It’s well established that the Brewers are good enough to make the playoffs. They have the fourth best VORP, 201.9, nine points higher than the Cardinals and twenty-six higher than the Cubs. The Brewers DRA of 4.69 sits a respectable sixth in the NL, only 18 points behind the Cardinals and 12 behind the Pirates. Pairing that with their 4.16 relief DRA, which is third best in the NL, and seventh best pWARP, they’re certainly one of the top six overall teams in the NL.
Yes, Milwaukee still has to actualize those numbers and make the playoffs, a harrowing task with the Cubs, Diamondbacks and Rockies giving chase. Plus, PECOTA doesn’t necessarily favor the Brewers, listing their playoff odds at 47.1 percent, which is well behind the Cubs 60 percent, Rockies 73 percent, D’backs 84 percent.
But, let’s assume the Brewers push past PECOTA and make the field, most likely in a Wild Card game. Are they good enough to win the World Series?
For comparison purposes, I looked at the numbers (through 95 games) from World Series winners through from the past twenty years.
First of all, look at the Brewers’ record. At this writing, the Brewers now sit at 52-44, and their mark of 52-43 was tied with or better than six of the past World Series winners through 95 games: the 2012 Giants, 2011 Cardinals, 2010 Giants, 2008 Phillies, 2004 Red Sox, and 2003 Marlins.
The worst record of a World Series winner belongs to the Marlins who, after firing their manager at the start of the season, had a solid but unimpressive 49-46 record in the middle of July. They’re the only team with fewer than 50 midseason wins to win a World Series in the past 20 years. The average record for a World Series winner is 55-50, so the Brewers don’t really have a problem in that department.
Let’s move on to the offense, the most publicly heralded trait of the team. The Brewers’ .773 OPS is higher than 11 of the World Series winners, and their 143 Home Runs is higher than anybody else. However, there are some drawbacks. They’re in the bottom half of walks and runs, with twelve teams having higher numbers in both catego ries, and none of the twenty teams have come close to matching the Brewers 914 total strikeouts.
Granted, the home run and strikeout numbers are more likely a product of the current era they’re playing in. Last year, the Cubs 817 team strikeouts were the highest over the past twenty years, and all three of the 2017 powerhouses in the West (Dodgers, Rockies, D’Backs) have 816 or more team strikeouts. However, 914 strike outs is absolutely ridiculous. It’s nearly 100 more than any of the total 34 teams I’ve looked at in the past 21 years, and it’s 300 or 400 more than some teams.
Yes, the home run numbers are impressive, but teams in the past have come close to touching the Brewers 143. The 2004 Red Sox had 131 and the 2001 D’backs had 128. Nobody has even been close to 900 strikeouts. If the Brewers do make the playoffs, and they run into arms like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and Stephen Strasburg, it’s probably the end of the line.
Moving onto pitching, only six of the past 20 World Series winners had an ERA higher than the Brewers 4.08, and four of the 20 surrendered more than the Brewers 332 walks. Even worse, in the past decade, only one World Series winner had an ERA over 4.08. So, after the end of the Steroid Era, pitching has won out.
Now, let’s combo the offense and the defense. Are there any teams that have won the World Series in the past 20 years who’ve had an OPS of .773 or lower and an ERA of 4.08 or higher through 95 games? Yes, exactly one, the 2003 Marlins. There were a few teams that were close, like the 2008 Phillies who had a .744 OPS and 3.91 ERA or the 2006 Cardinals with a .775 OPS and 4.61 ERA, but only the Marlins qualified in both categories.
Comparing teams across eras, the one wrench in the Brewers playoff plans is the Dodgers. No World Series winning team from the past two decades has been as good as the Dodgers though 95 games. Their 3.12 ERA is the lowest, by a good margin. The only one that comes close to them is last year’s Cubs who had a 3.24 ERA. But, the Cubs had more walks and less strikeouts. It’s really not a competition.