I’m sorry Brewer fans, let me apologize in advance. While it pains me to start the baseball season off on a sour note, I hope we can all agree this season has the makings to be another emotional roller-coaster. Another love-hate relationship.
Unfortunately for Wisconsinites, Game 1 included more downs than ups. Coming off a supposed “fantastic spring,” Jeff Suppan, who was controversially tabbed as the Opening Day starter, seemingly outlasted reigning NL CY Winner Tim Lincecum before imploding, surrendering 6 runs in 4 innings. The Brewer hitters had the erratic Giant-ace on the ropes early, forcing his exit after a mere 3 innings and 78 pitches. With a 5-3 lead, however, Suppan and the rest of the pitching staff struggled to record some much-needed scoreless innings. Seth Clung went 2 innings allowing one run. Dave Bush followed, allowing one in two frames. And newcomer Jorge Julio capped it off, giving up another in his lone inning of work. It should also be noted that both Bush and Julio allowed first-pitch bombs to Bengie Molina and Randy Winn, respectively. Analyzing the 10-6 defeat, obviously poor pitching, but also strikeouts in key situations were the two eye-popping flaws of the team right out of the gate. Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall and Jason Kendall accounted for 10 of the team’s 11 strikeouts and 18 of the 26 men left on base. The high strikeout totals are particularly disturbing too, because coming into camp cutting down on Ks was one of the offensive focal points. And while the offense will be given a more lenient leash (because they did enough to win), the pitching staff ought to be ashamed. Giving up 10 runs to a below-average offense is inexcusable.
As I eluded to earlier, this season is likely to be much like last year. One problem. Take away the team’s dual aces in Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, who nearly single-handedly carried the team into October, and you can see why there will be issues this year. The additions of Braden Looper and Trevor Hoffman certainly don’t hurt, but they aren’t game-changers. A rotation of Suppan, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Looper and Bush shouldn’t strike fear into opposing clubs, which obviously is a glaring concern. Gallardo makes them a respectable group- without him- they are a nothing more than an average group of hurlers. Gallardo was expected to be the team’s “next big thing” last season, and lived up to those expectations (posting a 1.88 ERA through 4 starts) before suffering a torn ACL in that fateful game at Wrigley we’ll always remember. Yo will begin his ’09 quest to cement himself as the team’s ace tonight against Randy Johnson.
So with the pitching staff, specifically the rotation, full of question marks and unknowns (minus Gallardo), there’s no doubt the team’s offense will have to pick up the slack and become “Harvey’s Wallbangers” v2. Corey Hart didn’t try to hide that fact either. He told SI in their most recent “Baseball Preview Issue” the offense will need to be on top of its game each and every night for the team to compete in the division:
“That’s our plan,” he said. “Score alot of runs. Score as many runs as we can.”
Well Corey, we’d all love to be millionaires like you too, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon (you’re going to need some help). Let’s just say it now and get it out of the way: there had better be alot more consistency on both sides of the dugout, starting tonight, or it could be a long season. Could that statement be premature? Maybe. I hope so. Could it be prophecy? Absolutely.