PHOENIX -- What I like and don't like about the Brewers:
What I like
• The rotation. The last time the Brewers went to the playoffs -- the only time the Brewers have been to the playoffs in the last 29 years -- they had Ben Sheets for a full season and CC Sabathia for an incredible half-season. Sheets left, Sabathia left, and for the last two years the rotation hasn't been the same, and the Brewers haven't won. With Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum joining Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers might even be stronger at the top than they were with Sheets and Sabathia.
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• The lineup. Scoring runs hasn't been the problem here, and the Brewers kept their lineup together for one more year. The only switch from last year is at shortstop, where Alcides Escobar (who didn't contribute much as a rookie) went to Kansas City in the Greinke trade, with Yuniesky Betancourt coming to the Brewers.
• The manager's background. Ron Roenicke is the third Mike Scioscia coach to become a manager. And since the other two were Joe Maddon (who took the Rays to the World Series) and Bud Black (who took the Padres to 90 wins), it's hard to blame the Brewers for going with Roenicke. One suggestion for him: Make sure the postgame news conferences are good. Owner Mark Attanasio will be watching, and poor postgame performances helped doom both Ned Yost and Ken Macha as Brewer managers.
• The improved bullpen. Everyone talks about Greinke, and a few talk about Marcum. But the Brewers also added Takashi Saito, whose presence in the eighth inning should help. Saito also gives the Brewers a veteran who can close if young John Axford struggles or is unavailable.
• The aggressive owner. Brewers people always talk about how much Attanasio wants to win, and he has shown it. With the help of a fan base that has continued to buy tickets, Attanasio gives the Brewers a chance.
What I don't like
• The depth. The Brewers are already dealing with injuries, with catcher Jonathan Lucroy breaking a finger and right fielder Corey Hart straining his ribcage. The Brewers have good frontline players, but not much in the way of backups. And after using the farm system to get Greinke and Marcum (and Sabathia three years ago), there's not much left.
• The defense. The pitching should be much better, but the Brewers are below average defensively at all four infield spots.
• The potential for distraction. If the Brewers win, then Prince Fielder's contract status (unsigned past this year, very unlikely to be re-signed) shouldn't be a problem. But if they do struggle, people are sure to ask about Fielder's future. If they struggle enough, there could be some temptation to trade Fielder midseason.