Happy New Year, and thanks to everyone who read the site in 2009. It’s been a nice, quiet holiday for the Brewers, but here’s a look at 10 questions that face the team as they look to rebound in 2010. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but pitching is the subject of Nos. 1-3, and I didn’t even touch the uncertain season ahead for Jeff Suppan.
Here’s my No. 1 question. Check out the story for the rest:
1. Will the pitching be good enough?
Whether you believe that it was injuries to Dave Bush or Suppan, or that it was Plan Bs Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung not panning out, or simply that the rotation wasn’t strong enough to begin with, it was pretty clear that poor pitching cost the Brewers a return trip to the postseason in 2009. General manager Doug Melvin moved quickly to make the changes necessary to free payroll space for Randy Wolf’s three-year, $29.75 million contract.
There is still time for Melvin to trade for another arm or add a bargain option late in the offseason, but the Brewers enter the New Year with only one new arm in a starting rotation that combined for the National League’s worst ERA (5.37) last season. Melvin deserves credit for moving so aggressively to acquire Wolf, his top free-agent target, but as the group stands today, the Brewers are banking on another season of growth for Yovani Gallardo, bounce-backs from Manny Parra and Suppan and an injury-free year for Bush. Plenty of gambles there.
Here’s the best-case scenario for the group as it stands today: Gallardo continues his ascent to “ace” status, while Wolf has a third consecutive solid year of 30-plus starts, making him a clear upgrade over the departed Braden Looper. Parra rebounds to be at least as good as he was in 2008, when he posted a 4.39 ERA. Bush stays healthy. Suppan does, too, and has a season like he had in his last contract year, when he was 12-7 with a 4.12 ERA for the 2006 Cardinals.