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Some guessing on what unpredictable season will look like

Some guessing on what unpredictable season will look like Some guessing on what unpredictable season will look like

Matt’s Bleacher Shots

It started as more of a curiosity thing Tuesday to go online check out game one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ Blue vs. Gold World Series.

It turned into being glued to the home computer screen for more than an hour and a half. With Brian Anderson, Bill Schroeder and Sophia Minnaert on the call, the shots of the gorgeous green grass at Miller Park (the days of being able to call it Miller Park are rapidly dwindling, sadly) and hearing fake crowd noise and even hearing an official public address announcer, it didn’t take long to realize how much I miss this stuff.

The soundtrack of summer was back, sort of.

Intrasquad matchups are tough because one side’s success is the other side’s failure and from a team perspective, you never know what that means. Brandon Woodruff looked fantastic in his 4.1 innings, including striking out Christian Yelich three times. That’s awesome.

On the flip side, Yelich struck out three times. Does that mean we have to be concerned about our MVP?

Fingers crossed, the 2020 boys of late summer will again be playing for real at empty stadiums all across America starting next weekend. I never got to do my annual Brewers’ prediction column in the spring, so I guess this is as good a time as any to try to do one for the season, which we still can’t say for sure is going to reach the finish line.

Sixty games isn’t exactly a short season, but from a Major League baseball perspective, it is definitely a sprint and not a marathon. It’s just over one-third of a normal 162-game season. That will increase the urgency as games start to count. Falling six games out of first place in your division in the first month used to mean little. This year, it could mean everything.

Obviously, health is going to be a huge factor for every team. Again, a star player missing 10-14 days with a sprained ankle in the opening two months normally hurts. But it doesn’t have to be season-killing for a team. This year, it could really sting. Or think about oblique or hamstring injuries the Brewers have seemed to make famous in recent years. Those things can range from one week to six.

Of course, there’s the COVID-19 health factor. What happens if the virus hits a key player or team hard?

The Brewers fans of Wisconsin and beyond should take solace in the fact that manager Craig Counsell seems to be a master at playing for the short term. With expanded rosters early in the season and no need to worry about the pitcher’s spot in the batting order this year with a universal designated hitter, the circumstances of this season should be right in his wheel house.

But it’s up to the players to make it work. And the Brewers’ roster is much different looking than the last two post-season qualifiers.

From the everyday perspective, you expect Yelich to continue to shine, Keston Hiura to hit, Orlando Arcia and Lorenzo Cain to field and there are multi-positional players like Eric Sogard, Jedd Gyorko and Brock Holt for Counsell to mix and match.

Ryan Braun will be the main designated hitter, which could be a good thing. We’ll see what the Brewers have in new catcher Omar Navaez and rightfielder Avisail Garcia. Based on past production, both should add some pop. There’s skepticism about what kind of production the Brewers will get out of first baseman Justin Smoak, though non-roster invitee Logan Morrison, a veteran with big power, could be revelation as well.

From a pitching perspective, versatilty again appears to be strength of a staff that has two studs in Woodruff and reliever Josh Hader, a standout reliever on the rebound from injury in Corey Knebel and a lot of question marks after that.

You’d figure off-season pickups Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom will get starts along with Adrian Houser, who finished 2019 strong, and Eric Lauer, who the Brewers got in a trade with San Diego.

Having Brent Suter back as a swing man could be huge. I love watching that guy pitch (and act). The game moves along when he’s on the mound.

The Brewers will play 40 games against National League Central rivals and 20 against American League Central teams. If the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are as bad as last year, the interleague stuff could be a good thing. But remember, if they are that, that’s a good thing for all the NL Central teams.

Cincinnati is, on paper, the most improved NL Central team. The Chicago Cubs and defending champion St. Louis will be formidable as well. In a 60-game sprint with two-thirds of the games being interdivisional, you’d have to expect nothing but a tight race. Though I don’t see the Pittsburgh Pirates contending for first place, they will be a factor if they find a divisional team they match up well against.

All in all, it’s going to be weird, it’s going to be quick and it’s going to come with an asterisk. I think it’s going to be quite unpredictable. But it will be good to see the game get going again. (We hope).

I’ll shoot for 32-28 on the Brewers’ record and the Reds, Cardinals and Cubs will all be within three games of that one way or the other. The divisional rivals will beat each other up and it won’t be easy for the secondplace team to earn a wild card spot. *** Sobering but not unexpected news out of Green Bay Wednesday with the announcement that no fans will be allowed for training camp practices, the Family Night scrimmage or any pre-season games at Lambeau Field. Pre-season games may not happen anyway.

Football’s getting close. All three of our local high school teams are planning contact days/camps next week. The Big Ten has already announced it’s moving to conference-only play.

Getting anxious to hear what’s going to happen around the state, around the entire NCAA and, of course, the NFL in the upcoming weeks. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it’s not looking great.

Had to chuckle at the cartoon below but, in all seriousness, a good move this week by Washington’s NFL football team to finally drop its longtime mascot, even if by all appearances, it was financially motivated. I need a little more time before putting deeper thoughts to paper on that subject.

Matt Frey is the Sports Editor at The Star News.