Brewers camp report: Likes and dislikes

PHOENIX -- What I like, and dislike, about the Brewers:


 This is as versatile an offense as you will find, and all of the key components are back from 2012. Starting, of course, with Ryan Braun. Even in the aftermath of Prince Fielder’s tenure, the Brewers last year led the NL in runs scored (776), home runs (202) and stolen bases (158). The Brewers became the first team since the 1996 Rockies to lead the NL in each of those categories.

 Norichika Aoki emerged as a multi-talented threat as the summer rolled along, hitting .288 with 10 homers and 50 RBI and collecting 30 steals over 151 games (119 starts). Aoki, who finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, led NL rookies in steals and tied the Padres’ Yonder Alonso for the rookie lead with 150 hits. He also set a Brewers franchise record with 37 doubles, passing the great Prince Fielder (35). And Aoki was consistent, too: He became the first NL rookie since Bake McBride in 1974 to have four hitting streaks of 10 or more games.

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 Emerging shortstop Jean Segura could quickly force the Angels to regret the Zack Greinke deal. The Brewers love him and, at 23, he’s maturing quickly. Among other things, he won the Dominican Winter League batting title at .324 over 35 games for the Gigantes. Segura also compiled a .379 on-base percentage and tied for second in the Dominican Winter League with 11 thefts.

 Good luck beating the Brewers in Miller Park. Over the past two seasons, they are 106-56 at home, best record in the majors. (The Yankees rank second at 103-59.) They went 49-32 at home last summer, which helped the Brewers tie Oakland for the best overall record in the majors from Aug. 20 through season’s end at 29-13.


 The ongoing Ryan Braun business. Will MLB’s investigation into the Miami Biogenesis clinic lead to a suspension? Braun already beat one suspension after his MVP season in 2011. He flicked that away like a well-placed fastball, coming back in 2012 to finish second to the Giants’ Buster Posey in the NL MVP voting. His 202 homers over his first six seasons are tied for sixth in major-league history behind Ralph Kiner (257), Albert Pujols (250), Ryan Howard (222), Eddie Matthews (222) and Mark Teixeira (203). Is he clean? Is he dirty? And if MLB finds a smoking gun, at what point in the season might that clobber the Brewers?

 Big year for closer John Axford, whose two-month slump last year positioned him to lead the majors with nine blown saves. But he converted 17 of his final 18 opportunities as the Brewers nearly pulled off a back-from-the dead comeback.

 Axford, Jim Henderson, Tom Gorzelanny, newcomers Mike Gonzalez and Burke Badenhop, they need to reverse the trend that killed the Brewers last year: They led going into the ninth inning in 83 games, and 11 of those turned into losses. That’s 14 percent of the time they let a ninth-inning lead get away -- and according to Baseball Prospectus, the NL average was five percent.

 While they’ve been nearly unbeatable at home the past two seasons, the road has been a problem. They were 34-47 away from home in 2012, fueled by an 11-game road losing streak from July 20-Aug. 11. That was the second-longest road losing streak in franchise history, and there have been several to choose from. Since 2000, the Brewers have compiled just one winning road record in a season -- 41-40 in ’08.

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