Before we look through history, I wanna set the ground rules. The league hasn’t had 30 teams since the beginning of time, so here’s how we’re going to balance (it’s not the most scientific process, but it’s easiest). The playoffs will consist of first and second place in the divisions and two wild cards.
Let’s get going!
1978 AL Wild Card 1
The 1978 team takes over for the 1981 Milwaukee Brewers as the first ever playoff team in franchise history. The Brewers finished third in the AL East which is actually third in the whole AL at 93-69. They’d meet the 92-70 Kansas City Royals in round one, as they finished first in AL West.
1979 AL East 2
The 1979 team was the second-best team in the American League. They ended the year with a 95-66 record, finishing just behind the 102-57 Baltimore Orioles. As the three seed in the league, they’d be going up against the Kansas City Royals as the fourth seed once again.
1980 AL Wild Card 1
Things got a little worse for the ‘80 Brewers, but they’d still make the playoffs. At 86-76, they’d finish third in the AL East and fifth in the seeding. Guess who they’re facing? The Royals, who finished first in the AL West at 97-65.
1981 AL Wild Card 2
A strike-shortened season resulted in the Brewers making the playoffs for real in this one. The tides turn a little here, but they’re still the sixth seed and face the first place New York Yankees.
1982 AL East 1
I think you know this story. The only difference is that they’re facing Chicago White Sox in round one.
1987 AL Wild Card 1
The ‘87 Brewers are one of the most historic teams in franchise history. They finished at 91-71 which was third in the AL East. They’d take on the Minnesota Twins, who finished 85-77 and went on to win the whole dang thing.
1988 AL Wild Card 1
The Brewers finished 87-75 and third, once again, in the AL East. This time, they’re taking on the Boston Red Sox who finished first in the AL East.
1992 AL East 2
Hey, the Brewers were pretty good once in the 90s. They finished with the third-best record in the American League at 92-70. That sets them up for the second seed, but the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays finished at 96-66. I don’t know who’d they’d have faced, but it would have been one of them.
1996 AL Wild Card 2
This is the first time the Brewers would’ve made the playoffs since the league expanded to three divisions. They sneak in as the eighth seed here with a losing 80-82 record. They’re facing the one seed, the 99-62 Cleveland Indians. Good luck, hypothetical Brewers.
1997 AL Wild Card 2
Now they do it again! Actually, they were short with a 78-83 record and the Red Sox were 78-84. Without playing that makeup game, the Brewers have the better winning percentage and make it in. Bottom seed gets the best team, they're going against 98-64 Baltimore Orioles.
2007 NL Central 2
The Brewers nearly made the playoffs in the real 2007 season, but in this fake one, they get in! The 83-79 Brewers finished two game behind the Chicago Cubs. The sixth seed takes on the fifth seed here, the New York Mets that finished 88-74.
2008 NL Central 2
The 2008 Brewers still make the playoffs, but this time they’re the fourth seed going against the eight. That’s the St. Louis Cardinals, so expect devil magic.
2012 NL Wild Card 1
The 2012 Brewers actually make the playoffs! Maybe they’d have kept Zack Greinke and the trade tree would have died in 2012. Finishing 83-79, they get the first Wild Card and face the 97-65 Cincinnati Reds.
2014 NL Wild Card 1
The 2014 team nearly collapsed themselves out of the expanded playoffs. It’s 82-80 and in the Wild Card. The 94-68 Los Angeles Dodgers are the opponent in round one.
2017 NL Central 2
The rebuilding Brewers do make it into the playoffs at 86-76. They’re the fifth seed and going against the fourth seeded Arizona Diamondbacks that finished 93-89.
2019 NL Central 2
I like this situation a lot more! The 89-73 Brewers are facing the... What!? The Nationals!? Ugh...
What’s the lesson? What’s the takeaway? With the expanded playoffs, the Brewers have 18 playoff appearances and the expanded playoffs are still dumb!
Season records courtesy of Baseball-Reference