The Continued Costs of Miller Park

The Last Run

The Brewers will close their 2017 campaign (and playoff run) with 22 of 25 games against NL Central foes. This includes three road games against each foe (including a season closing series at St. Louis), and 10 home games against the Reds (3), Pirates (3), and Cubs (4). All things considered, this is both a fantastic schedule and a terrible one; fantastic insofar as our beloved Milwaukee Nine will be have a chance to directly impact their playoff destiny, and terrible insofar as they will have a chance to impact their destiny mostly on the road and with the only “uneven” (four game) series against the Cubs.

So, the next 24 games are the crucial set up for the Brewers, should they remain in the playoff race. After seven games against the Twins and Reds, Milwaukee’s players will be able to breathe a bit, facing four off days within the span of two weeks (!!!). These off days mitigate a west coast trip that could be much tougher (all things considered), and they will allow Craig Counsell to boost a pitching rotation by picking match-ups and skipping starts if necessary. This is crucial during a stretch of games in which Chase Anderson may return to the rotation, and someone like Brent Suter or Brandon Woodruff could be creatively deployed from a beleaguered bullpen that has simply been hammered by close-game-after-close-game in the second half.

Next 24 Games (G) Total Runs (Pace) RS RA 2017 Record (Pace) RS/RA-WPCT
@/vs. Twins (4) -67 (70) -23 -44 53-56 (79) -9 (Significantly Overplaying)
vs. Reds (3) -98 (66) -18 -80 45-66 (66) 0 (“True” Pace)
vs. Pirates (2) -22 (77) -31 +9 54-57 (79) -2 (Slightly Overplaying)
@ Rockies (3) +58 (86) -1 +59 64-48 (93) -7 (Significantly Overplaying)
@ Giants (3) -105 (66) -48 -57 44-69 (63) +3 (Slightly Underplaying)
@ Dodgers (3) +192 (111) +66 +126 72-32 (115) -4 (Overplaying)
vs. Cardinals (2) +31 (86) -11 +42 55-56 (80) +6 (Significantly Underplaying)
vs. Nationals (4) +109 (98) +85 +24 65-44 (97) 1 (“True” Pace)
Average 83 85 -2 (Slightly Overplaying)
Brewers +29 (85) +0 +29 59-54 (85) 0 (“True” Pace)

This test will allow the “true” pace Brewers to…perhaps ring even truer to define their stretch divisional run in September. The bats have been dreadful lately, dwindling all the way to a basic “average” (+0 RS) mark from a sustained 162 game pace of +40 RS between June 1 and June 21, and a sustained pace of +26 RS from July onward.

Brewers Last 60 162 Game Pace Standard Deviation
Bats +30 RS 18.7
Arms +33 RA 11.2
Average W-L 87 -
Actual Pace 31-29 (84) -

Meanwhile, the pitching has worked through a fantastic stretch of playing, building a true average of +33 RA over the last sixty games. This places the arms as the leaders of this club, rather than the bats, quite contrary to the season-opening narrative. Over the last sixty, the bats have not been terrible (averaging +30 RS), but they have deviated from that average to a much wider degree; in the last sixty games, one standard deviation for the bats’ run differential is 18.7 runs, while the arms have one standard deviation of 11.2 runs. The pitching staff is quite steady, even for the bad press due to blown leads (which is as much a function of the offense as the pitching) and the total stinker in Washington (which comprises a significant portion of the club’s second half runs allowed).

At their best, there remains an 87 win (or better) team hidden within this roster, but of course, a club can’t play without variance. That variance shows in an extreme manner over the last 10 games:

Last 10 RS Last 10 RA
+24 +46
+17 +30
+12 +28
+8 +31
+14 +24
+12 +25
+10 +27
+7 +32
+6 +39
+0 +42

Unfortunately, these next 24 games almost set up an obvious trap for a “true pace” Brewers club, a club ringing about as close to that season-long 85-win average as one could ever hope. It is almost as though this is an 85-win club through and through. Two problems emerge: first and foremost, this pitching staff will now have their strong recent run tested by five consecutive mediocre-to-poor offenses. There may be some sense of pressure that these next handful of opponents are indeed batting orders that this Brewers pitching staff might be expected to keep in check. Second, the bats should get their chance to regroup against two consecutive below average opposing pitching staffs. This may add pressure to a batting order that is already slumping to a runs scoring pace that might best be described as “arctic” and is certainly “glacial” at worst.

Moreover, the overall feeling of these next 24 games is that the Brewers are facing some clubs that have overplayed their respective run differentials and run elements thus far. This is another dangerous test for “the True Brewers,” who are right on course with their underlying elements. It’s impossible to say, though, that “a playoff club would win these games.” A playoff club might scuffle on the west coast, run a 12-12 or 10-14 stretch, and then relish the bright lights against familiar divisional foes. It’s not entirely clear what these Brewers are, anyway; Josh Hader is working on command and secondary pitches out of the bullpen, Brandon Woodruff might just be a spot starter for now, and Lewis Brinson is not even receiving post-trade deadline developmental time (as last year’s top prospect, Orlando Arcia, did). These Brewers are not rebuilding, they’re not developing their top prospects by allowing them to take their knocks at the big league level, and they’re certainly not a playoff contender in the sense of making deadline moves to bolster club weaknesses (like the offense). But so it goes with the strange 2017 Brewers, those lovable, audacious chumps that never know when to quit.

This is their last run before they meet their foes: Game on.

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