To say that the prospect of an 11-day, 11-game road trip against the top three teams in the NL West was “dreaded” by Brewers fans would be an understatement. But the Brewers managed to survive Colorado, Arizona, and San Francisco, coming out of the trip with a 5-6 record and maintaining a claim to first place.
Still, with every loss, the Brewers’ road record returns to the forefront, and understandably so. Even with a 5-6 road trip, the Brewers road record sits at a dismal 21-35, the seventh worst record in the major leagues and the worst record of any team with any ideas of contention this summer. And as long as the Brewers’ road record looks so ugly — a .375 win percentage is hard to swallow for any team, much less a team with so much staked on 2011 as Milwaukee — the “road losers” perception will be impossible to shake.
The popular saying among baseball people — and one that’s uttered on the FS Wisconsin broadcasts nearly daily — is if a team wins two-of-three at home and half their games on the road, they’ll make the playoffs. Indeed, such a pace would result in a 95-win season and almost certainly a playoff berth. The Brewers have managed to win more than two thirds of their home games (33-14, a .702 winning percentage). To get back to .500 on the road, they’d need to play even better than they have at home — it would take a 20-6 (.769 winning percentage) finish on the road to get back to .500.
The most recent road trip showed an improvement on the end of the Brewers. Yes, there were games in which the offense was completely absent, but despite the incredible struggles of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun‘s injury issues, the Brewers nearly won half their games against the three best teams in the NL West. As I mentioned in this week’s ESPN Power Ranking comment, the Brewers played 100 points of winning percentage better on the road in June and July than they did in April and May. Just against the National League in that time, the Brewers are a whopping 10-9 since June 1st.
The Brewers road issues are unfortunate, and if anything keeps them out of the playoffs, it might be their early struggles on the road. But that’s due to the seven game losing streak that plagued the team in mid-May and the fact that they were stuck with the Yankees and Red Sox on the road in interleague play, not some inherent team quality that causes the Brewers to play replacement level baseball on the road.