One game does not an ace make, but apparently Ben Sheets is the shit. Assuming this is true, if he can pitch like he did in 2002, he might just win 17 to 20 games. This bodes well for all those folks who made the Brewers the en vogue pick to win the division this year. This got me thinking: "why?" Deep, I know. Well, the first thing that jumps out at me from their depth chart is a certain degree of veteran depth all over the field. If, say, Rickie Weeks or Corey Hart doesn't pan out you've got Craig Counsell, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix on the bench. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to win a world series with Those three guys as my anchors, but they are certainly good hole-pluggers in a loooong baseball season. Of course, I can't help but notice that the starters on this team aren't really going to blow any wind up your skirt (assuming you want wind blown up your skirt). Bill Hall did hit 35 HR last year, but they traded away Carlos Lee and now don't appear to have anybody in the everyday lineup who can even sniff hitting .300. Doesn't every team need at least one guy who gets on base regularly? Maybe Rickie Weeks keeps getting hits .300 and scores 100 runs, and maybe Prince Fielder and Bill Hall both break the 30 HR barrier, but I'm not sure how confident I am that any of those things happen. That said, far be it for me to criticize this young talent. They should certainly be fun to watch.
Heading to the mound is a slightly different story. Sheets is nasty, but has shown to be injury prone the past two years. Chris Capuano is basically a just-above-average type pitcher. And, of course there's Jeff Suppan who parlayed a World Series victory into a $42 million contract for a career 4.61 ERA pitcher. Congratulations, Jeff, you just hit the lottery. Which raises a big question for a few teams this year: what do you expect out of your wildly overpriced aging free-agent pitcher? It's a total crapshoot when you look at guys like Suppan, Gil Meche, Ted Lilly and Jason Schmidt. However, resting on their laurels, trying not to get hurt and coasting through the season appears like the most likely option. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed like every one of these contracts made most baseball fans who are paying attention look like they just sucked the juice out of a lemon. I hope I'm wrong, because there's nothing more disheartening than seeing a highly-paid athlete taking plays/games/seasons off. But, what Suppan brings to the table remains to be seen. Maybe we'll get some indication tonight in his first start.
This Brewers team is full of questions with a young lineup and a pitching staff that could really go any number of ways. I think this is why people are picking them so often. Every writer wants to be the guy who says "See? I knew Bill Hall would hit 40 homers this year. I'm a genius and you're an idiot." Thus, I'm not picking them. I'm going to say that they'll stay in the Wild Card chase until the last week of the season but eventually fall short of the playoffs. Still, lots of hope for the future with this team.