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Coming Up: Milwaukee Brewers

With the Pirates starting their first series against Milwaukee tonight, Jamie Wiemer, who writes for Brew Crew Ball under the name "Rubie Q," volunteered to answer some questions about the Brewers for me. I did the same for him, and the results are posted here.

Bucs Dugout: Casey McGehee has always struck me as the Brewers' equivalent to Garrett Jones--he's had a great start to his major league career despite spending an eternity in the minors and not playing particularly well there. How convinced are you that he can be a solid regular for the next few years?

Brew Crew Ball: You're talking to a fan who is doing his best to forget the Bill Hall Experience (you know, a guy who put together a huge year when the team was out of contention by July, then signed a big contract and followed with three miserable seasons) so I'm viewing Casey with extreme skepticism. Nothing about his minor league numbers -- .279 / .332 / .409 in six seasons in the Cubs' system -- suggested that his big 2009 was coming, but, thus far, the 2010 returns have been outstanding, as McGehee has put together a 1.239 OPS in his 12 games and leads the team in homers with four. It's early, of course, but it looks like Casey would have to go into a prolonged dry spell to lose his starting spot at this point.

Bucs Dugout: How concerned are you about the performance of the Brewers' starting pitching? My basic thinking before the season was that the rotation was weak behind Yovani Gallardo, and the stats so far seem to confirm that.

Brew Crew Ball: I keep telling myself that it's early, but it's been Jack Wilson-level UGLY so far. (My apologies to Jack, but he's not a handsome man.) The pitching staff has yet to hold a team under 4 runs in a single game. In the last eight games, the Brewers have surrendered 7, 7, 9, 7, 6, 5, 8, and 7 runs (respectively). The scary part is that no one, either in the rotation or in the 'pen, has been immune to the Run Bug: Gallardo got cuffed around by the Cardinals a week ago, Randy Wolf gave up four runs in five innings against the Nats, Doug Davis went 4.2 in Washington after being handed a 10-run, first inning lead, LaTroy Hawkins has barfed up seven runs in his last two outings, and Trevor Hoffman has blown two saves and given up three home runs already. After last year, when the starting pitchers accumulated the second-worst ERA of any staff in the majors, the consensus was that there was nowhere for the pitching to go but up. That hasn't been the case.

Bucs Dugout: Why is Ryan Braun such a crappy human being? Was he just born that way, or... ?

Brew Crew Ball: Sad but true: Dave Kerwin abused him as a child. It's tragic, really.

Bucs Dugout: Is this the year Rickie Weeks finally lives up to his potential?

Brew Crew Ball: It might be, but I'm not going to be the one to jinx it. Last year, when Rickie started out white hot, I decided to call the '09 season "The Summer of Rickie Weeks." Within a week, Rickie's wrist blew up in St. Louis. So I'm treading very carefully here. The most you'll get from me is this: Rick has looked good so far. If he keeps it up, I will be a very happy boy.

Bucs Dugout: Who will be the Brewers' catcher at the end of the season?

Brew Crew Ball: Jason Kendall, probably. We just can't quit that guy, .320 slugging percentage be damned. I imagine we'll deal a third-string single-A second baseman to the Royals for Kendall in June.

Seriously, though: it'll probably be Gregg Zaun. If Kendall couldn't force his way out of the lineup last year, I don't see what Zaun could do to earn a seat on the bench, short of shaving off Rick Peterson's mullet or spiking Ken Macha's Metamucil.

Bucs Dugout: How many wins do you think the Brewers will have this year, and where will they finish in the NL Central?

Brew Crew Ball: Before the year, I thought we'd win around 80 games. With the way the pitching has looked, I've modified my prediction slightly: 48 wins, dead last in the Central. And, yes, I'm probably going a little overboard, but it was a really bad week last week. If we play well in Pittsburgh, I reserve the right to change my mind again.