As is my custom for these series previews, I asked the manager of our SB Nation opponent's site, Brew Crew Ball, Derek Harvey, to write 200 or 300 words about his team.
He sent me more than 750 words. But they are good, useful and informative words! Here they are:
The Milwaukee Brewers are currently in a state of transition. For years owner Mark Attanasio promised the fans that his goal was to bring a championship home. And honestly, I think it wasn't just lip service. He consistently poured money into this small market team just trying to hang on to the magic they found in 2008 and 2011. Unfortunately it just wasn't working. And for the better, it seems that Mark A has finally accepted that he needs to take a step back competitively before he can leap forward. So now the Brewers are rebuilding. It started last year with the blockbuster trade that sent OF Carlos Gomez and RHP Mike Fiers to Houston for OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana, LHP Josh Hader, and RHP Adrian Houser. There were also smaller trades made by departing GM Doug Melvin. But that's the one people will be talking about five years down the road. After the season end, Melvin stood down from the post he held for 13 years and handing the job over to young David Stearns -- formerly Assistant General Manager of the Houston Astros. We didn't know what to expect from the current youngest GM in baseball. But by the time spring training started, Stearns had garnered a reputation for being an active trader. He took over in October of last year and by the end of April had made nine trades and changed over the 40-man roster by some twenty players. They weren't all big moves, but the Brewers did get some pretty intriguing players -- SS Isan Diaz and C Jacob Nottingham to be exact. Perhaps the best part is the Brewers still have some of their biggest trade chips: C Jonathan Lucroy, LHP Will Smith, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, and perhaps a few others. But it's not the specific players involved that matter as much as the fact that Stearns has shown he's willing to try anything. He's brought in so many new players, the odds are that some of them will pan out. It's exactly the approach a rebuilding team needs to take. And even though we know it might take years, we excited about the future of this franchise. And that's honestly not something we could have said even just 12 months ago. Of course the downside--if you can call it that--is that the Brewers will not be competitive this year. They still have good players--C Lucroy, RF Santana, LF Ryan Braun, 1B Chris Carter are all effective offensive players. New acquisition SS Jonathan Villar is looking good in the early going which is very encouraging considering his raw skill set. Even 2B Scooter Gennett is looking like he's figuring things out. If they can add some effective hitters to 3B and CF they might even have one of the better offenses in the National League--until more trades come of course. The problem is the pitching. The rotation looks a mess. RHP Wily Peralta can't seem to take that ever elusive step forward with his command and changeup. RHP Taylor Jungmann is struggling in his first full season at the major league level. RHPs Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson have looked alright. For a while they went with a four man rotation because RHP Matt Garza hit the DL at the end of spring training. Now in his spot is RHP Zach Davies -- acquired from the Orioles last year for OF Gerardo Parra. He's a command over stuff guy and has been struggling out of the gates. But he did well for the Brewers in September of last year and I'm hopeful he can rebound. If it were healthy I honestly believe we'd be talking about the Brewers bullpen as one of the best in baseball. Unfortunately two of their top relievers -- LHP Will Smith and RHP Corey Knebel--are on the DL with no estimated return date yet to be established. In addition to them, RHP Zach Jones and LHP Sean Nolin are on the 60-day disabled list -- the latter of which is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery. So the Brewers were in a position to give spots to guys like LHP Chris Capuano, LHP Sam Freeman, RHP Blaine Boyer, and RHP Carlos Torres. It's a pretty big step down in quality. As you might imagine, most Brewers fans are more focused on what might be in 3+ years. The win-loss record doesn't matter to me this year. I'm trying to focus on individual performance and hoping to see some guys break out or take steps forward. And if it all goes well, in three years the Brewers should be pretty close to where the Cubs are now. That's the hope anyway.
Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 4.00 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 2.62 FIP) vs. Jimmy Nelson (3-1, 3.46 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 5.76 FIP)
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (4-0, 0.87 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, 2.81 FIP) vs. Taylor Jungmann (0-3, 8.47 ERA, 1.824 WHIP, 5.24 FIP)
Thursday: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.98 ERA, 0.841 WHIP, 3.36 FIP) vs. Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72 ERA, 2.520 WHIP, 5.43 FIP)
Oh, man, look at those Brewers ERAs and WHIPs. Horrific. All three of these pitchers are better than that, but they have been hit hard so far. Between Nelson, Jungmann and Davies, they have given up 38 runs this year. The entire Cubs pitching staff has allowed 51 runs. Since I have promised not to predict sweeps here, I'll call for two of three.
The Atlanta Braves come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Friday afternoon.