The Milwaukee Brewers are off to a .500 start during a tough first half of April. Does April get easier? What month is the easiest? Which month will be the hardest?
Every year, without fail, fans take it upon themselves to look at the Milwaukee Brewers schedule. This is typically done to see when they can make it out to their first game. But what else can be learned from the schedule? Well, one can try and figure out which month should result in the most wins for the Brewers.
At first glance, the Brewers schedule is difficult to figure out, Each month seems to have its own unique quirk that makes it difficult to judge.
March/April ends with 10 out of 14 games against rebuilding teams, but also includes eight games against the Chicago Cubs and six games against the St. Louis Cardinals.
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In July, the only off days for the Brewers are during the All-Star break, but they play no games against the Cubs or the Cardinals. All in all, no one month really stood out.
After the first week of games, teams were likely to show their true colors. The Pittsburgh Pirates were supposed to look bad and the Cardinals wouldn’t seem as scary as normal. The Cubs were projected be near the top of the league, half the New York Mets roster would be on the DL, and the Brewers would be one of the top teams in baseball. But that’s not how things have played out early on.
The Brewers sit at 7-6 and a majority of the assumptions that were made have yet to come to fruition. So, naturally, we need a way to garner a handle on the upcoming season.
One solution is to wait until April was over, which is usually when teams become what they are expected to be. But that’s much too long from now, so a faster solution is needed.
After 12 games, based on Depth Charts projections, the Brewers are expected to go 79-83, a pretty pessimistic forecast. They also have the Cubs projected to go 92-70 and the Cardinals at 85-77. Finally, Depth Charts has the Pirates going 80-82 and the Cincinnati Reds at 69-93.
The initial plan was to take the projected win/loss record for each team the Brewers faced every month, add them up, then divide by the number of teams faced. This resulted in an “expected opponent win percentage” based on the Depth Charts projections. In theory, this process gave us a win percentage for every month which could be used to determine which would be the easiest and hardest.
By using this method, here are the monthly expected opponent win percentages:
- March/April – 0.475 percent
- May – 0.507 percent
- June – 0.486 percent
- July – 0.486 percent
- August – 0.501 percent
- September – 0.496 percent
Based on this, the Brewers have four months where a majority of their opponents are projected to be below .500! And the two months that are over .500 aren’t over by much. Upon seeing these results, the conclusion didn’t really make sense.
The main fault in the theory was that it didn’t take into account the number of games against each opponent. For example, the Brewers play 17 of their 30 March/April games against teams projected to be over .500. It doesn’t make sense these months were their lowest expected opponent win percentage.
On the second attempt, the process was altered slightly to hopefully get a more conclusive and reasonable answer. Each game had a value of their projected win total minus 81 (81-81 is a .500 season).
For example, the Mets are projected to go 87-75. The Brewers play three games against them in April, so each game has a value of +6, for a total of +18 for the series. The Brewers also play two games against the Kansas City Royals who project to go 70-92. This leads to a game value of -11 and a series value of -22.
After getting the value for each series and adding them all together, that total is divided by the number of games played that month. This gives a numeric value for the difficulty of that month. The higher the number is, the tougher the month. The lower the number, the easier the month (0 would be neutral). Here are the results:
- March/April: -0.75
- May: 1.63
- June: -2.38
- July: -.70
- August: -1.58
- September: 1.31
Now, this makes a lot more sense when looking at the schedule. May is the toughest month for the Brewers, as they face five teams projected to go over .500 for 18 of their 27 games and they face the Pirates and Colorado Rockies for a total of seven games. Both teams project to finish close to .500 (80-82 and 79-83 respectively). Milwaukee also only plays two games against the Reds which equals out to a large number of quality opponents for May.
In looking at the easiest month, June, it gets a little more interesting. The Brewers have a two-game series against the Cleveland Indians, a three-game series versus the Cubs and a four-game set against the Cardinals. Other than those three teams, no other team the Brewers play projects to go over .500. The Crew plays a total of 17 games against the Chicago White Sox, Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Reds and Philadelphia Phillies.
This is where the methodology could get misleading. The Phillies will do better than their projected 76-86 record and the Brewers play six games against them, the most of any team that month, so that could change the difficulty of the month.
These results are by no means final and conclusive. Depth Charts updates their projections regularly, so the projected records will change. Baseball also tends to not care about the numbers, especially when projections are involved.
Regardless, this was a pretty fun exercise to look at. At the very least, it gives an idea as to when the Brewers could/should succeed in the future and a way to look at what months they potentially over or under performed. Hopefully, it’s more of the over than the under.
- Team projections provided by FanGraphs.