Giants/Brewers series preview

should of blocked the plate - Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

John Axford has allowed as many earned runs as Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Jose Mijares, Chad Gaudin, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez combined.

There you go: The Milwaukee Brewers. You might have figured they were awful last year because you forgot about them, but they were 83-79. And that's two wins under what their run differential suggested they should have. The reason they were so awful? The bullpen. Some #truefacts about the Brewers' bullpen in 2012:

  • Their best reliever by ERA, Jose Veras, walked 5.4 batters for every nine innings he pitched. That's lower than Jonathan Sanchez's career average. Again, we're talking about the best reliever in the Brewers' pen last year.
  • They had five relievers who each walked more than five batters for every nine innings they pitched.
  • Livan Hernandez was literally in the Brewers' bullpen last year. Literally.
  • Which isn't nearly as surprising as the fact that Vinnie Chulkwas also in their bullpen.
  • Vinnie Chulk!

Final tally for the Brewer bullpen last year: 4.66 ERA and 162 games finished (the Brewers didn't have a starter with a complete game). That's a great way to go from the 93 wins you were expecting to 83 wins and September irrelevance.

But just like the 2010/2011 Diamondbacks, when a bullpen is that bad, you almost have to assume it will get better the next season. A bullpen that bad is like rolling six dice and coming up with snake eyes on all of them. Maybe the dice are loaded, or maybe it was just unlikely. That in mind, I was optimistic about the Brewers after they signed Kyle Lohse. They already had three interesting-to-good starting pitchers, and they led the league in runs scored last year. And there's no way the bullpen could be that bad again.

Oh, John Axford. How is it even possible to make Cubs fans feel better about Carlos Marmol?

Still, the bullpen should be better this year. Jimmy Henderson has already taken over the closer's role, and he's looked nasty whenever I've seen him pitch. When a guy like that finds success as a 30-year-old, it makes me think optimistic thoughts about Chad Gaudin. And if the bullpen is better, that would mean the Brewers could build on those 83 wins.

The things that have changed, though:

Aramis Ramirez is hurt

Yuniesky Betancourt is his replacement. The Giants used to have that kind of quality switcheroo when Rich Aurilia was out and Neifi Perez filled in. If Yuniesky Betancourt is the answer, hopefully the question is "What is a good anagram for 'Near yucky butt noise?'"

(Actually, Betancourt is anagram gold. Turnkey bayou incest … obtains yucky neuter … Yikes! Centaur buyout! … cubist turkey, anyone? …unyoke yeti crab nuts … really, I'm not usually one for anagrams, but this just keeps going. Look at how many results for 'butt' alone! Insecure butt yank, yo.)

Alex Gonzalez is the starting first baseman

I'm not sure which Alex Gonzalez, but it doesn't really matter. Of the shortstops in major-league history with more than 1,000 games at the position and a career OBP under .300, only 11 of them started a game at first base. The last four before Gonzalez: Cesar Izturis, Deivi Cruz, Shawon Dunston (for the 2001/2002 Giants!), and Ozzie Guillen.

That's just a special group.

Of course, this means that Betancourt and Gonzalez are going to pummel the Giants, but them's the breaks. It's still impressive that there's one team in baseball that's thinking, "Dang it, should have kept Travis Ishikawa."

Mike Fiers is in the bullpen

Fiers was one of the better stories on the '12 Brewers -- an old rookie with an odd career path, who never stopped impressing. I guess the official explanation is that he's the fifth starter, but the Brewers just don't need him yet. If they say so. I'm just glad the Giants don't have to face him.

Add it all up, and the Brewers can still be a good team. But they aren't making my super-secret-sleeper pick look that good right now. Hopefully that will continue until the weekend.

Hitter to watch

Don't know about no Brewers, but I watch games in Miller Park for Buster Posey:

There were two other home run videos I wanted to embed, but MLB.com doesn't allow them to be embedded for some reason. So watch and listen to this one three times instead.

Pitcher to watch

Kyle Lohse, because he makes me think of this:

Lohse's last batter was Buster Posey. It was a walk that set Pence's hit up. If Lohse throws a sinker to Posey that induces a double play, one of the greatest moments in Giants postseason history is no more. So here's some respect for Kyle Lohse, conduit to history.

Prediction

I'm going to listen to the sound Posey's home run made again and again and again over the next hour.

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