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The 1% Factor: How The Brewers Can Defy The Odds And Make A Run
- Updated: July 16, 2010
As the Brewers end the first “half” of play and come out on the other end of the All-Star Break, the following question popped into my mind:
Can The Brewers Defy a 40-49 Record and actually make a playoff run?
The one good thing about hope is that it cannot be killed (no matter how faint it is). The reason I say this is even though the first half has been rough to the Brewers, mathematical elimination is still a couple months away (and thus faint hope still remains for the Brewers to contend, even if said hope is on life support). According to CoolStandings.com, the Brewers go into the All-Star break with a 1% chance to make the playoffs. On the half-empty side of the equation, this tells us that if the rest of the season played out 100 times, the Brewers are going to fall short 99 times. On the half-full side of thinking, this tells us that if the season played out 100 times, the Brewers would make the playoffs once. Since there is no way to know whether or not this is the one time out of a hundred, I decided to take a look at a few factors that could help the Brewers make the most out of this 1%. While I am not crazy enough to guarantee this would happen, they do have some factors in their favor.
1- The NL Central is a fairly weak division:
Despite being 9 games under .500, the Brewers are in a relatively weak division (sitting at 8 1/2 games out….that may not be close but then again, teams have come back from bigger deficits) where you may not have to get past 85 wins to win it. Obviously, the Pirates & Astros are also-rans, the Cubs have been performing well below their talent level, leaving us with the Reds and Cardinals.
The Reds have been one of the surprise teams in the NL this year. However, they have yet to prove that they can play consistent ball from start to finish. The Cardinals, may be in second but are probably the most likely of these two teams to run-off with the division. The Cardinals are much more star-heavy with the likes of Carpenter, Wainwright, Pujols, etc….but they too are not without their flaws (especially with pitchers like Hawksworth and Suppan populating the back-end of their rotation).
2- The Back-End of the Bullpen has shown signs of improvement:
The one thing that set the tone for this rough first-half was the bullpen. In April, the Brewers bullpen was blowing saves like they were going out of style as the 1-2 combo of Trevor Hoffman and LaTroy Hawkins were responsible for several come from ahead losses early on. Fortunately, an upgrade to this duo was only a couple of call-ups away.
In the last couple months, bullpen meltdowns have been kept to a minimum as John Axford has been given the closing role. Axford has literally come out of nowhere (he was pitching in A-ball as late as 2009), converting his first 10 save opportunities and has stopped the trend of the 9th inning being a house of horrors for Brewers fans. This resurgence has not been limited to Axford. The Brewers have also managed to find a reliable set-up man (who also started the season in Nashville) in Kameron Loe. While originally, it looked like Kameron Loe was just the guy getting called up to take Jeff Suppan’s roster spot, he has turned out to be a pitcher who can be relied upon in high-leverage situations.
3- The Starting Rotation has shown signs of life as well:
Of course, this is all reliant upon Yovani Gallardo quickly recovering from his oblique strain. Speaking of Gallardo, he has taken the next step and established himself as the ace of the Brewers staff…..the type of ace that would be crucial in helping erase an 8 1/2 game deficit. Beyond that, there are signs of hope from the pitchers behind him.
Free agent signee Randy Wolf has given up 2 ER or less 4 times in his last 6 starts, lowering his ERA from 5.31 to 4.56. Dave Bush has bounced back from a rough 2009 season. He’s been a quietly steady pitcher as he has given up 3 ER or less in 14 of his 17 starts. The only reason his ERA is as high as it is (4.14) is due to a couple of bad days at the office (one against the Cubs and one against the Twins). If you take out these two starts, his ERA drops down to 2.96. If Bush and Wolf can build off of this momentum and whoever remains in the rotation between Davis, Parra and Narveson manage to at least be competent, the Brewers could make the most of their 1%.
4- Favorable Schedule
If the Brewers are going to make good on their one percent chance, their schedule in the next month or so allows them ample opportunity to make up those 8 1/2 games. While they start the second half against a solid Braves team, 20 of their next 23 games are against teams with a losing record (Pirates, Nationals, Cubs, Astros, and Diamondbacks). If the Brewers can take advantage of an easy stretch to go on a hot streak and if the Cardinals and Reds don’t run off with the NL Central, the Brewers could make things interesting.
5-With Their Offense, Don’t Count Out The Unlikely
Even with the Brewers notorious struggles on the pitching side, the Brewers have demonstrated a capability to score runs almost as fast as they give them up. With a line-up anchored with the bats of Ryan Braun & Prince Fielder (which were beginning to heat up right before the break) not to mention Casey McGehee, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, et, al……..the Brewers have several players who are capable of going yard on any given At-Bat.
6-Will This Be Enough?
It’s clear that the Brewers have more talent than their 40-49 record indicates. If the Brewers keep doing what they are doing on offense, Gallardo comes back fairly quickly and maintains his status as an ace, the Brewers get at least average production out of the rest of the rotation and the bullpen continues to improve, they have the pieces in place to make a surprise out-of nowhere run and take the central.
However, even if all of these factors ultimately work in the Brewers favor, this is still a very tall order. A lot of things would have to go right on their end not to mention they would need both St. Louis AND Cincinnati to struggle as well (and this is BEFORE taking into account that Prince Fielder, Corey Hart and others may be traded turning that 1% chance into a less than 0.1% chance).
Will the Brewers pull off a miracle run? Probably not. Do we know whether this is amongst the 99% of seasons that indicate the Brewers will fail in this task or is this season amongst the 1% where the Brewers will overcome the odds stacked against them? Nobody knows for sure. Is this reason to at least pay attention in the second half? Yes