The next team in the Call to the Pen MLB Season Preview Series is the defending National League Central Division Champion Milwaukee Brewers.
2011 MILWAUKEE BREWERS RECAP
Coming off a 2010 campaign which touted one of the better offenses in the National League, the Brewers set out to deal with the issue of their starting rotation. They entered the trade market and landed Shaun Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for prized prospect Brett Lawrie. General manager Doug Melvin was not finished. He then pulled off a deal with the Kansas City Royals for their ace, Zack Greinke. The deal also included receipt of Yuniesky Betancourt’s services and cash to offset some of his contract. Starting shortstop Alcides Escobar and prospect Lorenzo Cain were the center pieces of the four players leaving Milwaukee.
The offense was still an important part of the team and it did not disappoint. Outfielder Ryan Braun won the NL Most Valuable Player award after hitting .332 with 109 R, 33 HR, 111 RBI and 33 SB.
Braun’s bashing partner Prince Fielder continued to put up enormous power numbers. He ended the season with 38 home runs and 120 RBI, both second best in the National League.
Nyjer Morgan came on board in late March after a slow start by Carlos Gomez. He provided a spark on the field and off. He hit .304 and swiped 13 bases in 119 games.
Both Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart were hampered by injuries but played well when they were on the field. Weeks still managed 20 homers and 77 runs in 118 games, while Hart pounded 26 home runs and scored 80 runs in 130 games.
The pitching staff was everything they hoped for. Yovani Gallardo cemented himself as the staff ace. He won 17 games with a 3.52 ERA. He struck out 207 batters in 207.1 innings. Greinke missed all of April due to a non-baseball related injury sustained in Spring Training. He still won 16 games for the Brewers striking out 201 hitters in 171.2 innings. His ERA was inflated but ended up at 3.83. His FIP was 2.98 and xFIP was 2.56. The Brewers also received a fine season from Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA). Randy Wolf won 13 games and Chris Narveson chipped in with 11 wins.
Another piece the Brewers picked up at the All-Star break was former New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez. He immediately stepped into the eighth inning role behind closer John Axford. Axford was magnificent. He saved 46 games (with a streak of 42 straight) with a 1.95 ERA and 86 K’s in 73.2 innings.
The team entered the All-Star break tied with the St. Louis Cardinals atop the NL Central. They began to pull away, at one point holding a 10-game lead over the Cards. They slumped a bit and the Cardinals got back to 4.5 games back with a great run, but the Brewers never really were close to relinquishing the lead. They finished with a 96-66 record, setting the all-time franchise win total.
In the playoffs, they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3 games to 2. It required an extra inning affair in game five. By virtue of winning the division series, they met the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. The series was tied at two games apiece, but the Cardinals were able to win the final game at Busch Stadium and then got the better of the Brew Crew at Miller Park in Game 6.