Brewers: Making the playoffs will be a tough ask

MILWAUKEE - JULY 1: A statue of Robin Yount statue stands outside Miller Park before a game between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers July 1, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE - JULY 1: A statue of Robin Yount statue stands outside Miller Park before a game between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers July 1, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With the National League shaping up to be quite good this coming season, the Milwaukee Brewers will have to run the gauntlet if they want to make the playoffs in 2020.

Can the Milwaukee Brewers make the post season for a third consecutive year? That’s the question on many Brewers fans minds right now as Spring Training gets underway.

Milwaukee made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for only the second time in franchise history in 2019. Doing it for a third consecutive season would mark the first time they’ve accomplished that feat in the 50 year history of the franchise.

Making it back to that stage in October, however, may prove extremely difficult. Though the Brewers did quite well to position themselves to be in the heart of the playoff race with the moves they made during this past off-season, the National League looks set to be even better than it was just a season ago.

Let’s take a look at how some of the projection models view the team’s chances of getting into the playoffs right now.

What does FanGraphs think?

FanGraphs 2020 season projections currently put the Brewers at third in the NL Central with 81.4 wins and 80.6 losses, or, when rounded, an 81-81 record.  The team currently has the 8th best odds of making the post-season (31%) in the the National League, and the 8th best odds of making the World Series in the NL (1.4%).

Milwaukee’s middle-of-the-pack ranking in terms of their playoff odds appear to stem, in part, from the extremely difficult schedule that they’re set to face. Right now, FanGraphs projects four of the five teams in the NL Central to finish with 80 or more wins, with nine teams in the National League reaching or exceeding that number too. That contributes to the team having an projected strength of schedule of .501, which would be the most difficult schedule that any of the four Central division teams that are expected to be competitive for a playoff birth would face.

In all, their projections suggest the Brewers will be competitive, but will fall a few games short of another playoff birth. Their average projections would see the team fall about five games shy of the second wild card (Atlanta Braves at 86.2).

How about Baseball Prospectus?

Baseball Prospectus has the Brewers projected to finish 4th in their division with a record of 79.4 wins and 82.6 losses (79-83 when rounded). Milwaukee currently holds the 8th best odds to make the playoffs in their rankings as well (20.3% or 14.6% adjusted), and is tied with St. Louis for the third best odds to win the Central Division (9.7%).

Like they are in the FanGraphs model, the Brewers middle-of-the-road odds appear to come from the fact that at least seven teams, including three from their own division, are expected to win 80 or more games this season. With the NL Central expected to be so tight between the top four teams, it lowers the odds of any runner-up being able to clinch a Wild Card birth since those teams will be playing (and likely beating each other) a lot.

That said, Milwaukee is projected for about five fewer wins than the projected second wild card team (Chicago Cubs at 84.5 wins) in their model. That means they should have a decent shot to make the post-season.

Are there any other projection systems worth looking at?

When FiveThiryEight and Davenport’s models are included as well, and are combined with the latter two projections we’ve just discussed, the Brewers average projected record for 2020 is 83-79, which is third best in the NL Central. They’d be tied with San Diego for the seventh best record in the National League as well when all four models are aggregated.

What does all of this tell us? It show that the NL is expected to be a slug fest once again in 2020 that will likely see the race decided in the final days. Expect uncertainty to reign as well.

If Milwaukee want to reach the post-season for the third consecutive year, they’ll probably have to exceed their projected record by at least a handful of games. Doing that may be difficult given how talented the NL Central’s best are. However, the NL East poses a similar challenge too. That could mean we’re about to see a season where the second wild card winner may only need between 83-87 wins to make the playoffs. That’s something that appears to be more than realistic for the Brewers given how all the models project them to be right now.

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They’ll probably need a few things to break their way to get there, but Milwaukee does have a realistic shot to make the playoffs for a third successive season in 2020. We’ll see if they can do that in the months to come.