Whether or not a team is deemed successful is determined by pre-season expectations. Last year's Milwaukee Brewers were deemed by most to be a success, as the team was expected to make the playoffs and did actually make them for the first time since '82.
But with the loss of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, Brewers' fans may, understandably, be less optimistic this year...or not. After all, the Brewers still have a corps of young and improving hitters, the addition of the all-time saves leader, plus a new manager.
As for me, having grown up in the 70's rooting for three of the losingest teams of all time: the Chicago Cubs, the University of Wisconsin football team, and the Dan Devine era Green Bay Packers (not to mention the Brewers), I've learned that it is far, far better to keep your expectations low and be pleasantly surprised than to be overly optimistic and disappointed. To that end, here are my personal expectations for the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers:
1. The '09 Brewers will finish at .500...but will not make the playoffs. The loss of Sabathia and Sheets is just too great to expect this team to return to the playoffs. That said, if all the pieces fall into place, the Brewers could make the playoffs in 2009...but expecting them to is just setting us up for a fall.
2. The Brewers will lose on Opening Day. Normally, I'd hate to be a wet blanket so early on in the season, but they are facing the reigning Cy Young winner in his home park. If Jeff Suppan and the Crew can muster a win, more power to them...just don't expect Tim Lincecum to be off, however. The one saving grace: Lincecum may be on an early season pitch count, and be pulled early...if that happens, I (and other fans) can get a bit excited.
3. The Brewers won't be better than 10-12 at the end of April. Facing a brutal April schedule of three games against the Cubs, three games in New York against the Mets, followed by three games in Philadelphia, fans might be discouraged early on in the season with the Brewers' record. Fans will need to wait, however, until May to see this team consistently above .500.
4. The Brewers might not even be at .500 at the end of May. Although 15 of the 28 May games are at home, a nine game road trip with three games apiece against the Cardinals, Astros, and Twins will likely keep the team from taking over first or second place in the standings in May.
5. Yovani Gallardo will win between 12-15 games. Everyone expects Gallardo to become the new ace of the Brewers...and he will, eventually. He should win at least 12 games in '09...but it is not realistic to expect or hope that he can carry this team to 15 victories in only his third season, especially since he only made four starts last year and seventeen the year before.
6. Rickie Weeks will have an OBP of .380 or better. Fans should expect Rickie Weeks to be the lead off hitter that we all expected him to be, based on his phenomenal college career, his experience in the big leagues, and, more recently, his .424 OBP in Cactus League play this year. The time to exorcise our disappointment in Weeks has (finally) arrived...if not, everyone deserves to be disappointed.
7. Prince Fielder will hit somewhere between 34 and 50 HR's. It is not realistic to expect Prince to best his '07 mark of 50 HR's without also expecting him to strikeout 130 or more times...but fans should expect for him to do better than the 34 HR's he hit last year, as well as hit between .276 and .288. There is a good chance he'll improve in both areas over last year...but I'm keeping my hopes in check.
8. Ryan Braun will not win the MVP award...but he will be named an All-Star again. I am expecting Braun to hit above .300--but not above .320--and 35+ HR's and over 100 runs and 100 RBI's...and be the team MVP, but not the league MVP.
These are my expectations for the 2009 Brewers...your mileage may vary. If so, please feel free to put them on display below.