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The Milwaukee Brewers Trouble with Dominant Teams

Aug. 28, 2017
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Photo Credit: David (Flickr CC)

The Brewers did it in perhaps the most unlikely way, by winning series against two likely playoff teams and losing two of three to one of the worst teams in baseball. But nonetheless, Sunday’s win gave them a 5-4 record on their west coast trip. It was another key step to prove themselves as a legitimate contender for the stretch run, and left them just two games back of the Cubs with 31 games to play.

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Sunday’s win also clinched a season series split with the Dodgers, who took two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee in June before returning the favor and losing two of three in California over the weekend in their first series loss since June. The Dodgers are now 3-3 against the Brewers and 88-34 against everyone else this season. Only one other NL team has a winning record against Los Angeles: The Nationals are 2-1 but still have three games left to play against MLB’s best team.

Earlier this season we discussed the Brewers’ tendency to beat up on bad teams en route to contention. It probably won’t surprise anyone to discover that while the Brewers have been pretty good against bad teams over the years, they’ve largely gotten their lunch money stolen from them by dominant ones.

The Dodgers will likely recover from Sunday’s heartbreaking loss and manage at least nine wins in their remaining 33 games to get to 100 on the season. If that happens they’ll join this list of 26 teams that have won 100 games while sharing a league with the Brewers since 1969:

·       The 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979 and 1980 Orioles.

·       The 1971, 1988 and 1990 Athletics.

·       The 1977 Royals.

·       The 1977, 1978 and 1980 Yankees.

·       The 1984 Tigers.

·       Cleveland in 1995.

·       The 1998 Astros.

·       The 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2003 Braves.

·       The 1999 Diamondbacks.

·       The 2003 Giants.

·       The 2004, 2005 and 2015 Cardinals.

·       The 2011 Phillies.

·       The 2016 Cubs.

Those 26 teams posted a combined 207-108 record against the Brewers, good for a .657 winning percentage that translates to roughly 106 1/2 wins in a 162 game season. The most notable whitewashings came from the 1971 A’s and 1984 Tigers, who went 15-3 and 11-2 against Milwaukee, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, the 2017 Dodgers would become just the third team on that list to reach 100 wins without a winning record against the Brewers.  You have to look back several decades to find the other two: The 1977 and 1978 Yankees.

The 1977 Brewers stand out in franchise history as a team that had no business competing with a contender. They finished 67-95 in Alex Grammas’ final season as manager, sixth out of seven teams in the American League East. Their batters finished tenth or worse in the 14-team AL in runs scored, home runs, batting average and on-base percentage and their pitchers fell below the same bar in ERA, walks and strikeouts. They faced the Yankees six times in the season’s first eight games, however, and won five of them. When Milwaukee won the final game between the two teams on July 23 they clinched an 8-7 season series win. The Yankees went 93-54 against everyone else and got the last laugh, of course, by going on to win the World Series.

The story was a little different for the 1978 Brewers, however, as they won 93 games under new manager George Bamberger in the first winning season in franchise history. Free agent addition Larry Hisle and Gorman Thomas both hit over 30 home runs, and the Brewers led the AL in homers, runs scored, hits, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. The Yankees had the league’s best pitching staff but posted a 4.67 ERA in 15 games against Milwaukee, their worst mark against any opponent. The Brewers won 10 of 15 games in the season series but the Yankees again had the better season overall, winning 100 games and the World Series.

39 years later the Dodgers find themselves in a similar position: A likely 100-win team that couldn’t manage a winning record against the Brewers. If it’s any consolation, that formula worked out pretty well for the other two teams.

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