The Brewers’ Central Problem | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

I don’t need to tell you that it’s bad for the Brewers, right now. Their team ERA is 4.55, worst in the National League. Prior to Thursday’s game, the Brewers’ high-powered offense was only hitting .243 with runners in scoring position, which is lower than the MLB team average of .255. The Brewers have held serve against right-handed pitchers (12-12) but struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers (4-11). And, after losing 11 games the entire month of April, the Crew lost their 11th game of May on the 15th. Yet, if we take a step back from all the small cuts taking their toll of the Brewers’ season, and look at the elephant in the room, it’s fairly obvious what’s keeping the Brewers from having a winning season  –- their success against other NL Central teams. Right now, the Brewers have a NL Central problem.

So far, the Brewers are 7-8 versus the NL West, 1-1 in inter-league play, and 8-14 versus the NL Central.  Here’s how that 8-14 breaks down –

MIL vs
CHC 4-1
CIN 0-3
PIT 3-4
STL 1-6

An 8-14 record gives the Brewers a .364 winning percentage (WP) against the teams they play the most this season. With 54 games left against NL Central opponents, if the Brewers continued to win games at that rate, they would go 20-34 (.370 WP) and finish the season 28-48 (.368 WP) against the NL Central.

Let me be the first to say that a 28-48 record against NL Central clubs will not happen. Why can I be so certain? Because if the Brewers did end up going 28-48 against the NL Central, this year, the .368 WP would be the worst winning percentage the Brewers would have against the NL Central — EVER.

Since the Brewers joined the NL Central for the 1998 season, here is how they have fared against division opponents –

Year MIL vs NL Central Winning Percentage
1998 22-34 .393
1999 32-30 .516
2000 33-30 .524
2001 37-47 .440
2002 35-55 .389
2003 37-47 .440
2004 35-54 .393
2005 38-41 .481
2006 37-45 .451
2007 43-36 .544
2008 47-32 .595
2009 42.37 .532
2010 37-40 .481
2011 51-29 .638
2012 45-34 .570

Over the last fifteen years, the Brewers average a .492 WP against NL Central opponents. But, as an organization, the Brewers have been trending in the right direction. Since 2007, the Crew has only won less than half of their division games once, 2010. So recent history suggests that this team should rebound. But with a horrific start to the season series against the Cardinal, and a sluggish one against the Reds, have the Brewers dug themselves a hole that will be too tough to overcome?

Here’s how the season series have shaken out between the Brewers and the rest of the NL Central over the last five years –

MIL vs 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 5 Year Record Winning Percentage
CHC 13-4 10-6 6-9 7-10 7-9 43-38 .531
CIN 6-9 8-8 3-11 7-8 8-10 32-46 .410
PIT 11-4 12-3 13-5 9-5 14-1 59-18 .766
STL 6-9 9-9 8-7 9-9 10-5 42-39 .519

After the Brewers 8-14 start against NL Central opponents, they need to go 30-24 to achieve a .500 WP. Here’s a completely unscientific road map to what the Brewers need to do to achieve that.

MIL vs CHC

Taking an early 4-1 series lead against the Cubs has accounted for half of the Brewers’ wins against NL Central opponents. With 14 games lefts against the Cubs, the Brewers need to continue their dominance against the North Siders and rack up as many wins as possible. With two three-game series and two four-game series against the Cubs, the Brewers need to achieve a 9-5 record for the rest of the season. That would bring the season series at 13-6 (.684 WP). With the way the Brewers have struggled against the rest of the NL Central, they must take advantage of this match-up as much as possible.

MIL vs CIN

Over the last five years, the Brewers have lost more games against the Reds than any other NL Central team. Let’s hope the Crew breaks that trend because they have sixteen more games left against the Reds, more than any other division opponent. To battle back to a .500 WP, in the NL Central, the Brewers need to split the remainder of the season series with the Reds. Those 16 games will be played over four three-game series and one four-game series. Fighting to an 8-8 record would bring the season series to 8-11 (.421 WP).  Not great but in-line with how they’ve played over the last five years.

MIL vs PIT

The Brewers recent dominance of the Pirates has been nothing short of ridiculous. Obviously, it’s unsustainable, especially considering the Pirates recent resurgence. Still, the Brewers need to retain some of that magic for the rest of the year. With four three-game series left on the schedule, the Brewers need to squeeze as many wins from these match-ups as possible. Hopefully, the Brewers can go 8-4 for the rest of the year and end the season series at 11-8 (.579 WP). Here’s hoping the Brewers can take advantage of another second half slide by the Pirates.

MIL vs STL

Finally, there has been a general feeling amongst the Brewers’ faithful that the Cardinals own the Crew. Surprisingly, the numbers over the last five years don’t back this up. In fact, the Brewers have, more often than not, taken care of business against the Red Birds. This foreboding feeling must come from the Brewers play against the Cardinals over the last two years. Since Ron Roenicke took over as manager, counting the 2011 post-season and the beginning of the 2013 season, the Brewers are 18-28 (.391 WP) against the Cardinals.

Yes, it’s been a horror show to start the season, but, if all falls in-line as described above, the Brewers can get to a .500 WP, within the division, by winning seven of the remaining 12 games with the Cardinals. The two teams have four three-game series left to play, with the first one starting today. If the Brewers can battle to 7-5, they’ll bring the season series to 8-11 (.421 WP), and, hopefully, begin to reverse the recent series trend.

Now, you may ask, why am I so obsessed about getting the Brewers to a .500 WP within the division? Over the past ten seasons, 2003-2012, only three teams with losing records within their division have made the playoffs –

  • 2012 – Texas Rangers vs AL West – 27-30 – .474 WP
  • 2009 – Colorado Rockies vs NL West – 33-39 – .458 WP
  • 2006 – St. Louis vs NL Central – 39-42 – .481 WP

In all three cases, the teams made up for a WP below .500 within their division by pounding on another division.

  • 2012 – Texas Rangers vs NL teams – 14-4 – .778 WP
  • 2009 – Colorado Rockies vs NL Central – 31-11 – .738 WP
  • 2006 – St. Louis vs NL West – 23-11 – .676 WP

Of course, right now, the Brewers are as far from a playoff team as can be. Before that discussion could ever begin, the Brewers need to battle back to .500. If they hope to salvage their season, the Crew can’t just count on dominating teams in other divisions. The only way the Brewers can get to .500, and maybe beyond, is by solving their NL Central problem.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Matt T says: May 17, 2013

    Thank you for mentioning the Pirates standard 2nd-half swoon. In an article based on historical perspective and regressing to the mean, we can’t dismiss the fact that losing baseball in Pittsburg is a historical fact. Sure, it could change, but are the Pirate (Starling Marte and Cutch aside) really that different a team than Milwaukee has dominated for half a decade?

  2. Keith says: May 17, 2013

    All these statistics are biased upward in a huge way. Lets take out Houston from the above sample and see what the results are. Also, all these teams have been improving, not sure i feel confident in saying that about the brewers…….

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