Coming into the 2010 season, I was sure of three things:

  1. The Milwaukee Brewers would improve their record from last season.
  2. Trevor Hoffman would reach 600 saves.
  3. Ken Macha would eventually be fired as manager.

This season, I’m 0-3, but I’ve got a shot at No. 3 still going down.

Trevor Hoffman, who totaled 34 saves against just three blown last season, has five blown already. He’s been replaced by rookie John Axford, who’s really come on strong for the Brewers.

Hoffman sits in the bullpen after his garbage start to the season, currently sporting a 2-4 record, five saves, a 7.26 ERA, and just 20 strikeouts.

But Axford is learning plenty from the all-time saves leader and long-time Padres closer.

“Ax-Man” has leaned on Hoffman for information about batters, strategies on the mound, and general know-how compiled over 17 years in the bigs.

For Axford, early success has been huge. He’s 15/16 in save opportunities, with his first blown save coming against the Washington Nationals today.

But the oh-so visible banner over the Miller Park outfield for Hoffman’s countdown to 600 saves stands at 596.

Will it ever reveal 600?

I really don’t think so. And it’s not a knock against Hoffman. It’s a reflection of how well Axford has pitched since being named the primary closer. 

I wrote about how the countdown in the outfield might mess with Hoffman’s good mojo , but who would have thought he’d fail to reach just 10 saves after last year? I certainly didn’t.

Hoffman may have a heartbreaking end to his career, after being among the best at his craft ever, yet falling just short of a tremendous milestone.

As for my hope that oft-sleepy manager Ken Macha would be fired before too long: That hasn’t gone so well. Macha’s seen support all around, from both GM Doug Melvin and Owner Mark Attanasio, but the fans are pleading for his release. 

Replace him with hitting coach Dale Sveum or bench coach Willie Randolph, both who connect well with the players. Macha’s careful/conservative approach has stunted the speed game of Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Carlos Gomez, to name a few.

Finally, I turn to Milwaukee’s pitching staff.

This is really more of a 50/50. 

For the most part, besides down years by Hawkins and Hoffman, the Brewers bullpen has been a tremendous bright spot. They have perhaps found a long-term solution in Axford at closer, Kameron Loe in the eighth, and Chris Capuano, who has worked strong innings since his return from Tommy John surgery.

However, with the good you must take the bad.

The Brewers sucked the poison from their veins by finally, nay, mercifully releasing Jeff Suppan, but the pitching staff as a whole, aside from Gallardo, has been a black eye.

Starters Randy Wolf and Doug Davis have not lived up to the expectations showered on them after their offseason signings. Project lefty Manny Parra has struggled to keep a spot in the rotation, while inconsistent Chris Narveson picks up his duties.

All in all, 80 wins would be a blessing in Milwaukee, as their record stands at 45-53.

For the Milwaukee Brewers to make any ground in the NL Central, the starting pitching must drastically improve over the second half.

But will it?

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