81-81. The start of a new era in Milwaukee. A .500 record does not seem like much at first, until you realize it is the first season since 1992 with a non-losing record in Milwaukee. In 1992 the Brewers finished at 92-70; in 1993, 69-93. After that it was more of the same for the most part. With this .500 record comes a slew of potential star players from the minor leagues. These players should add to the base of talent general manager Doug Melvin has been building on since late 2002 through trades, waiver pickups, and midseason signings. The coaching staff is one of the tops in the league from what I have seen and heard; I have not heard negative feedback in regards to Melvin's choice for manager, Ned Yost, and Mike Maddux is quickly emerging as one of the best pitching coaches in the game. Let's take a look at the Brewers' positional players using Net Runs Above Average (NRAA) and modified OPS (mOPS):
There were only 7 below average positional players on the Brewers roster at the end of the year (Junior Spivey was left out of the table, since he finished the season in Washington). Prince Fielder is only slightly below, to the point where I would ignore mentioning him as below average, and Rickie Weeks is only below average thanks to a thumb injury that sapped his power in mid-August. Take a look at this graph of his mOPS by month. Notice the sharp decline in August.
The line by itself is deceiving thanks to the zoom, so make sure to study the numbers as well. I expect Rickie Weeks, if completely healthy, to be the best positional player on the Brewers in 2006. The lineup is very balanced as you can see from the first table, with Jenkins, Overbay, Clark, Bill Hall, Carlos Lee and Damian Miller all expected to start in 2006. J.J. Hardy should improve and make the lineup even better. [Note: Overbay was dealt to the Blue Jays in exchange for David Bush, Zack Johnson and Gabe Gross. Prince Fielder will take over at first base.]
The Brewers rotation is very good to be blunt. Ace Ben Sheets was injured during much of the season, and the Brewers most likely missed out on winning around 85 games because of it. Doug Davis had an excellent follow up to his 2004 campaign. Chris Capuano, one of the key pieces from the Richie Sexson trade from 2003, logged 219 innings with a 3.99 ERA. Tomo Ohka, picked up in a midseason trade from the Nationals in exchange for Junior Spivey, threw 126 league average quality innings for the Brewers. Those three plus a healthy Sheets is a very good, even potentially great, rotation. Sheets was held to 156.7 innings in 2005, but posted a 3.33 ERA with 141 strikeouts to only 25 walks. [Note: David Bush gives the Brewers a solid #3 option in the rotation in their #5 spot. Things just keep getting better and better for the Brew Crew.] Check out the projected 2006 rotation with their 2005 ERA+:
- Ben Sheets - 127
- Doug Davis - 110
- Chris Capuano - 106
- Tomo Ohka - 103
- David Bush - 99
The future is certainly looking bright for the Brewers, and the main reason for that is thanks to Doug Melvin, whose work on the waiver wire and trade block have certainly built the beginnings of a bright future for the first time in years in Milwaukee.
For all of you Brewers fans out there, be sure to check out Jeff's work over at Brew Crew Ball, an SB Nation sister site. Here is a discussion as to what to do with the 2007 roster if they end up successful in 2006.