2018 Milwaukee Brewers: Outlier or reality?

Next man up: Corbin Burnes wears the kind of big, thick glasses that make him look a little like Ricky Vaughn in Major League. That’s a good start on a career, though Burnes has the kind of control Charles Sheen didn’t. A 2016 draft pick, Burnes reached Class AA last year, and seemed capable of pitching even higher. He had a 1.67 ERA, allowed only 103 hits in 145.2 innings and fanned 140. The Brewers’ AAA team is in Colorado Springs’, so Burnes’ stats will look closer to Wade Miley’s, but don’t be deceived. He’ll be better.

What he said: Ryan Braun on playing first base: “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It’s completely foreign to me. Certainly at times, it’s stressful trying to figure out where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there, knowing my assignments on bunt plays, figuring out the bunt plays, figuring out the first-and-third plays, and then in today’s games with shifts, sometimes guys are all over the place. That’s a lot of stuff that’s completely new to me.” What he meant: “At least there’s no math.”

Three reasons it will be a good year: 1. The Brewers paid more money for more years to Lorenzo Cain — five years and $80 million — than is fiscally prudent, but felt they had to because their centerfielders were 24th in MLB last year with a .709 OPS. Cain, whom the Brewers once traded away to help build the Royals’ world champions, was almost 100 points better last year, stole 26 bases in 28 attempts and defended capably in center field. He’ll be 32 shortly after Opening Day, so the fourth and fifth years might be iffy. The first couple should be better than Keon Broxton. 2. Christian Yelich won’t hurt. Yelich has played four full seasons and parts of a fifth, has a lifetime .290 average, a 20-homer season and a 20-steal season. He’s still only 26 and should get better yet, with a contract cheaper than Cain’s. 3. The back of the Brewers’ bullpen might be the best in the NL. Twice-traded Corey Knebel fanned 126 in 76 innings last season, had a 1.78 ERA and .568 OPS against; lefty Josh Hader fanned 68 in 47.2 innings, had a 2.08 ERA and a .554 OPS against. Combined they fanned 194 in 123.2 innings.

Three reasons it won’t: 1. The Brewers invited Wade Miley to camp, which is a good sign a team doesn’t have enough starting pitching. The Brewers, who will be without Jimmy Nelson for half the season, probably don’t. Miley had a 5.61 ERA for the Orioles last year and led the AL with 93 walks; his ERA over the last two seasons is 5.48 and he’s allowed 25 homers each in 2016 and 2017. The Brewers moved Yovani Gallardo to the bullpen, which was a good idea (reacquiring him was not), but moving him for Miley is a diversion, not a solution. 2. Think Travis Shaw will hit 31 homers again? Shaw hit 29 in his first two seasons combined and never hit more than 21 as a minor-leaguer. The Red Sox — who started the season with Pablo Sandoval at third base — traded Shaw with three minor-leaguers for Tyler Thornburg, who didn’t pitch in 2017. Even if Shaw doesn’t hit 31 homers again, it’s not going to be one of Dave Dombrowski’s best trades. 3. The Brewers were 20th in runs scored last year, and that’s with Shaw and Eric Thames, who came back from South Korea, hitting a career-high 31 homers and Eric Sogard, coming back from a knee injury, having a career-high .393 on-base percentage. The Brewers are counting heavily on players who finished weakly: Thames hit 23 homers in the first half of the season and eight in the second, Sogard batted .331 in the first half of the season and .204 in the second, and even Shaw hit just .232 with only seven homers in the last two months.

Team song: The Kinks: Unreal Reality

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