It might be a long shot, but it wouldn’t be impossible for the Brewers to pull off a Wild Card upset. Here are three things that would help them do it.
When the league announced expanded playoffs for the 2020 season, it meant a higher likelihood of a team with a .500 record or lower making the postseason. One team did indeed end up making it in under those circumstances: the Milwaukee Brewers.
So it probably comes as no surprise that the Brewers aren’t being given much of a chance to get past their opponent, the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers. In three major media outlets, not a single one of their experts picked Milwaukee to advance to the NLDS.
That’s not exactly an outlandish conclusion to make considering you have the team who had the best record in all of MLB during the regular season in the Dodgers (43-17) matching up against the team with the lowest record to make the playoffs in the Brewers (29-31).
But nothing is impossible, especially in a short, three-game series where one quick win all of a sudden has you on the brink of a series victory. If the Brewers can do these three things, they could put themselves in position for an unlikely upset, and revenge for the 2018 playoffs.
1. Christian Yelich needs to play like a former MVP
It has been well-documented at this point how the Brewers offense has struggled mightily in 2020, and there have been plenty of players have been to blame. But possibly the most disappointing of them has been Christian Yelich, who is just two years removed from an NL MVP.
Though he has shown flashes of his former self at times, his numbers are down pretty much across the board despite a career high hard hit rate (55.6%) and average exit velocity (94.0 mph). Perhaps the most alarming stat is a strikeout rate (30.8%) that his far above his career mark (21.2%).
More than anything, the Brewers need Yelich to deliver with runners in scoring position. Last year, he was outstanding in that situation (.327 batting average, 1.155 OPS, 169 wRC+). This year, not so much (.132 BA, .628 OPS, 66 wRC+). If Yelich can rediscover that missing clutch gene, Milwaukee could look like a completely different team.
2. Make the Dodgers hitters keep the ball inside the park
Despite playing their home games in what is generally considered a pitchers’ park, the Dodgers are no stranger to hitting home runs. Their 118 homers led all of MLB and even in a season that was just 60 games long, they had five players hit double-digit home runs, led by Mookie Betts and AJ Pollock who each had 16.
Luckily, the Brewer pitching staff is among the league’s best at limiting the long ball as their 1.17 HR/9 given up is fourth best in all of MLB. If Milwaukee pitchers can keep the homers to a minimum, they might be able to keep the score close for long enough to take advantage.
3. Give Brent Suter a start in one of the first two games
The Brewers would have been able to throw out a heck of a 1-2 punch at the Dodgers by starting Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, who have both performed like aces at times this season. That plan went by the wayside when Burnes suffered an oblique injury that will make him miss at least the Wild Card round.
If Milwaukee wants anything close to that effect now, they need to let Brent Suter start in Burnes’s place. We already gave our opinion about how Suter has earned his chance to start. But the fact is that Milwaukee won three of the four games in which he started this season. If he gives them the best chance to win, he needs to be on the mound to start game one or game two.
In a completely unprecedented season, who’s to say that the Brewers can’t do the impossible against the Dodgers? If they can follow these three keys, they’ll at least have a shot.