll admit that the pitching staff is getting better (it can’t get much worse), but it’s got a significant gap to cross and if the offense doesn’t hit the 785 run watermark that it hit last year, it could be an even bigger gap. If the division improves a bit, they could take a tumble in the standings. Of course, there is enough talent here to put together a run back to the playoffs, I’m just not exactly counting on that. Don’t misread me, though; even if they drop to fourth place and 75 wins, they’ll still own the Pirates and do their stupid untucked shirts thing, which will get Pirate fans all angry and make their fans will laugh at us for being desperate for any sort of even slightly meaningful baseball, which is of course the appropriate reaction no matter how much it pisses us off and … ugh. One day this will be a two-sided rivalry and that’ll be a lot more fun for everyone involved. Until then, we just have to keep taking our lumps and the laughter that comes with it.