With their eight-game winning binge, the Brewers have all but locked themselves into playoff position in the National League. They not only lead the Cubs (by four games) and the Reds (by six) in the NL Central, but own a six-game edge over both the Reds and the Giants in a would-be Wild Card contest. At this time of year, 'comfortable' is an alien world, but the Brewers are in an awfully good position.
FanGraphs gives the Crew a 97.1-percent chance to reach the playoffs, one way or another. That number is up 8.8 percent over the last week, thanks to their 5-0 record running opposite some head-to-head matchups between the Giants, Phillies, Reds, and Diamondbacks. Their greater progress, though, has been in the division race, where (despite the Cubs going 5-2 this past week) they surged from 72 percent likely to win the NL Central to a commanding 84.1 percent. Winning the upcoming three-game set at Wrigley Field would put the division almost out of reach, but even if they can't swing that, Craig Counsell's charges have given themselves ample margin within which to work.
Crazy things sometimes happen in September, but this remains a Counsell-led team, and it's one of the deepest ones he's ever had. There's very little reason to think they'll falter next month, and their strength of schedule is not especially daunting anymore. They more than survived what was the most brutal stretch left on their slate by bouncing back from a thwacking at the hands of the Dodgers to sweep the Rangers, Twins, and Padres in succession.
Baseball Prospectus is more circumspect about the Brewers' chances. It had them as just 54.6-percent likely to win the division entering Sunday, with a total Playoff Odds of 75.5 percent. That's fair, but it reflects PECOTA's stubborn belief in the Marlins (who have odds twice as high on BP as at FanGraphs), even as they have tumbled almost to .500. The nervous-making part is that it pegs the Cubs as three games better than the Crew from here on out, which suggests that even winning two out of three would put Chicago within reach of the Brewers with a month to go.
That might be true, from a theoretical true talent perspective, but the Brewers have a more complete roster at this point. Their starting rotation and bullpen are both deeper, and Counsell uses his weapons better than does Cubs skipper David Ross. This series will still be thrilling, and about as high-leverage as an August set can be, but the Brewers are in excellent shape to win division almost no matter what happens this week. They've earned their cushion, with a lot of close, sometimes ugly wins. This team is good, and while they still need to take care of business, they have every right to start thinking about October even before the calendar says September.
Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.