The Brewers' Hot Start and Playoff Odds

The 2014 MLB Postseason? - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Only a week in, it's time to update the way we think about the Brewers' postseason chances.

Did you think that the Brewers were roughly an 81-81 team to start the year?

Congratulations! If you have not altered your perception of the team radically (which you should not have, as it has only been seven games!), you should now expect that the Brewers will finish closer to 83-79.

Starting 5-2 is good for a lot of reasons, but that one is probably the best. It's easy to succumb to what has been called the Gambler's fallacy. That's just the wonderfully simple idea that probabalistic events of the past do not have an impact on consequent, independent probabalistic events. Since we're talking about the Brewers, who a lot of us think are probably around a .500 true-talent squad, it's something like we're talking about flipping a coin 162 times. Getting 5 heads out of the first 7 flips does not change our expectation for the next 155-- we still expect 50%! There's no reason to think at that point that the flips will eventually "even out". That means we need to update our projection for that whole 162 flip range to 82.5 instead of 81, assuming we have no reason to change our guess that the odds of getting heads is 50%.

If there would be a reasonable argument to be made that we should adjust our expectations downward for the rest of the season, maybe due to an injury or something weird like a string of fatigue-inducing extra-inning games, then we would have to adjust that 50% expectation downward. But if anything, good health and quality performances from the previously thought-to-be shaky pitching staff would lead to an upward adjustment. I am not willing to go there yet, but that all means it's awfully difficult to make an argument for a downward adjustment at this point.

Regardless, it's easy to see how a quick start can increase fortunes quickly. Fangraphs' projections-based playoff projections now has the Brewers with an average of 79 wins and a 20% chance to make the playoffs. The slightly more game performance-based system formerly at CoolStandings has the Brewers up to 85 wins on average and a 40% chance of getting a spot.

It's ridiculously early to worry at all about the playoffs. But the moral of the story is, if you thought the Brewers had a small chance to make the playoffs before the year started, you should think that they have something of a greater chance now.

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