2011 MLB Playoff Race: 7 Reasons Why Brewers Nation Should Remain Calm
Those games featured three straight losses, a tumbling superstar, two grand slams surrendered (one by a pitcher) and a complete inability to produce with runners in scoring position.
When the dust settled, the Cardinals had closed a 10.5 game deficit to a more manageable (though still significant) 7.5 games with 25 left to play (24 for the Brewers).
Brewers fans—myself included—have had some irrational fears of an imminent collapse.
I get it, I really do. Having followed this team my entire life, I am conditioned to be pessimistic about them. I remember those 12 straight losing seasons, the 2007 disaster and the disappointing last couple seasons under Ken Macha.
At the same time, I consider myself a rational human being and objectively, there's no reason for panic. The Brewers' 7.5 game lead is tied for the highest of any division in the game right now.
One bad series—the first series loss since mid-July—does not change the fact that the Brewers are in great shape heading down the stretch.
#1: Magic Number: 18
The Brewers enter play Friday with a magic number of 18, meaning that the combined number of wins by the Brewers and opponents of the St. Louis Cardinals must add up to 18.
With 49 total games remaining (24 for the Brewers, 25 for the Cardinals), this means that a combined record of 18-31 is required for the Brewers to clinch the division. Based on the two teams' current records, the expected record for those games is 27-22.
Put another way, the difference between the expected results and the results the Cardinals would need to beat out the Brewers for the division is roughly the same as the difference between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
#2: The Odds of Failure Are Too Low
According to coolstandings.com, the Brewers enter play on Friday with a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs. Only six teams in all of baseball history have had odds that high and failed.
Remember how bad Ben Sheets was at hitting?
Ben Sheets was four times as likely to get a hit as the Brewers are of going to The Bahamas for October 2011.
#3: The Cardinals Have to Play the Phillies Too
The Brewers' schedule for next week (following three games against the worst team in baseball) is fairly daunting. They have to have the Cardinals again and then start a four-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park.
One week later, however, the Cardinals have to endure the same fate—except they must visit the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
#4: The Rest of the Schedule Is Easier on the Brewers
The Brewers and Cardinals share a number of opponents in addition to the Phillies down the stretch, but where the opponents differ is where the Brewers have a great chance to open up some ground.
Which schedule would you rather face?
#5: Rickie Weeks Is Coming Back
All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks has been seen moving about, fielding ground balls and taking some swings. He will be returning to the lineup any day now, and when he does, the Brewers will receive a major shot in the arm.
In addition to bringing Weeks' bat back into the lineup, Ron Roenicke will have the option of moving Jerry Hairston Jr. to shortstop now that Yuniesky Betancourt has reverted back to form (hitting just .134 since August 15).
#6: Ending the Season at Home
The Milwaukee Brewers will have the luxury of playing their last two series at beautiful Miller Park, where they have dominated to the tune of a 50-19 record.
Their opponents? The Marlins (fourth-worst team in the National League) and the Pirates (fifth-worst).
#7: There's Still the Wildcard
The Brewers shouldn't count on this, but they currently sit one game behind the Atlanta Braves, who are currently leading the wild card.
The Braves still have to play the Cardinals, along with six games against the Phillies.
The chances of them collapsing aren't very high at all—but they're roughly the same as the Brewers squandering the division.
If you believe anything can happen, maybe you see the Cardinals catching lightning in a bottle and coming all the way back. But just as likely is the Braves finding themselves in a battle for the wildcard.