The Brewers are sitting at 36-25, five games ahead of the second-place Cardinals in the National League Central. In addition, Milwaukee has the best run differential in the division at +27.
This has many Brewer fans brimming with irrational exuberance. So we’ll check in with the team’s playoff odds, as calculated by various media outlets.
The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report has long be the go-to barometer for prognosticators to check their bets during the season. BP projected that the Crew would be a .499 team this year, which is around where most people had them.
Despite that early season projection, BP still says that Milwaukee is looking at a 66.1% chance to make the playoffs this year. St. Louis is sitting at 57%. The Pirates and Reds are down in the teens, and the Cubs are sitting at 2.1%.
The Brewers’ 66.1% is actually fourth in the National League, behind San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles.
The “Worldwide Leader”
ESPN has a slightly more favorable projection for Milwaukee, giving them a 70.3% chance of making the playoffs, second best in the national league, behind just San Francisco.
The Cardinals are down at 41.1%. The Pirates, Reds and Cubs are all in the teens.
FanGraphs doesn’t actually post playoff odds, but they do give you projected records for everybody, updated daily. Despite sitting at 36-25, FanGraphs projects the Brewers to win just 49 of their last 101 games, to finish with 85 wins.
This is identical to the Cardinals’ final projected record of 85-77, as FanGraphs expects St. Louis to win 54 of their final 101 games. An 85-win prediction for Milwaukee would actually be fifth in the National League, behind San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and Atlanta.
Before the season started, I had Milwaukee at 82 wins. Most projections had them between 76 and 82 wins. The question then becomes, why do so many “experts” think that Milwaukee is a near .500 team, and why is Milwaukee outperforming those projections so far this season?
Part of that is simply luck. We’ve learned over the years that Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a better predictor of future ERA than ERA is. The only Brewers starter with a better FIP than ERA is Matt Garza.
The rotation has been strong to this point of the season, but based on past history and predictors like FIP it won’t stay that strong the whole run through the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, the situation is looking better. Only Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are really performing well offensively. Every other player in the lineup could improve for the remainder of the season. Will they all? Of course not.
If the Brewers go .500 the rest of the way, they’ll finish with either 86 or 87 wins. That isn’t a bad projection for the team right now. They went below .500 in May while dealing with injuries, and they are just a 1/2 game over so far in June.
The thing is, 87 wins could very well win the Central this season. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are both struggling to score runs, and Pittsburgh isn’t preventing them either. St. Louis was the favorite coming in, but they have been struggling too, and are projected to be in the 85-win range.
Brian Anderson likes to say the Brewers are on pace for 95 wins. That is probably a bit high for the club right now, but it’s nice to dream.
Where do you think the Brewers will finish?