When I wrote an introduction to the Wild Card week on Monday, I noted that the Brewers’ main task was to keep on winning while the other clubs faltered. The Brewers’ series against the Braves served as one of their last chances to directly impact the wild card race, and the Brewers accomplished the best possible outcome.
During the Brewers’ sweep, everything else seemed to go right, too. The reeling Pirates were swept by the Reds, and both the Padres and the Diamondbacks swept the Cardinals and Dodgers, respectively. About the only thing that didn’t go right were those Phillies wins against the Marlins, as Philadelphia is benefiting from the Brewers’ hot streak as much as the Brewers. Nevertheless, this is what needed to happen for playoff hope to remain for the Brewers. Now, it’s difficult not to feel the playoff race excitement.
Next Four Days
While the Brewers wait until Friday to face off against the Mets, the Dodgers and Cardinals begin a brutal four game series. What’s difficult about this series for the Brewers is that some team is going to have to win ballgames. Even though the Dodgers had trouble putting together wins over their last 20 games, and both teams are struggling to keep .500 records over their last 30, they now have chances to correct their courses. Even a series split will make it difficult for the Brewers to gain games in the race.
Meanwhile, the Phillies travel to Houston to face off against the Astros for four games. Over the weekend, the Pirates play a trio at Wrigley Field, while the Diamondbacks host the division leading Giants.
If the Dodgers take 3 of 4 against the Cardinals, they will take the Wild Card lead at 77-70. This is the best scenario if the Brewers lose a game over the weekend; while the Brewers simply have to keep winning, if they can make it to 74-72 over the weekend, they have a chance to remain close to the second wild card spot. A series split in Los Angeles places the Cardinals in front at 77-70, while a sweep by either the Cardinals or Dodgers would place the second wild card spot at 78 or 79 wins. Unless the series at Dodgers Stadium results in a sweep, the Brewers have a good opportunity to remain in the race this weekend.
Against the Mets, the Brewers’ probable pitchers are Fastballer Mike Fiers, Shaun Marcum, and Wily Peralta. The Mets will probably counter with Jonathon Niese, Jenrry Mejia, and Chris Young.
The Brewers are 72-71, but they are winning games at a torrid pace; over the last 20, the Brewers are 15-5. If our Milwaukee nine catch up with their run differential, and win games according to their RS/RA, they have an opportunity to finish the season with approximately 85 wins; if they continue their torrid pace, they have an opportunity to win 86 or 87. Even if they win at the rate of their overall winning percentage, they have a chance at a winning record, perhaps winning 82 or 83.
St. Louis previously had a strong chance of winning the second wild card spot because their projected win total was as high as 87. Due to their recent cold streak, the Cardinals’ winning percentage places them at a level of 84 or 85 wins. Perhaps the most shocking element of this entire race is that the Cardinals have such a strong club overall, including a run differential that should have them competing with the Cincinnati Reds. Theoretically, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents at a rate that could result in a 91 win season; they could underplay their run differential by as many as 7 games. One should expect their club to snap out of it at any time; the Cardinals probably have the ballclub that one would most expect to make the playoffs of this group (which, of course, also places the pressure on them).
Merely 10 days ago, when the threshold for the second Wild Card spot was 87 wins, the Brewers had finish their games at a 22-7 pace, while St. Louis only needed to go 15-13 (and Los Angeles, 15-12). Now, with the threshold around 84-85 wins, the Brewers need to finish their season 13-6, while the Cardinals need to go 10-9. While winning games at a .684 percentage is obviously more difficult than winning games at a .526 percentage, that scenario is more favorable to the Brewers than one in which they needed a .759 winning percentage against the Cardinals’ .536 winning percentage. If anything, these comparisons should show just how much the Wild Card gap closed in the last 10 days. Shaving two full wins off of the wild card threshold was a significant first step in turning this Wild Card race into a reality for the Brewers.
Baseball-Prospectus might have the best statistic for this whole scenario. Within one week, the Brewers’ playoff odds jumped from approximately 0.1% to approximately 1.8% (as of Tuesday); while the Cardinals still boast better than a 72% chance of making the playoffs, that number is falling from their near 80% odds they held not too long ago.
What seemed impossible for the Brewers just 10 days ago now merely seems improbable. The best part, of course, is that we simply get to sit back and enjoy exceptional baseball from the Brewers. The Milwaukee nine simply need to win, and lately, they are winning about as much as they possibly can. I don’t know about you, but I won’t ever complain about an opportunity to watch the Brewers put together a 15-5 stretch.