Best Month Ever? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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Best Month Ever?

By on April 28, 2014

Following Sunday’s 4-0 blanking by the Cubs, the Brewers are now 18-7 to start the season. With three games left in April, the 2014 Brewers are tied with 1987’s “Team Streak” for the most wins in March/April at 18. They will get three shots in St. Louis to claim that record for their own.

While it’s unusual for a Brewers’ team to stack wins like this early in the season, how does this April compare to other historically good months for the franchise? Might we be watching the best month of Brewers’ baseball ever?

Now, “best” is far from a clearly defined term. Some might look at any combination of stats — winning percentage (WP%), run differential, and/or total number of wins – to determine what was the Brewers’ best month of baseball. So I collected info on all those stats. Hoping to not only place this April into a historical context but also to see how a dominant month affected the outcomes of previous Brewers teams. Maybe their fates could inform us on what could happen to this year’s club.

So, to see how this April stacks up, I hit up Baseball-Reference. Going back 46 seasons, to the 1969 Seattle Pilots, I looked at the monthly record and peripherals. For each season, I logged stats for the month when the Brewers won their most total games and any month where they won 18 games or more. Then I set out to see where this month fit in.

For simplicity sake, I took each month’s record at face value. March games were not included in April’s record and October games not added to September. Meaning that the Brewers’ current April record is 17-7 and their opening day victory against the Braves is counted in their March record of 1-0. Here’s how this April’s record and peripherals look –

Year Month Record WP% RS RA Run Diff.
2014 April 17-7 .708 99 79 20

By total number of wins, previous Brewers teams have only won more games in a month a total of 21 times. That number breaks down this way. A team has won 18 games in a month nine times. They have won 19 games in a month four times. 20 games in a month six times. And 21 games only twice. Following Sunday’s loss, the Brewers won’t be able to tie the team record for most wins in a month but they are still in good company.

One win against the Cardinals would make April only the 10th month a Brewers team has won 18 games. Here are the other ones —

Year Month Record WP% RS RA Run Diff. Season Record
1987 April 18-3 .857 135 97 38 91-71
1980 June 18-10 .643 150 107 43 86-76
1973 June 18-10 .643 140 111 29 74-88
2012 Sept. 18-10 .643 143 120 23 83-79
2009 May 18-10 .643 136 114 22 80-82
1987 August 18-11 .621 166 142 24 91-71
1981 May 18-12 .600 140 136 4 62-47*
1979 August 18-12 .600 156 165 -9 95-66
1976 July 18-13 .581 115 107 8 66-95

*Strike shortened season

1987’s “Team Streak” posted, by far, the best winning percentage (.857%) for an 18 win team. Their +38 run differential is second only to the +43 runs logged during the 18-win month of June 1980. Amazingly, the 1979 team won 18 games in August while posting a -9 run differential. This shows that run differential may be important to winning but it is not essential.

Even though only eight Brewers teams have won 18 games in a month, 1987’s “Team Streak” did it twice, it’s far from a guarantee of success. Five of those teams finished the season with a winning record while three finished with a losing record. So an 18-win month has only helped previous Brewers teams to a winning record 62.5% of the time.

Most notably, the 1976 team won 18 games in July yet finished with only 66 wins on the season. How does that happen? Well, July was the only month the team had a winning record. Their 15-15 August being the only other time the 1976 team won more than nine games in a month. Beside the winning record, July of 1976 is known for something else in Brewers’ history. It was on July 20, 1976, when Hank Aaron hit his 755th, and final, home run of his career.

If this year’s team finishes April with 18 wins, their record would be 19-9. Playing .500 ball for the rest of the season means the team would finish 86-76.

Now, let’s look at the four times a Brewers team won 19 games in a month —

Year Month Record WP% RS RA Run Diff. Season Record
1979 July 19-10 .655 142 109 33 95-66
1991 August 19-10 .655 164 144 20 83-79
1982 August 19-11 .633 167 112 55 95-67
1975 June 19-13 .594 156 165 -9 68-94

It will take two wins against the Cardinals for this year’s team to join this company. Again, the run differential between 19-win months is staggering. The 1975 team won 19 while being outscored by nine runs. Meanwhile, the 1982 American league championship team bested their opponents by 55 runs during their 19-win month.

Three of the teams went on to have winning seasons. Two of them won a total of 95 games. Only the 1975 team finished with a losing record. Again, that happened because the team couldn’t muster more than 12 wins in any other month and the team’s 9-7 April was their only other winning month.

If this year’s team finishes April with 19 wins, their record would be 20-8. They would finish the season 87-75 if they could play .500 ball for the rest of 2014.

Here is how teams with 20 wins in a month shake out —

Year Month Record WP% RS RA Run Diff. Season Record
2008 August 20-7 .741 151 72 79 90-72
1992 Sept. 20-7 .741 131 69 62 92-70
1982 June 20-7 .741 177 124 53 95-67
1983 July 20-8 .714 173 149 24 87-75
1987 Sept. 20-9 .690 150 112 38 91-71
1983 August 20-13 .606 123 103 20 87-75

It would take a sweep of the Cardinals for the Brewers to finish this April with 20 wins. That would be important not only because the Cardinals are currently the division’s second place team, but also because every Brewers team that notched 20-wins in a month has finished the season with a winning record. Four of the five teams also won 90+ games on the season.

The interesting team in this group is the 1983 squad. They were the only one of these teams to not win 90 games, even though they won 20 games in both July and August. So how does a team win 40 games over two month but finish the season with only a total of 87 wins? Simple, a ten game losing streak in September. The team played around .500 ball across April, May, June, and October, but went 10-18 in September. This shows that winning 20 games in a month, even twice, is a very positive sign, but one that can still be undercut by a bad slide.

Winning 20 in April would have this team staked to a 21-7 start. Splitting wins and loses until the finish line lands them at 88-74.

Finally, here are the two times a Brewers team won 21 games in a single month —

Year Month Record WP% RS RA Run Diff. Season Record
2011 August 21-7 .750 138 89 49 96-66
1978 June 21-9 .700 169 115 54 93-69

The 2011 Brewers finished the season with the best record in franchise history. The 1978 team won 93 games to finish third in the AL East. They had a winning record in every month except April – when they went 9-11.

While the Brewers April has been outstanding, it will fall short of being their best month ever. When measured by total number of wins, August of 2011 and June of 1978 have them bested with 21. No matter how many wins they tally in St. Louis, 1987’s “Team Streak” will still own the best monthly winning percentage, at .857%, after their 18-3 April. Finally, the +79 run differential posted in the 20-7 August of 2008 should still stand after Wednesday.

Even though the team has put up an impressive amount of wins to start the season, many obstacles remain before the Brewers can consider 2014 a success. Currently, the injuries to Ryan Braun and Jean Segura, and Gomez’s impending suspension, will test the team’s depth charts. As Jason Collette noted in the most recent DoU Podcast, a lack of depth might be this team’s Achilles heel.

In the end, a month does not a season make. Regression will rear its ugly head soon enough. The Brewers will not keep winning at this pace, but, at this point, that isn’t needed for this team to be playing meaningful games in September. If history is any indication, the key is to regress back to .500 but not below it.

So far this team has played pretty great. But, in baseball’s beautifully counter-intuitive way, success can now be defined as being able to play good, but not great, baseball consistently. Let’s enjoy this surge of winning as long as it goes. Then cross our fingers and hope that the Crew can keep their ship steady and together for the rest of the season.




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