Springtime Storylines: Did the Brewers do enough to fix their godawful rotation?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Brew Crew


The
big question: Did the Brewers do enough to fix their godawful rotation?

With the nice crowds, Prince Fielder’s great season, a good year from Trevor Hoffman and a vague feeling that the team was kind of competitive, it was easy to overlook just how terrible the Brewers’ rotation was last season. They were the worst group of starters in the National League, in fact. Worse than the Mets. Worse than even the Nationals. This august collection of 4th and 5th starters pinched off an ERA of 5.37 in 2009. The team went 80 and 82, and God only knows how they won 80 with that crowd.

The good news is that they should be an improved bunch this year. Randy Wolf was an expensive addition, but an oh-so-necessary one. The return of Doug Davis is welcome too.  Dave Bush and Manny Parra are much better pitchers than they showed in 2009. Yovani Gallardo could build on a solid 2009 and easily take a step forward as well.  Jeff Suppan is still around, but seeing as no one in the Brewrers’ front office wants to go to jail it’s not like they can just tie him to some cement blocks and drop him in Lake Michigan (they’d probably consider subcontracting the job out to someone, however).

But for the rotation to see significant improvement — the sort that would catapult them into contention with the Cardinals — it would take a series of best case scenarios to come to pass. Wolf would have to repeat his career-best 2009 rather than revert to his merely respectable career norms. Bush and Parra would also both need to improve significantly and Suppan would have to flash back three or four years and become average. All of those things are eminently possible. All of those things happening at once aren’t necessarily likely, however, and for that reason I think the Brewers will be battling Cincinnati for second place rather than battling the Cardinals for first.

So what
else is
going on?

  • The lineup has the same sort of dynamic as the rotation: lots of guys who underachieved last year, all of whom need to improve this year if the team wants to make some noise. Corey Hart, Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks were all terrible, though Weeks and Hart had injuries as an excuse. Gomez just kind of sucks, and it won’t be at all surprising to see Jim Edmonds get a lot of playing time this season because of it, defense be damned.
  • The bullpen could actually be pretty decent. Trevor Hoffman doesn’t age, apparently, and LaTroy Hawkins, Todd Coffey, Claudio Vargas, Mitch Stetter and Carlos Villanueva are all useful sidekicks. The pen was actually pretty decent last year too, and with the starters figuring to step it up this year the relievers should be fresher and more effective.

  • Alcides Escobar will start his first full major league season. He’s an exciting young player and everyone is high on his glove. If he hits even a little bit it will be considered gravy. Mmmm, gravy.
  • Prince Fielder’s contract status will supply the ongoing drama this year. He’s a free agent after 2011, and as a Scott Boras client we should probably expect him to wait things out and hit the market. Whether he does so depends a lot on what happens with Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez who also stand to be free agents in the winter of 2011-12. If they are extended and/or traded and extended sometime between now and next year, Fielder probably goes out on the market. If their status is still in flux, Fielder and Boras may wisely decide to take what Milwaukee offers for fear that a crowded first baseman’s market will drive down prices. Boras and the Brewers have already spoken this spring. They may very well speak some more as the season goes on.

So
how
are they gonna do?

The prediction business isn’t as easy as it looks. After thinking about the Reds I was kind of optimistic about them and put them second. Now after thinking about the Brewers a bit, I’m not as down on them as I was when I came up with the division order last night. So many things went wrong for the Brewers last year and that can’t happen again, can it? Randy Wolf and Doug Davis will stabilize things, right? Everyone else should improve. This team can win second place, right? 

Prediction: I’ll call them third place in the Central simply because it wouldn’t be fair to demote the Reds mere hours after picking them there. But really, I think it’s a tossup between those two.

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Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.