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In 2004 the Milwaukee Brewers finished last in the NL Central for the third consecutive season and failed to win 70 games for the fourth straight season. They scored the second fewest runs in the National League and they had the fourth-lowest attendance in the NL, despite playing in their relatively new stadium, Miller Park. Should we expect anything to change this year?

The Richie Sexson trade was the cornerstone event of the 2004 season, as GM Doug Melvin was going to be judged on the performance of the return for Sexson in Milwaukee. Melvin basically had to trade Sexson, as Milwaukee couldn’t afford to resign him when he became a free agent following the 2004 season. Rather than waiting for the trading deadline and hoping for a bidding war, Melvin decided to pull the trigger in the offseason and hope for a larger return due to six months of Sexson, as opposed to two.

Melvin traded Sexson, along with Shane Nance and Noochie Varner, to Arizona for a package of players that consisted of Junior Spivey, Lyle Overbay, Craig Counsell, Chad Moeller, Chris Capuano and Jorge de la Rosa. While 2004 may have not been a particularly good year the trade itself could hardly have worked out better for Melvin, Gord Ash and company. Sexson only had 90 at-bats with Arizona with a .296 GPA before injuring his shoulder and knocking himself out for the rest of the season. Had this happened while he was with Milwaukee, they’d have received nothing for him in return. The key parts of the return for the Brewers were contributors for the 2004 season. Junior Spivey and Lyle Overbay recorded .267 and .293 GPAs respectively, and those two players plus Counsell created 176 runs to Sexson’s 19. While Sexson left for Seattle’s too-green pastures in free agency, Milwaukee still controls five of the six players they received in return.

Milwaukee made four key moves this offseason. The first was the signing of Damian Miller and the other three were trades, one with the White Sox, one with Oakland and the last with Atlanta. Milwaukee dealt Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino to the White Sox for Carlos Lee; Danny Kolb to Atlanta for Jose Capellan and Keith Ginter to Oakland for Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz. The impact of those moves will be discussed below. Milwaukee was quiet in free agency, aside from Miller, only making several minor league free agent signings. If you have mistaken impressions of Rick Helling’s ability, I can assure the impact of these moves with be very minimal

We’ll start this analysis of this preview by breaking down the 2004 offensive season in a chart, using the position players the Brewers used for the majority of the season. The chart will contain the 2004 Brewers roster for position players, and will detail their GPA, RC/27 and VORP. I will then give the projected numbers for my predicted 2005 roster.

2004 Season:

Player			Position	GPA		RC/27		VORP	
Starting Lineup
Chad Moeller		C		.195		2.13		-10.7
Lyle Overbay	 	1B		.292		6.82		53.5
Junior Spivey 		2B		.267		5.16		15.1
Craig Counsell		SS		.227		3.98		8.7
Wes Helms		3B		.239		3.90		3.4
Geoff Jenkins		LF		.265		5.12		26.1
Scott Podsednik		CF		.232		4.43		19.3
Brady Clark		RF		.273		5.58		22.0


Gary Bennett		C		.216		3.00		-0.3
Bill Hall		IF		.218		3.44		2.5
Keith Ginter		IF		.270		5.51		27.7
Russell Branyan		IF		.277		6.06		10.8
Ben Grieve		OF		.268		5.63		12.5
Chris Magruder		OF		.238		3.71		0.6
2005 Projected Roster
Player			Position	GPA*		RC/27*		VORP**
Starting Lineup
Damian Miller		C		.241		4.3		5.2
Lyle Overbay	 	1B		.287		6.6		18.9
Junior Spivey 		2B		.270		5.5		20.0
J.J. Hardy		SS		.255		4.9		19.8
Russell Branyan		3B		.277		5.8		17.2
Carlos Lee		LF		.282		6.2		25.7
Brady Clark		CF		.259		5.0		1.5
Geoff Jenkins		RF		.274		5.8		16.2


Chad Moeller		C		.225		3.6		4.0
Bill Hall		IF		.222		3.4		6.5
Wes Helms		IF		.254		4.9		6
Matt Erickson		IF		.236		3.9		0***
Chris Magruder		OF		.237		4.0		5.1
Dave Krynzel		OF		.238		4.1		0***

*Projections based on Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projection which can be found here. His work is much appreciated.

** Based on Baseball Prospectus’ projection system

*** Indicates no projection available, not that the player has the same projected value as a replacement player.


Damian Miller was signed to a two-year $7-million deal by the Brewers in the offseason. This move was debated amongst statheads, with some arguing that the Brewers paid a pretty fair price for a decent catcher with a good defensive reputation and others wondering what signing an aging 35-year old catcher to an expensive contract would do for a rebuilding franchise. Not paying close attention to Milwaukee’s budgetary situation and assuming that it wasn’t vastly prohibitive, I like the Miller move.

Not many people expect Miller to duplicate his 2004 season, but a line that resembles the above projections will provide a noticeable lineup upgrade for Milwaukee over Moeller. As you can see, Moeller was a huge weakness in last year’s lineup. There weren’t many good free agent catchers available, and once one looked past Miller, A.J. Pierzynski, Mike Matheny and Gregg Zaun one was left with names like Mike Redmond and Henry Blanco. Miller has a good defensive reputation, which includes a good knowledge of how to handle pitchers, which should be especially valuable in Milwaukee. Combining those elements and the Miller signing is certainly defensible, especially given that Milwaukee’s hesitancy to spend their money elsewhere.

First Base

One of the biggest questions facing the Brewers offence is can Lyle Overbay come close to repeating what he did in 2004? ZIPS says yes, and PECOTA says no (although PECOTA’s line for him isn’t that far off what he did last year, so I’m not sure why the VORP fell so dramatically). A large attrition by Overbay, who led the NL in doubles in 2004, could come close to offsetting the gains Milwaukee will likely see at several other offensive positions. It will be very interesting to see if Overbay’s slight power surge remains with his for the coming years. I don’t expect him to do what he did last year, but a VORP anywhere close to 18 would surprise me.

Although Melvin acted quickly in flipping Danny Kolb and Podsednik, I wonder if it might not have been wise to trade Overbay this offseason, as well. Prince Fielder will force the Brewers to make a move soon, likely by the 2006 season. Fielder cannot play anywhere else on the diamond and I’d be surprised if Overbay could either. Melvin will likely have a nice trading chip this offseason with Overbay being a quality and inexpensive first baseman, but his value may have been the highest following the 2004 season. A trade could have netted Milwaukee a nice return, and they could easily have signed a stopgap like Travis Lee for this season. Alternatively, they could have used Corey Hart or Brad Nelson at first this year, and then moved them back to the outfield for 2006. Milwaukee’s not going anywhere this season, so while a trade may have rubbed some fans the wrong way it might have been the smart baseball decision.

Second Base

Junior Spivey should roughly duplicate what he did last year for three and a half months and end up playing for the Yankees by late July.


I expect J.J. Hardy to win the shortstop job over Bill Hall in spring training and have a relatively good rookie year. It also won’t be suprising to see Hardy start out slowly and have some prolonged slumps after only gaining 100 at-bats last year in Triple-A Indianapolis. However, when all is said and done, Hardy will have had a solid season for a shortstop and will provide another offensive boost for the Brewer offence. Even a year of rookie struggles by Hardy would be better than another year of Counsell as the starter. Hardy’s also supposed to be very smooth at short, with a good glove and an outstanding arm. He’ll lose the NL ROY award to Jeff Francis or Chris Burke, but he should show up on some ballots.

Third Base

The Brewers must have enough sense to hand this job to Russell Branyan, right? Right? If I was a Brewer fan my offseason nightmares would have consisted heavily of an announcer feigning excitement while telling me that the starter at the hot corner was Wes Helms. If Melvin, Ash and Yost are sensible enough to give the job to Branyan then he will provide a huge boost over Wes Helms in the lineup, giving the Brewers a nice power bat to slot into the six hole in the lineup. He’s no Brooks Robinson with the glove but neither was Helms and any loss there will be minimal and an absolutely inexcusable reason to keep Branyan from starting. As long as they can overlook a low batting average and some big swings-and-misses Brewers management should enjoy this Three True Outcomes hero.

Left Field

I think Lee will take over in left for Jenkins and push him across the outfield to the other corner. Brady Clark will move to centerfield, which really gives the Brewers new starters at every outfield position itself, but only one new outfielder. To avoid being an idiot, I’ll compare Carlos Lee to the man he was traded for, Scott Podsednik, and not Geoff Jenkins.

Podsednik had a great 2003 season which caused Baseball Prospectus 2004 to write, “If [the Brewers] sign him to a four year deal instead, you’ll know Doug Melvin’s taken a big step backwards.” The Brewers took a wait-and-see approach with the scrappy centerfielder, and he took a big step backwards in 2004. Melvin decided that the 2004 Podsednik was closer to the real Podsenik than the 2003 version was, and astutely flipped him while his 2003 season was still fresh in the mind of Ken Williams.

In the world of baseball clichés Carlos Lee is a proven hitter in his prime, but really that’s not very far from the truth. Lee’s not cheap at around $7 million but he’s also going to hit close to .300, walk at a decent clip and slug the ball consistently like no Milwaukee hitter since Richie Sexson. Lee’s likely to post a line resembling .285/.355/.500 line and Podsednik might post a similar average, but it will be fairly empty. This was an astute move by the Brewers, even if Lee does leave at the end of the year.

Center Field

Brady Clark won’t be around when the Brewers are finally contending again and on a good team he’s not a starting outfielder. However, he’s got some good fourth outfielder qualities and one of those is the ability to play all three outfield positions decently well. As such, he’s contending for the centerfield job and he should win it in spring training given that he’s not a bad player and he played over his head last year. I expect he’ll begin to lose playing time in the last few months of this season as his numbers won’t be as good as last year’s and the front office wants to evaluate Krynzel to find out whether he can hit major league pitching.

Right Field

I actually forgot how good Geoff Jenkins used to be. In his first two seasons in the majors he posted OPS+ of 133 and 138. As a 25-year-old he hit 34 homers, slugged .588, was hit by 15 pitches and was 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts. Jenkins spent the next two years battling nagging injuries and then had a good 2003 campaign where he missed a month with a hurt thumb. Just as you were ready to write him off as a Nick Johnson/J.D. Drew perpetually injured player he finally had a healthy 2004, where he played as is he was hurt. Here’s a recap of his career OPS+:

		OPS+	How’s he doing?	
1998		75	Rookie
1999		133	Healthy	
2000		138	Healthy
2001		105	Hurt
2002		103	Hurt
2003		133	Healthy (Relatively)
2004		108	Healthy

The Brewers finally got him healthy and he responded by having a disappointing season. He seems like he’d be a good candidate to trade, but just when he got healthy enough to shake his injured label he drove down his trade value by underperforming. A healthy and productive 2005 would go a long ways to restoring his value, and he could be flipped at the deadline. This would also allow the Brewers to bring up Nelson or Hart to take his place. However, given as the Brewers do intend on competing someday they’ll need to find an experienced bat somewhere, and it would be tough to trade Overbay and Jenkins and lose Lee to free agency. Trading Jenkins may allow the team to throw some extra money at Lee to attempt to persuade him to stick around in Wisconsin.


Obviously, these are all guesses on my part. For example, Krynzel could likely be sent to Triple-A if he doesn’t win the starting CF job, which I don’t think he will. However, I also think he’ll end up spending most of the season on the major league roster, and as such have included him as a reserve. Bill Hall could win the starting SS job away from J.J. Hardy which would send Hardy to Indianapolis, but I don’t believe he will do that. Hall’s not a bad infield reserve at this point, as he’s multi-positioned and cheap. He’s not going to wow you with his bat but backup infielders don’t have to.

Chad Moeller should return, but this time in a much more reasonable role as Milwaukee’s backup catcher. If Miller or Moeller gets injured Mark Johnson or Pat Borders are likely to fill in as a replacement. Wes Helms can back up the infield corners competently and Chris Magruder will reprise his role as below-average outfield reserve, although Krynzel should get more of the playing time. Other candidates for the last couple of spots time include Matt Erickson, Trent Durrington, Steve Scarborough and Jeff Cirillo. I’m going to guess Erickson ends up in the sixth spot. Cirillo is made redundant with Helms on the bench and he’s also struggled mightily the last few years. Milwaukee would likely like a versatile infielder to fill out the sixth spot, and I think Scarborough’s 24 errors at Indianapolis last year give Erickson the edge and the eventual bench spot.

2004 regular pitching staff:

Player			Position	ERA		K/BB		VORP
Starting Rotation
Ben Sheets		SP		2.70		8.25		66.8
Doug Davis	 	SP		3.39		2.10		48.8
Chris Capuano		SP		4.99		2.16		1.6
Victor Santos		SP		4.97		2.02		3.6
Wes Obermueller		SP		5.80		1.40		-4.5


Dan Kolb		RP		2.98		1.40		14.3
Luis Vizcaino		RP		3.75		2.63		10.6
Jeff Bennett		RP		4.79		1.73		2.2
Mike Adams		RP		3.40		2.79		12.6
Dave Burba		RP		4.08		1.96		8.8
Matt Kinney		RP		5.78		2.26		-1.3
Brooks Kieschnick	RP		3.77		2.15		8.2
2005 Projected Roster
Player			Position	ERA		K/BB*		VORP**
Starting Rotation
Ben Sheets		SP		3.19		5.02		54.7
Doug Davis	 	SP		4.08		1.91		18.6
Victor Santos 		SP		4.47		2.01		6.3
Chris Capuano		SP		4.08		2.41		14.7
Ben Hendrickson		SP		3.95		2.31		0***


Ricky Bottalico		RP		3.97		1.70		6.6
Mike Adams		RP		4.15		2.39		7.4
Matt Wise		RP		3.84		3.56		7.9
Jorge de la Rosa	RP		4.46		1.78		0***
Justin Lehr		RP		4.50		1.68		8.2
Brooks Kieschnick	RP		4.58		2.00		4.4

*Calculated from the aforementioned ZIPS projection system.

** Based on Baseball Prospectus’ projection system

*** Indicates no projection available, not that the player has the same projected value as a replacement player.

Starting Rotation

These comments will be briefer, as I’m probably running long and I want to comment on the minors. Obviously Ben Sheets is incredibly important to the Brewers and last year he was dominant with a ridiculous K/BB ratio. He’s projected to regress slightly, but even that ERA is likely to be right around the top 5 in the NL. Doug Davis had good results last year without very good peripherals, was rewarded with a 2-year contract and is unsurprisingly expected to return to Earth this year. While Milwaukee is making steps forward, the fact he’s their number two starter is an indication of how far they still have to come. Victor Santos will likely roughly maintain his 2004 level, and a full season of an improving Chris Capuano should help the rotation. Ben Hendrickson, who put up a 2.02 ERA in Indianapolis last year, should win the last rotation spot over challengers like Obermueller and Helling. I expect him to have a good rookie campaign, although I’m not as bullish as ZIPS is. Hendrickson throws in the low 90’s with a nice curve, although apparently his throwing motion for the curve puts noticeable strain on his elbow and Hendrickson has been reluctant to change this. I am unsure if or how this has been resolved and it certainly bears watching in the upcoming season.


While the rotation should at least be equivalent to last year’s the bullpen will be weaker in 2005 due to the loss of the Brewers two best relievers through trades. Ricky Bottalico seems like the most viable candidate for closer on the team, and he will be competing against holdovers Mike Adams and Matt Wise for the job of collecting saves. Wise isn’t on the 2004 roster list but he pitched over 50 innings for the BrewCrew last year (and yes I’m aware there are technically 26 players over the two 2004 rosters but I was tired of debating whether to remove Magruder or Kinney). Bottalico, Wise and Adams won’t be as good as Kolb, Vizcaino and Adams, but they’ll provide a better back-end of the bullpen then you’d expect when you hear their names.

Jorge de la Rosa is out of options, so he will be given every opportunity to make the team. I think he will and will be kept as the long man in the bullpen, although he should make some starts during the season when Santos, Capuano or Hendrickson struggle or face injury. Justin Lehr will likely serve as the middle-innings reliever and Brooks Kieschnick will continue his double-duties as pitcher, pinch-hitter and occasional outfielder, for which he doesn’t get enough credit.

Other candidates to make the bullpen include last year’s Rule V pick Jeff Bennett, Wes Obermueller, Rick Helling, Gary Glover and waiver claim Derrick Turnbow. Obermueller or Turnbow seem like the most likely candidates to spend time with the Brewers to me. I’d expect Turnbow to spend some time with the club this year, either when another pitcher gets injured or when the Brewers decide to go with a 12-man bullpen and send down Erickson, Magruder or another player. This is something the Brewers might do more than other NL teams given Kieschnick’s ability to do double-duty.

Minor Leagues

The Brewers have one of the best minor league systems in the game, and Baseball America (BA) rates it as one of the top five in baseball, along with the Angels, Braves, Dodgers and Twins. The front end of the system is especially impressive, with Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder forming one of the top one-two combinations in the game. Both had somewhat disappointing seasons in 2004 and are still the eight and fifteenth best prospects in the game, according to BA. Fielder projects to be a slugging first baseman much like his famous father, and apparently he has his weight issues under some control. It’s an indication of a hitter’s potential when he can have an .839 OPS in Double-A as a 20-year-old and it’s labelled as a disappointing season. Fielder’s got a special bat and he’s given Milwaukee personnel another glimpse of it this spring with 2 homers and 9 RBIs in his first eleven at-bats, including a 450-ft home run. Weeks is a good hitter with an outstanding work ethic and projects to be one of the top second basemen in the game before too long. He had an OPS under .800 at Double-A Huntsville last year with an unexpectedly high number of strikeouts. Like Fielder he is also having a solid spring and there is nothing at this point to indicate that his struggles last year are part of a larger problem.

Behind those two comes Jose Capellan, who the Brewers acquired astutely for Dan Kolb. Capellan may end up in the bullpen down the road, but he’s a promising prospect and could still easily wind up in the rotation. There’s talk of him breaking camp with the Brewers but I think he’ll end up in Indianapolis for most of the year, but he will play in Milwaukee this season. Brad Nelson is a first baseman who was moved to the outfield in Huntsville last year to let Fielder play first. He had a disappointing year, but he’ll go to Triple-A along with Fielder, Weeks and Capellan. They’ll join corner outfielder Corey Hart, who hit well (.281/.342/.485) in Indianapolis last year. I don’t see Hart making the team out of spring training as he can’t play center and he’s not going to displace Lee or Jenkins in April. However, a trade in July or Lee’s departure in the winter will clear a space for Hart. With all these players in Triple-A, Indianapolis will be interesting to keep an eye on this year, and the Brewers should add several promising prospects to the major league team by 2006.

This year will be an important one for Anthony Gwynn, who’ll likely play in Huntsville. This centerfielder with good defensive abilities will have to start to hit, or else his prospect status will begin to vanish for good. I’ll be surprised if he ever turns into anything more than a fourth outfielder and expect a career that emulates his uncle’s, not his father’s. Other prospects to watch in Milwaukee’s system include catcher Lou Palmisano, second baseman Hernan Iribarren (slugged a combined .637 with a .470 OBP in 256 at-bats between Rookie Ball and the Midwest League), first round draft-pick from 2004 Mark Rogers, southpaw Manny Parra, outfielder Nelson Cruz (received in the Ginter deal) and Helena Brewers MVP Steve Sollman.


Although Mick’s prediction yesterday may have caused me to think twice, I’m going with 75 wins and fourth place in the NL Central.

2005 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Andrew S - Sunday, March 13 2005 @ 10:16 AM EST (#105968) #
<i>Milwaukee dealt Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino to the White Sox for Scott Podsednik</i>

That wasn't the way I remember it. ;)
Mike Green - Sunday, March 13 2005 @ 12:14 PM EST (#105971) #
Excellent summary, Thomas. I agree completely in all respects.

If all goes well for the Brewers, they can compete in 06. For now, the players to watch are Hendrickson, Capellan, Fielder, Weeks and Hardy.
Thomas - Sunday, March 13 2005 @ 04:30 PM EST (#106009) #
Thanks Andrew, that's been fixed.

Sorry to anyone whose mind I blew at the prospect of trading Scott Podsednik for himself, while throwing in Luis Vizcaino for the privelege of doing so.
2005 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.