Brewers Farm Update

Your Terrible, Very Bad Contenders

Say it with me: the Brewers are a good baseball team. Come on, just do it; you’re on your commute, having a cup of coffee, booting your work computer, so say it. These Brewers are a good team. In fact, the Brewers are a very good baseball team. The club has stomached a lethargic offense for much of the season, yes, but even that offensive unit has improved significantly over the course of the year.

Brewers Offense RS / G
March / April 3.77
May 4.89
June 4.60
July 4.13

The pitching staff has hit a rough stretch, sure, but the club has hardly reverted to some terrible performance level. In fact, even through a dreadful 7-9 July record thus far, the Brewers pitchers remain better than average for the season (assessed against their National League / Miller Park environment).

Brewers Offense RA / G
March / April 3.57
May 3.85
June 3.84
July 4.38

You’ve almost seen it all in 2018, everything except for your beloved Brewers’ ability to coordinate their very best baseball. But that’s life; life is nothing but a series of unending problems with distribution, and the Brewers’ current issues revolve around one absolutely nasty stretch of eight games in which their worst offense and pitching performances coordinated.

2018 Brewers RS RA Pace
Game Twenty -99 +48 76 W
Game Forty -98 +75 81 W
Game Sixty -27 +99 89 W
Game Eighty -18 +128 92 W
Game Ninty-Eight -28 +96 89 W

The Brewers are a very good team. They just are. Sorry about that, those are the facts. Averaging Daily Pythagorean records (expected records based on the club’s Runs Scored and Runs Allowed), the Brewers average nearly 85 wins on the season (with a standard deviation of approximately 11.1). That’s good enough, but regular Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee readers will know that that average expected win total is dragged down by atrocious April baseball. In fact, luckily for Brewers fans, their favorite club’s run differentials are skewed data, for even though the club is averaging 85 expected wins on the season, the Brewers’ median expected wins are 89, with a mode of 90 expected wins. Say it again, the Brewers are a very good baseball team. In fact, that’s a contending team, even.

If you don’t think 89 or 90 wins are good enough, that’s quite all right, as the Brewers are rather frequently expected to win 91, 92, and 93 games in 2018 thus far.

Brewers Pythagorean Total Games Percentage
90 W 14 14.3%
91 W 12 12.2%
87 W 8 8.2%
92 W 8 8.2%
89 W 7 7.1%
81 W 6 6.1%
85 W 5 5.1%
93 W 5 5.1%
83 W 4 4.1%
84 W 4 4.1%

That series in Pittsburgh was atrocious, there’s no getting around that. The series in Miami was very bad, as well. Yet, luckily the Brewers had also soundly beaten Atlanta in a four game series (23 RS / 14 RA), they swept Minnesota (11 RS / 7 RA), and they played nearly geometrical .500 baseball in the seven series prior to these proceedings (78 RS / 73 RA). If you don’t believe that the Brewers deserve to have a rough week every now and then, especially not on the back end of an injury-riddled 21-game-stretch-in-20-days, I certainly hope you march into your boss’s office and request that they throw out the good stuff the next time you get assessed during a bad week.

The trouble with a baseball season is that it’s an extremely long affair, so long that there is every opportunity for every team, from top to bottom in the league, to show all of their warts. And show them thoroughly. In fact, this is probably not the worst stretch of baseball you’ve seen from the Brewers in 2018, if you’re a regular fan. This might not have been the worst stretch of baseball we see yet! Compare Milwaukee’s recent series outcomes in Pittsburgh and Miami with other choice series:

2018 Bad Baseball G WPCT RS RA
July 9 to 15 8 0.125 30 41
April 24 to 29 6 0.333 13 13
June 1 to 11 9 0.333 41 38
June 16 to 27 10 0.400 39 38
Total 33 0.303 123 130

That’s a lot of very bad baseball outcomes, but ironically many outcomes on the field balanced with relatively solid underlying production. What is perhaps special about the Pittsburgh series is that it’s one of the few times all year that the results on the field really matched the underlying performance; it was simply bad baseball. But, it’s bad baseball from a fundamentally good baseball club, perhaps correcting some other distributional injustices that occurred early in the season. For example, from April 4 through April 18, the Brewers posted a relatively respectable 6-8 record despite underlying performance of 38 RS / 57 RA. That’s a 4-10 club that just gained two additional wins during a stretch of relatively hideous baseball.

By now, a theme should be apparent for these Brewers: they are a club that is facing distributional oddities throughout the year. They’re a good baseball club that has played extended stretches of ugly ball at times, while also unleashing an elite bullpen, exceptional fielding, and a strong starting pitching rotation (probably thanks to the fielding) to weather the offense’s cold snaps.

The offense, overall, looks rough, but it has been coming around in fits and starts, and steadily reaching more capable run production levels.

Through May 25 32-20
Runs scored 208
Runs Allowed 187
Average RS 4.00 (-27)
Average RA 3.60 (+44)
162-G RS / RA 87 W

What every sour fan who has mentioned that the Brewers are merely a .500 team since the end of May has forgotten, however, is that there is plenty of good in this seeming pile of mediocre baseball, too.

May 26 Onward 23-23
Runs Scored 218
Runs Allowed 190
Average RS 4.73 (+11)
Average RA 4.13 (+14)
162-G RS / RA 91 W

From May 26 onward, Milwaukee is indeed a .500 baseball team, but one with underlying performance metrics that one would expect to play a bit higher. Perhaps most importantly, the diverging bats and arms reversed those trends over the last 46 games, instead producing at approximately the same better than average level. For all the awful distributional outcomes that this team has witnessed over those 46 games, the club itself is in phenomenal underlying position in terms of their production. Now, it is time for the club to get healthy, rest most of the pitching staff over the All-Star Break, make some key upgrades (perhaps recalling Orlando Arcia from Triple-A Colorado Springs, and shifting Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff into the rotation). There are certainly concerns that the club can resolve, but these amount much more to standard in-season fine-tuning acquisitions than sea change, roster shifting developments.

Trend Extrapolation Final 64 Games
First 52 Games 35-29
Last 46 Games 36-28
First 64 Games 38-26
Last 64 Games 37-27
True .500 32-32
Best 64 Games 51-13
Worst 64 Games 17-47
Median 64 Games 35-29

It’s a shame that so many Brewers fans are writing off this bizarre club, expecting this Pittsburgh series to be the end of the competitive stretch for the team. For in fact, this last road trip was a blip within the team’s excellent improvement over the last half of the season, but a team that has hardly seen any just outcomes on the diamond, for all their improvements. If you’re inclined to argue that this club is done, their actual performance suggests that they were just getting starting recently, and that they have yet to see their efforts pay dividends.

These Brewers are a very good baseball club.

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1 comment on “Your Terrible, Very Bad Contenders”


Look, I agree to some extend: they are a good team. They aren’t done! But they have much work to do. They are facing a dogfight with the Cubs until September. 93 wins may not even be enough to win the Central.

Baseball fans of every team ever are likely to start panicking in situations like this. They had a rough week! Every team has them. But their response, however irrational, is a human response. That’s life, as you say. Why do you ridicule them for it? Commenting on job situations, suggesting they be disciplined? That’s just bizarre man!

You showed be the trends. The offense has regressed this month. The pitching has too. These are significant problems! Contending teams peak in the second half (see: 2011, Milwaukee) A mediocre July of 7-9, while not dreadful, is not going to get it done. As you say, we may see worse baseball yet!

89 wins is not going to get it done either. And you do not state that while they have a sizeable chance of exceeding it, they have a 60.2% chance of finishing between 83 and 88 wins as presented by your chart! Enough for a wild card in today’s MLB, but not something I’m satisfied with. And I doubt the team would be either! An entire season coming down to one game, which is hardly the postseason, isn’t a great outcome.

“Sorry about that. Those are the facts.” This is something Colbert might have said ca. 201! I see your statistics, and my interpretation differs from yours. I don’t like this forceful tone you use. For one, I see a team that over-performed underlying stats until late May, and a team that has undergone a correction since as their underlying numbers have suggested a better record. Seems like we should be neutral. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

But you’re jamming optimism down our throats here! This team is better than I expected, but I still stand by the prediction of a wild card team at best. I’d love to be wrong, but I am a realist. I am not writing the team off. But I am not blindly optimistic and I do feel this past series was a microcosm of much larger issues the team has which are evident in their run differential and

I don’t need to say anything with you, thanks! I’ll keep saying this: the Brewers are a good team, but must correct a lot in order to win the division, and make a deep playoff run. That’s a perfectly moderate response which won’t cause great arguments like your forceful cheeriness. It is both well-reasoned and borne out in numbers you present above.

Your ideas to correct things are ones I agree with though: Burnes and Woody into the rotation plus Arcia back in the majors over the sea-change (Machado, DeGrom) moves. Those plus less sexy upgrades (Eovaldi, bullpen arms Yates or perhaps Familia, reliable offensive help at 2B and C) would make me agree with your assessment of “very good”. I’ll just stick with good for now.

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