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Blogger Smackdown: Milwaukee Brewers

To get a feel for what kind of team the Mets will be facing over the next few days, I sent a few questions to my buddy Jeff at Brew Crew Ball so that he might set me straight.

1. The Brewers jumped out to an early NL Central lead on the strength of their 16-9 April. Since then, they have gone just 41-40, and watched their division lead shrink to practically nil. Am I just cherry-picking stretches of games here, or will the real Brew Crew please stand up?

Jeff Sackmann: You're cherry-picking, but you're not alone. If you split the Brewers season right down the middle, the records are pretty much the same. The Crew is still on pace for an 85-90 win season, which is what most people predicted for them in the spring. It doesn't help that Ben Sheets is out for a month or more, but Yovani Gallardo has been filling in admirably.

2. What do you make of the Cubbies? They spent a lot of money last winter, much of which was thought to be unwisely allocated. How do you see the final nine weeks shaping up?

Jeff Sackmann: For all the noise over the last few weeks, these slumps and streaks have put the Brewers and Cubs right about where I predicted they'd be before the season started. The Cubs aren't going to keep up their torrid pace--their starting pitching just isn't that good, and their bullpen is still questionable as well. But I do see this going down to the wire, with the Brewers coming out on top by 2 or 3 games.

3. Talk to me about Ryan Braun. He seems to be on the fast track to this year's ROY, and he has shown prodigious power both in the minors and with the big club in 2007. What is his ceiling, and where do you see him settling in defensively (his RZR at 3B is .592, second-to-last in the NL)?

Jeff Sackmann: Right now, the word ceiling doesn't seem to apply. I keep expecting him to crash down to earth, but it hasn't happened yet. He's not the next Pujols, but he's doing a good impression of it. Maybe Miggy Cabrera is a decent comp, only with a slightly different development pattern, since Braun is already 23. Defensively, believe it or not, he's improved over his minor league showing. He'll never be a gold glover, or even an average guy at third, but I think he'll stick at the hot corner through his arby years and work his way up to respectability. For a poor fielder at a corner, he makes a decent number of impressive plays.

4. What's the deal with J.J. Hardy? He hit .323/.371/.628 in 178 plate appearances thru May 16, but has been atrocious since, batting .234/.295/.335 in 237 plate appearances since, which is downright NEIFI!-esque. He's still just 24, but what's going on there?

Jeff Sackmann: Beats me. He's had a couple of minor injuries in that stretch, and it wouldn't surprise me at all given the Brewers track record if one of the injuries was worse than reported. The second stretch is much worse than expected, but it's worth pointing out that everyone--including JJ--was shocked by his early production.

5. Rumor has it you've starting writing for six new blogs this week alone. Are there any projects in the pipeline that you are particularly excited about, that will help to further ubiquify™ the Sackmann™ brand? LittleLeagueSplits.com™ a possibility?

Jeff Sackmann: Man, I hope LittleLeagueSplits.com never happens. I am digging deeper in the available minor league data, and hope to have some new toys to show for it in September and October.

You can read more of Jeff's work at the aforementioned Brew Crew Ball, as well as Hardball Times, Beyond the Boxscore and Heater, and don't forget about MinorLeagueSplits.com and CollegeSplits.com.

UPDATE [12:13pm]: Jeff has posted my responses to his Q&A over at BCB. Enjoy!