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Thursday, May 15, 2008

The New Nightmare

This weekend two of the best sluggers in baseball will be in Boston, taking aim at the Green Monster.  It's a 3-4 combo featuring a lanky, defensively-challenged, somewhat surly right-handed left-fielder and an intimidatingly large, but ever-smiling, defensively-challenged left-handed first baseman.  It might be one of the best hitting pairs in baseball history.  I know, you may be asking yourself, "Don't these guys play in Boston, like, every weekend?"

Well, no, because I'm talking about Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Since Braun arrived in the majors just less than a year ago, he and Fielder have combined for 84 HR and 232 RBI, significantly more than Manny and Big Papi over the same span (55 HR, 196 RBI).  More than any 3-4 combo in baseball, for that matter, combos like A-Rod/Abreu (58 HR, 227 RBI), Berkman/El Cabayo (74 HR, 225 RBI), and D-Lee/Ramirez (50 HR, 176 RBI).  Moreover, while each of those pairs features two mature players, every one of them over the age of 30, Fielder and Braun have a combined age of 48 years, 6 months, and 3 days.
In other words, together they are younger than recently retired Julio Franco.  

Like Manny and Papi, they have a very strong supporting cast, especially on offense, most of whom are also quite young.  What the Brew Crew doesn't have, is pitching depth, which is why they are likely to get pummeled this weekend by the superior Red Sox team, who will send Beckett, Dice-K, and Wakefield to the mound to face Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Carlos Villanueva.  Despite a dramatically overhauled mercenary bullpen (Gagne, Riske, Torres, and Mota all signed this past offseason), the Brewers are among the league's worst in blown saves and bullpen ERA (8 BS, 4.37 ERA).  Strangely, despite the continued dominance of Papelbon (2.41, 11 SV) and Okajima (0.93, 9 HLD, 1 SV), Boston's relief corps have been pretty putrid as well (8 BS, 4.56 ERA).  If starting pitching fails to contain these two potent offenses, we could see some real slugfests.  

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