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Will the Phillies or Brewers Reach the Playoffs?

There is less than a week remaining in the Major League Baseball season. With so few games left, most teams already know whether or not they will reach the postseason. One of the final competitions in the standings is between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers for the final National League Wild Card position.

The Brewers and Phillies entered the final week of the season only 0.5 games apart in the standings. Which team is more likely to make the playoffs this season?

The Phillies and Brewers’ Seasons So Far

Before the season, both the Phillies and the Brewers were favorites to reach the postseason. According to FanGraphs, the Phillies had a 60.9% chance of reaching the playoffs when the season began, while the Brewers had an 81.3% chance of qualifying for the postseason and were also the favorites to win the National League Central.

The Phillies, however, did not have a good start to the season. From April 12-19 Philadelphia lost seven of eight games. At the end of the month, the Phillies improved, eventually recovering to finish April with an 11-11 record. However, in May, Philadelphia was 10-18, and as a result, the team has been in third in the NL East for most of the season, while competing for one of the final National League Wild Card positions.

On the other hand, the Brewers began the season well, and by the end of May, they led the National League Central by three games. Despite starting the year well, by the middle of June, the St. Louis Cardinals had reduced Milwaukee’s lead in the division. During June, the Brewers lost the division lead to the Cardinals for more than a week during the middle of the month before eventually retaking the division lead ahead of July.

In July, the Brewers performed well, leading the NL Central for the entire month. However, on August 5th Milwaukee lost the lead in the NL Central in the midst of a stretch where the team lost six of seven games. Milwaukee has remained in second place in their division since then and, during most of the past two months, has been outside of the playoff positions in the standings.

Part of the reason the Brewers have not been a favorite to make the playoffs during the last two months is due to the Phillies, who have dramatically improved since the start of the season. Philadelphia was 52-29 across June, July, and August.

However, the Brewers have had a successful September so far, while the Phillies haven’t sustained the success they had during the middle of the season into September. As a result, the two teams are tied in the standings with less than a week of the season remaining.

The Final Week of the Season

After the Brewers traded Josh Hader on August 1 the team went 4-8 during its next 12 games. Milwaukee, a team that had led the NL Central almost every day for the entire season, suddenly looked unlikely to make the playoffs.

Since then, the Brewers have recovered. Over the past few weeks, Milwaukee has won a few important games that have tied them with Philadelphia in the standings. Last week, the Brewers won three of four games against the Cincinnati Reds. This week, Milwaukee has played two games against the Cardinals, winning Wednesday, but losing on Tuesday as the Cardinals won the NL Central.

Milwaukee has not been phenomenal during that stretch, going 4-2, and 5-5 in their last 10 games, however, more importantly, the Brewers have been playing better than the Phillies during that time. Philadelphia lost two games against the Braves last weekend before being swept by the Cubs this week. The Phillies have lost five games in a row since September 23, and are 3-7 in their last 10 games.

The Brewers have seven games remaining this season, all of which are against teams that are below .500 this year. Milwaukee plays four games against the Miami Marlins and three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks; those two teams are a combined 30.5 games outside of the playoffs.

Philadelphia will play three games against the Houston Astros, who have the best record in the American League, and four games against the Washington Nationals before the end of the season. With the two teams tied in the standings, the Phillies’ costly sweep against the Cubs, and the fact that they have to play the Astros during the final week of the season, could mean Philadelphia does not reach the postseason this year.

Earlier this month, it was incredibly hard to imagine the Brewers reaching the postseason. During the past week, Milwaukee has become much more likely to finish ahead of the Phillies, and the two teams’ competition in the standings should be dramatic during the final week of the season.

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