The Current State of Things
After an unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on who you ask) five-game losing streak, the Cubs skidded to 6.5 games behind in the NL Central. More importantly, they are back to being neck-and-neck with the Reds. As of now, here are the division standings.
While the Brewers’ neighbors have floundered in recent weeks, the other NL Wild Card contenders have pulled ahead, namely the Marlins who just completed a dominating sweep over the Braves this past weekend. As a result, here is what the playoff bracket would look like if the postseason started immediately.
Outlook On The Remainder of the Season
The Cubs, Marlins, and Reds all have 78 wins while the Diamondbacks have 79, so to say that things are quite close would be an understatement. Heck, the Phillies is only two games ahead of the pack at 81 and the Giants are only two games behind at 76, so we might see some additional shuffling in the next few weeks.
One thing that’s almost certain is the Brewers ending up as the #3 seed. The Braves and Dodgers have clinched the #1 and #2 seeds respectively and unless you think the Cubs will capitalize on their 1.2% chance to take the top spot in the NL Central, the Brewers will stay where they are now. That means facing the #6 seed, which according to FanGraphs, is likely going to be the Marlins or the Cubs.
Potential Playoff Matchups
Milwaukee has a small sample size of just four games against Miami but went 3-1 against them this season. Despite making trades for bats like Josh Bell and Jake Burger at the deadline, the Marlins are posting average offensive numbers (.716 team OPS, 17th in MLB) in the second half. This bodes well for the Brewers, whose pitching seems to have a big advantage over the Miami lineup. Given the three-game setup of the Wild Card round, a quick 1-2 punch of Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff paired with any of the devastating arms in the bullpen should make for quick work.
The Cubs have been a steeper challenge this year and got hot in July and August, going 33-20. Despite regressing in September, standouts like Justin Steele and Cody Bellinger continue to exceed expectations across the board. Furthermore, they have one of the best defensive infields in baseball. Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson alone combine for 35 OAA and Nick Madrigal's figure of 9 OAA isn't too shabby either. Given the Brewers already weak offense, a three-game series with the Cubs might more of a toss-up.
The NLDS is where things start to get a little scary. Going 1-5 against the Dodgers this season, the Brewers' only hope will be a heavily depleted Los Angeles starting rotation. Other than Clayton Kershaw (who is great in the playoffs as we all know), the Dodgers' hopes rest on a handful of young pitchers, Ryan Yarbrough, and Lance Lynn. If Milwaukee is unable to do damage in the early innings, they'll struggle even more with the Dodgers' fourth-best bullpen in baseball (3.57 team ERA).
Given the chaos of baseball, it would be conjecture to try and project an NLCS and/or World Series opponent, but one thing is for sure - the Brewers present a real challenge to any team and should not be taken lightly. Hopefully their on-field performance matches up with what they're capable of on paper.
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