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The best and worst 60-game stretches for the Milwaukee Brewers

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In a 60-game season, what does the Brewers’ performance in 60-game stretches say about their chances in a full 60-game season?

2019 NL Wild Card - Milwaukee Brewers v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Baseball is coming back with a 60-game season. While it’s not the marathon 162 games that we are used to, we will get baseball in some form this year. The shortened season is drawing some criticism, though. Many say that a 60-game season will not crown a true champion, as a team who would not normally win a 162-game season might win a 60-game one. Let’s take a look at that idea today. If the Brewers only had 60 games of their seasons count, what would their playoff chances look like?

When criticizing the idea of a 60-game season, one example has been used multiple times. That example is of last year’s World Series champions, the Washington Nationals. They started the season 27-33 before going 38-22 at the end of the season to make the playoffs as a Wild Card, then surging in the playoffs to win it all. Had the season ended after 60 games, the Nationals would not have even been in the playoffs.

While there’s no set date where all teams were at 60 games completed, we can pick a date where all teams had played at least 60 games. That would be June 6, when the Rangers, Marlins, and Tigers had all finished 60 games. Everyone else had played at least a few more games, but we can use this to look at the standings after 60 games. Here were the current holders of each playoff spot, as well as who ended up taking that spot.

2019 MLB Playoff Teams on June 6

Playoff Spot June 6 End of Season
Playoff Spot June 6 End of Season
NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta Braves
NL Central Champion Chicago Cubs St. Louis Cardinals
NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card 1 Milwaukee Brewers Washington Nationals
NL Wild Card 2 Atlanta Braves Milwaukee Brewers
AL East Champion New York Yankees New York Yankees
AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins Minnesota Twins
AL West Champion Houston Astros Houston Astros
AL Wild Card 1 Tampa Bay Rays Oakland Athletics
AL Wild Card 2 Texas Rangers Tampa Bay Rays

Of the 10 playoff teams at the end of the 2019 season, 7 held playoff spots on June 6. The Phillies, Cubs, and Rangers all ended up missing the playoffs, while the Cardinals, Nationals, and Athletics all took playoff spots by the end of the season. Some of the other teams shifted spots, but did remain in the playoffs. It’s only a one-season sample size, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does show that the majority of the teams in the playoffs after approximately 60 games do hold on to their playoff spots at the end of the season.

With that established, let’s look at what the Brewers would need to make the playoffs under normal circumstances. In the eight years since the playoffs added a second wild card team in each league, the worst winning percentage for a team in the playoffs was .525 (Minnesota Twins in 2017). The best record for a team in the playoffs was .556 (Atlanta Braves in 2018 and Cincinnati Reds in 2013). Multiplying these by 60 games, the range we would be looking at for a playoff appearance is 31.5 to 33.36 wins. For the sake of simplicity, let’s round these up and say 32 to 34 wins needed for a playoff spot. This will be the baseline for what the Brewers would need to make the playoffs looking at these stretches. While a shorter season could result in some wilder swings in records, overall it will all still average out to .500. We aren’t as worried about the extremes here, more of the minimums, so we can use those winning percentages for the sake of this exercise.

We also can look at the winning percentages for the division, but these are more variable. In the last eight seasons, the low end of this was .556, while the high end was at .640. That would be a range of 33.36 to 38.4 wins (rounding up, 34 to 39 wins). For a division title, a hot team on an extreme could easily take that in a 60-game season. We can also look at this in our analysis, just to see where the Brewers would have a decent chance at the division title.

With that established, we are going to take a look at different 60-game stretches over the last 15 years for the Milwaukee Brewers. I chose 2005 as the starting year because it was the year the Brewers broke their long streak of consecutive losing seasons. In those years we’ve seen many different results, from being the top seed in the NL playoffs to finishing near the bottom of the division. For 60-game stretches, we are going to look at 4 different categories:

  • Best 60 Games
  • Worst 60 Games
  • First 60 Games
  • Last 60 Games

Let’s start with the best 60-game stretches.

2005-2019 Milwaukee Brewers Best 60-Game Stretches

Season Best 60 Win %
Season Best 60 Win %
2005 33-27 .550
2006 30-30 .500
2007 35-25 .583
2008 40-20 .667
2009 35-25 .583
2010 33-27 .550
2011 42-18 .700
2012 38-22 .633
2013 32-28 .533
2014 36-24 .600
2015 32-28 .533
2016 30-30 .500
2017 35-25 .583
2018 38-22 .633
2019 38-22 .633

If the Brewers played at their best through the 60-game season, the chances of them making the playoffs would be high. In 13 of those 15 seasons, their record would be strong enough to make the playoffs at the low end (.525). In 9 of the 15 seasons, it would be a virtual guarantee of a playoff spot, surpassing the record needed for the second Wild Card spot in its highest years (.556). The only two seasons where their record wouldn’t have been enough for playoff contention is 2006 and 2016, where their best 60-game stretches only put them at .500. The absolute best stretch the team had was in 2011, where they went 42-18 over a 60-game stretch.

As for the division title, the only season they would likely take it easily is 2011, with that 42-18 season. Six other seasons would have them in contention for the division title as well, though they didn’t exceed the .640 at the high end of the range.

On the opposite side, though, there’s also the worst 60-game stretches. Here are those stretches by season.

2005-2019 Milwaukee Brewers Worst 60-Game Stretches

Season Worst 60 Win %
Season Worst 60 Win %
2005 25-35 .417
2006 23-37 .383
2007 24-36 .400
2008 29-31 .483
2009 24-36 .400
2010 24-36 .400
2011 32-28 .533
2012 26-34 .433
2013 20-40 .333
2014 23-37 .383
2015 22-38 .367
2016 23-37 .383
2017 29-31 .483
2018 29-31 .483
2019 26-34 .433

Not surprisingly, in almost every one of these seasons, the worst stretch wouldn’t be close to making the playoffs. 14 of the 15 stretches were below .500, going as low as 20-40 in 2013. The one outlier here is the 2011 season, again. In that season, their worst 60-game stretch was 32-28, which would at least have them in contention for a playoff spot. It’s a testament to that team that even at their worst, they didn’t play below .500 for any extended period.

Putting those two tables together, we can see how wide of a swing that a 60-game season could be for the Brewers. There’s a 22-game difference between their best 60-game stretch (42-18 in 2011) and their worst 60-game stretch (20-40 in 2013). Compare that to the difference in their overall records between their best season (96-66 in 2011) and worst season (68-94 in 2015). There’s a 28-game difference between those. It’s a wide swing, but more understandable with a 162-game schedule. If we standardized that 28 game difference to a 60-game season, the difference would only by 10.37 games. So, the 22-game difference between the best and worst looks even more extreme now.

While extremes are good to look at, it’s more likely the Brewers would fall somewhere in the middle of that. If only given 60 games at the start of the season, how would they perform? As a result, rather than looking at the extremes, let’s look at the start and end of the season, if only their first or last 60 games counted. If the first 60 games were all that counted, here’s what the records would look like.

2005-2019 Milwaukee Brewers First 60-Games

Season First 60 Win %
Season First 60 Win %
2005 28-32 .467
2006 28-32 .467
2007 33-27 .550
2008 32-28 .533
2009 33-27 .550
2010 25-35 .417
2011 34-26 .567
2012 28-32 .467
2013 23-37 .383
2014 35-25 .583
2015 22-38 .367
2016 28-32 .467
2017 32-28 .533
2018 37-23 .617
2019 34-26 .567

It’s nearly an even split of winning and losing records for the Brewers. Eight seasons started with winning records, and seven seasons started with losing records. All eight of those winning record starts would be in contention for the playoffs in a 60-game season, and four of those (2011, 2014, 2018, 2019) would be above the .556 winning percentage at the high end for a Wild Card. It’s not a surprise that three of those four seasons were also seasons where the Brewers did make the playoffs, and the one other playoff year (2008) would have also been in contention, at least. As for the division, none would surpass the .640 needed at the high end for a division title, but those four seasons listed above would be in contention for a division title.

On the other side, if only the last 60 games counted, here’s what the Brewers’ records would look like.

2005-2019 Milwaukee Brewers Last 60-Games

Season Last 60 Win %
Season Last 60 Win %
2005 31-29 .517
2006 27-33 .450
2007 27-33 .450
2008 31-29 .517
2009 29-31 .483
2010 29-31 .483
2011 42-18 .700
2012 37-23 .617
2013 32-28 .533
2014 25-35 .417
2015 24-36 .400
2016 27-33 .450
2017 32-28 .533
2018 38-22 .633
2019 36-24 .600

It’s very similar in the last 60-games, as the Brewers had eight winning records and seven losing records in that stretch. Only six of those winning seasons would be in the range for a playoff spot. Four of those last 60 games would be over .600 (2011, 2012, 2018, 2019), which would be a very strong chance of a playoff spot and the division title. If only the last 60 counted, 2012 would have been an additional playoff year, though 2008 likely would not have been one. Once again, the playoff teams generally started strong and finished strong, which further solidified how good those teams were.

To finish up, let’s look at all of those records together.

2005-2019 Milwaukee Brewers 60-Game Averages

Season Best 60 Worst 60 First 60 Last 60 Overall
Season Best 60 Worst 60 First 60 Last 60 Overall
2005 33-27 (.550) 25-35 (.417) 28-32 (.467) 31-29 (.517) 81-81 (.500)
2006 30-30 (.500) 23-37 (.383) 28-32 (.467) 27-33 (.450) 75-87 (.463)
2007 35-25 (.583) 24-36 (.400) 33-27 (.550) 27-33 (.450) 83-79 (.512)
2008 40-20 (.667) 29-31 (.483) 32-28 (.533) 31-29 (.517) 90-72 (.556)
2009 35-25 (.583) 24-36 (.400) 33-27 (.550) 29-31 (.483) 80-82 (.494)
2010 33-27 (.550) 24-36 (.400) 25-35 (.417) 29-31 (.483) 77-85 (.475)
2011 42-18 (.700) 32-28 (.533) 34-26 (.567) 42-18 (.700) 96-66 (.593)
2012 38-22 (.633) 26-34 (.433) 28-32 (.467) 37-23 (.617) 83-79 (.512)
2013 32-28 (.533) 20-40 (.333) 23-37 (.383) 32-28 (.533) 74-88 (.457)
2014 36-24 (.600) 23-37 (.383) 35-25 (.583) 25-35 (.417) 82-80 (.506)
2015 32-28 (.533) 22-38 (.367) 22-38 (.367) 24-36 (.400) 68-94 (.420)
2016 30-30 (.500) 23-37 (.383) 28-32 (.467) 27-33 (.450) 73-89 (.451)
2017 35-25 (.583) 29-31 (.483) 32-28 (.533) 32-28 (.533) 86-76 (.531)
2018 38-22 (.633) 29-31 (.483) 37-23 (.617) 38-22 (.633) 96-67 (.589)
2019 38-22 (.633) 26-34 (.433) 34-26 (.567) 36-24 (.600) 89-73 (.549)
Average .585 .421 .502 .519 .507
Avg. Record 35-25 25-35 30-30 31-29 30-30

Using the bottom threshold (.525) here, here is a breakdown of how many of these four scenarios the Brewers would make the playoffs in a 60-game season.

  • 4 of 4: 2011
  • 3 of 4: 2017, 2018, 2019
  • 2 of 4: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • 1 of 4: 2005, 2010, 2015
  • 0 of 4: 2006, 2016

Looking through these years, most of the playoff years would still have been playoff years in a 60-game season. Though a bad 60 games to start the season would be a disaster, the 2011, 2018, and 2019 seasons would all likely still be playoff years in a 60-game season. The one playoff year that would be more at risk is 2008, where the 60-game period that ended up being chosen could easily have the Brewers in or out of the playoffs. On the other side, though, 2017 has a much stronger chance of being a playoff year. In addition, several more teams would at least be in contention in a 60-game season. The only two seasons that would not have had a chance is 2006 and 2016, where they never played above .500 in any 60-game stretch.

The data also shows how a 60-game season could easily swing. On the high end, the Brewers averaged 35 wins in a season, while on the low end, it was an average of 25 wins. At the same time, though, just looking at the first 60 and last 60 shows that overall, it does tend to average out. The Brewers record in their first 60 and last 60 generally averaged out to the same as their average season record, with the Brewers just picking up one game over the average in their last 60.

Finally, let’s take a look at their performance in every potential 60-game set of games. Overall, in those 15 season, there’s a total of 1,546 different sets of 60 games (103 per season, with 1 extra in 2018). What are the most likely outcomes based on that data? Here is a chart that shows all of that data compiled.

The outcome that occurred the most often is 29 wins, with 196 different stretches of 29-31 records. The overall average of all the 60-game stretches together is 30.044 wins. Standard deviation of this data is 3.8468. With that data, here is the distribution of the outcomes:

  • Less than 22.350 wins - 2.3%
  • 22.350 to 26.197 wins - 13.6%
  • 26.197 to 30.044 wins - 34.1%
  • 30.044 to 33.891 wins - 34.1%
  • 33.891 to 37.738 wins - 13.6%
  • More than 37.738 wins - 2.3%

It’s worth noting that this is purely a statistical look at the numbers. This doesn’t take into account current talent on the team at all. It’s just a look at where the different win totals fell. While this can give us an idea of what the most likely outcomes of a 60-game season will be, it doesn’t tell us the whole story of a single team at all.

A 60 game season will have a greater chance for some higher swings during the season. Teams can start hot and make the playoffs, or start cold and miss them completely. This variance will dictate some of the playoff spots after a 60 game season. However, most of the teams who would have made it in a full season as well. For the Brewers, they will need to play as well as they can in these games as there is less chance for error. They have a strong chance to make the playoffs in a shortened season, and if the team does make it this year, it’s as much of an accomplishment as it would be to make the playoffs in a full season.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference