The 2013 Brewers were not as bad as you remember. The team finished two games over .500. That is if you exclude the month of May when they went 6-22 (.214 WP%). The Brewers’ May record sunk their season and even tied the 1969 Seattle Pilots, an expansion team in their first and only season, for the worst monthly record in franchise history.
Now, if the Brewers didn’t buy a one-way ticket to stink city last May, they probably would have still finished around .500 and not been much of a factor in the Wild Card race. There were many reasons that the team flew off the tracks last year, but their poor performance in May branded the team as bad from the beginning. 2013 was considered a lost season before even a third of it was done. As fans, we all remembered watching those games and what that felt like. But I bet very few remember that, before the monumental skid, the Brewers went 14-11 in April for a .560 WP%. Their highest WP% for any month last season.
Consistency is important in baseball. Not just from players but from the team as a whole. Two bad weeks of baseball can finish a club, especially in a strong, competitive division like the NL Central. If May’s experience taught the Crew anything, it was that monthly records are like grenades. Only one needs to blow up in your face to make it a lost cause.
Last May, the Brewers’ played –
*First game in a three-game series
That’s four playoff teams, the Rangers (who missed the playoffs but still won 91 games), the 66-win Twins (who the Brewers didn’t beat ONCE last year), and one game against the Phillies. Going into the 2013 season, May looked like a rough month on paper but it turned into a disaster on the field.
With the 2014 season rapidly approaching, I decided to look at the schedule for the upcoming season. I wanted to identify where the potentially rough patches could occur. Whether the Brewers had any epic road trips or soft spots in their schedule. So I broke down each month by each series, the number of games, whether the games where home or away, the 2013 record of each opponent, the Brewers’ 2013 WP% against that opponent.
While this exercise wasn’t meant to predictive, something became obvious the second I broke down their schedule for March/April. If the Brewers don’t play well over the first month, they could quickly find themselves in a deep hole.
|March/April||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
|@ Red Sox||3||97-65||NA|
How’s that for a start to the season? The Brewers begin with last year’s champion of the NL East than move right on to the World Series champion in their season home opener. There will also be seven games against the Pirates and six against the Cardinals. In the first month of the season, the Brewers will play just over a week’s worth of games, nine, against teams that won less than 94 games last year.
If there’s one bright spot to the March/April schedule, it’s that the Brewers will play 15 of those games at Miller Park versus 13 on the road. But the team won’t have much of a chance to catch their collective breath, because starting April 8th in Philadelphia the Brewers will play 28 games over 29 days. That stretch of games will take the team from the second week of April through May 7th.
The 2014 Brewers will be tested from the beginning. With this schedule, I would consider a .500 WP (14 wins) through the end of April a success.
|May||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
|vs Cubs (cont)||2||66-96||.684|
May will be a little more forgiving to the Crew. The team will split equal time at home and away, 14 games each. They will continue their tour of the AL East by inviting both the Yankees and Orioles to Miller Park.
The Brewers and Reds will battle for the first time of the season to start the month. But the Crew will play less than half of its games against NL Central opponents in May. With the five clashes against the Cubs being the most the Brewers see of a divisional foe.
|June||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
|vs Cubs (cont)||1||66-96||.684|
Part of the Brewers problem in 2013 was their poor performance against average, and below average, teams. Look at their 2013 WP% against the Twins (.000), D-backs (.143), and Rockies (.333). For the Brewers to be even a fringe playoff team, those numbers need to improve in 2014.
On paper, June could be a great month to pad the win column. Seven out of their ten series are against teams, who, last year, won ball games at a clip of .500 or below. The Brewers will spend a little more time on the road: 15 away games versus 13 at home. But their first west coast swing will be brief. Also only seven games, or 25% of June’s schedule, will be played against the NL Central.
|July||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
|@ Blue Jays||2||74-88||NA|
The Brewers’ final three months are divided up geographically. July, besides providing a break for the All-Star game, will pit the Crew mainly against the AL and NL East. Trips to Toronto, Tampa, and Washington DC are in store. The Brewers will also battle the Reds six times and see the Cardinals for the first time since April.
Though the east coast will be the focus for July, the Brewers will play most of their games at Miller Park with 14 games at home versus 11 on the road. The team should enjoy their time at home as August will see them on the road more than any other time in 2014.
|August||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
|vs Blue Jays||2||74-88||NA|
If July was about the east coast, then August is all about the west coast. The Brewers will get to battle both the Giants and Dodgers at home and away this month. They will also make two trips to the west coast with a short five-game home stand stuck in the middle. Overall, the Brewers will be on the road for 16 games in August and only home for 11.
|September||# Games||2013 Record||Brewers’ 2013 WP%|
As should be, the Brewers final month of the season is all about the NL Central. They have seven games against the Cardinals and six games each against the Reds, Pirates, and Cubs. If the Brewers can stay close until September, they will play their most meaningful games against the teams that matter the most. 14 of the Brewers final games will be at home versus 12 on the road.
The only non-NL Central club on the schedule is the Marlins. Those four games at Miller Park could be huge for the Crew, if they’re close. If neither team is in contention, it could be the great prospect off as both teams test out young talent. The Brewers’ final road trip will send them through the NL Central wood chipper but it will be nice to see the team end the season at home.
So, from the looks of it, March/April, August, and September present the most trying schedule for the Crew. March/April and September due to the talent level of their competition, and August because of the travel schedule and abundance of road games. June appears to be the softest part of the season, though the Crew’s track record against those teams wasn’t great last year.
No one said 2014 would be easy for the Brewers. Not only do they play in arguably the best, and most competitive, division in the NL, the Crew’s inter-league divisional battles are against the outstanding AL East. Even with the signing of Matt Garza and the return of suspended (Ryan Braun) and healthy (Aramis Ramirez) players, the optimistic prognosticators predict the Brewers as a “fringe” Wild Card team, at best.
With an extremely difficult first month of the season, the Crew could be a team that immediately drops off the radar. But remember, if they play around .500 ball to start the season, it could be considered a small victory. Let’s just hope that they can stay competitive during that the first month. If not, the Brewers’ entire season could blowup in their face and make for another Sisyphean year for the Crew.