As the Brewers open their 2010 campaign on Monday, I thought I'd put together a "Top Ten" list of things they must do to make the playoffs, in descending order from least important to most important:
10. Carlos Gomez needs to prove he's worthy of being an every day player--Gomez only had 315 AB's for the Twins last year, and will need to show Doug Melvin and Ken Macha that he can get on base, even if he does bat 9th. He won't be able to replace Mike Cameron's power, so he'll need to be at least as effective defensively, and build upon his .287 OBP to keep Jim Edmonds on the bench.
9. Gregg Zaun needs to prove he's an upgrade over Jason Kendall--While it is hard to determine if Zaun will be a better pitch caller, his 27 RBI's in 262 AB's last year were a better rate than Kendall's 43 over 452 AB's. Kendall's .992 fielding percentage at the position last year was better than Zaun's .984 with the O's, which he upped with the Rays to .994. Zaun has a slight edge in OBP as well: .345 to .331 for Kendall. Zaun, like Gomez, needs to show he is good enough to start 5-6 games per week.
8. Doug Davis needs to prove he's more than an "innings eater"--while Davis averaged almost 6 IP/start, his 4-7, 4.40 mark outside of Chase Field last year--along with his 1.51 WHIP--are mediocre at best. While Davis can pitch 6 innings per start, he needs to keep his runs down to 2 or 3 per 6 IP if the Brewers are to contend.
7. The bullpen needs to hold leads in innings 6 to 8--The Brewers relied heavily on their bullpen in '09, posting the 5th highest relief IP in the majors. And while the '09 bullpen had a winning record and an ERA below 4.00, relievers Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva, and Mitch Stetter need to bounce back from their '10 Cactus League performances in order for the pen to sustain or improve upon '09's numbers.
6. Alcides Escobar needs to prove he's an upgrade over J.J. Hardy--Escobar will hit out of the #2 spot, meaning he'll need to have an OBP at .350 or above, as well as come close to Hardy's .983 fielding percentage in '09 (Escobar committed 6 errors over 300 innings to Hardy's 8 over 949.33 innings).
5. Casey McGehee needs to prove 2009 was not a fluke--improving upon his rate of 66 RBI's in just 355 AB's may be impossible if McGehee stays an everyday player, but, as a #5 hitter, he'll get plenty of opportunities to drive in Ryan Braun and/or Prince Fielder...keeping his .360 OBP from '09 is critical.
4. Yovani Gallardo needs to pitch well the entire season--'09 saw Gallardo's only season of three where he started 20 games or more, and YoGa delivered with a 13-12, 3.73 mark, including 204 K's; not only does Gallardo need to stay healthy throughout 2010 for the Brewers to contend, he needs to pitch better on the road, improving upon his 5-6, 4.38 numbers outside of Miller Park in '09.
3. Randy Wolf needs to pitch well at Miller Park--Wolf was 7-4, 2.78 outside of pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium in 2009, but 4-3, 3.63 at home. If Wolf can at least duplicate his home ERA for the half of his starts at homer friendly Miller Park, his acquisition will improve the Brewers' chances of making the postseason.
2. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder need to stay healthy and productive--Let's be honest--both these guys staying healthy and productive are critical to making the playoffs. Even one 15-day stint on the DL could be enough to test the confidence of the other players. Fielder batting .234 in April helped contribute to the Crew not reaching the .500 mark until they were 10-10 on April 28th. While no one can quantify the impact his "slump" had on they psyche of some of the other players and fans, a longer slump by either Braun or Fielder in 2010 could eat at some players' confidence.
1. Rickie Weeks needs to become a great leadoff hitter (as well as stay healthy)--I put Weeks' role as the leadoff hitter as the most critical, because home runs by Braun and Fielder mean considerably less if there is no one on base at the time. Weeks' .340 OBP in the 37 games he played before his injury was his lowest since '05, 5th among Brewers' starters (behind Fielder, Braun, McGehee and Cameron), and well below his replacement, Felipe Lopez, who posted a .383 OBP for the Crew last season. If Weeks' struggles out of the gate, either Escobar or Lopez are ready to step in as the leadoff hitter...but Weeks needs to finally establish himself as the first-round draft pick and veteran and team leader for this team to win.
That's what I think. Are their any that you'd add or rank differently?