The 1978 Milwaukee Brewers were another one of those really good teams. Unfortunately, they were also one of those teams that just weren't good enough. Or perhaps it's more fair to say they were also one of those really good teams that just have the unfortunate luck to be stuck playing in the best division in baseball during a time in which one team per division made the playoffs.
The Brewers record that year was 93-69. That would have been good enough to win the AL West and NL East divisions. The Royals won the West with a 92-70 record and the Phillies took the East with a 90-72 record. However in the AL East the Yankees dominated with a MLB best 100-63 record. They also went on to win the World Series that year.
The Brewers weren't even second place in the AL East. That year the Boston Red Sox beat them out. They had a 99-64 record. You'll notice something strange here. The Red Sox and Yankees played 163 games that year. Well that's because they ended the regular season with the same record and had to have a tie-breaker game. With their rivalry that must have been insane.
We spent the last couple of articles talking about the Orioles-Brewers rivalry that may or may not have actually been a thing. So if you're curious, they finished in fourth place with a 90-71 record. By the way, with the Tigers finishing 86-76, the AL West was the only division with 5 teams above .500. I still have to wonder what the Brewers franchise history might look like if they hadn't spent their best years in the toughest division in baseball.
That year the Brewers had 7 players with over 3 fWAR. Sal Bando led the Crew with a 5.6 fWAR. Larry Hisle was second with a 5.0 fWAR. Of those 7, Gorman Thomas was lowest with a 3.5 fWAR! Then Cecil Cooper and Paul Molitor had 2+ fWAR. So the 1978 Brewers had 7 All-Star or better caliber starting position players and two solid average position players. That's insanely good.
If you've been keeping up with this series you're probably expecting to find the Brewers pitching staff to be somewhat underwhelming. But guess what! You're right. Mike Caldwell--293.1 IP, 2.36 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 6.3 fWAR--and Lary Sorensen--280.2 IP, 3.21 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 5.0 fWAR--were really good. But no one else broke the 2.0 fWAR mark.
I don't care if I'm being a homer, but I really feel like the Brewers can get back to being a dominating team in the future. The farm system is looking good. Ray Montgomery has my full confidence, And I like what David Stearns has been doing so far. At this point I'm even excited for the Brewers 2016 "losing" season to begin...in just 78 days!
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs