The Brewers won their 95th game of the season Tuesday night, beating the Pirates thanks to three home runs by Prince Fielder. That ties a franchise best, and probably surpasses the preseason expectations even the biggest optimists had.
Are the Brewers a true-talent 95-win team? Probably not. Based on their run differential, their Pythagorean record heading into Tuesday was 88-72. They’ve far outpaced their expected record mostly thanks to their incredible record in one-run games (30-18). Part of that is a very strong bullpen holding late-inning leads, but quite a bit of it is also luck. It only takes one or two bad bounces to lose a one-run game, and even the game’s best teams have struggled to keep up with the Brewers in this department — the Yankees, for example, are only 21-23 in one-run games.
Lucky or not, considering some of the things this team went through during the course of the season, winning that many games is still an incredible feat.
Zack Greinke missed the first month of the season after cracking his ribs playing pickup basketball. Corey Hart missed the first few weeks of the season and didn’t make his first appearance until April 26. Jonathan Lucroy didn’t start his season until April 13. Rickie Weeks missed nearly a month and a half.
They had the likes of Wil Nieves, Erick Almonte, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and Sergio Mitre on the Opening Day roster. They played Yuniesky Betancourt (and his .273 OBP) in 150+ games. They remained fiercely loyal to Casey McGehee (and his .281 OBP) until it was too late to truly make an upgrade. Outside of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan, they didn’t even really play great defense (although McGehee has surprised with a UZR of 6.1 this year, perhaps a function of having to cover more ground with Betancourt at short).
Needless to say, this is not your typical 95-win team. But at this point, it doesn’t really matter — they still won those 95 games, and they’re guaranteed of at least tying for the fourth-best record in baseball no matter what happens on the season’s final day. That’s impressive no matter which way you slice it.