It’s a favorite trope of some fans to hurl at me, particularly earlier in the season, when I write about a Cardinals trade or a Brewers injury: “Who cares? Cubs just need to take care of business.”
Generally, I always have the same response: the Cubs play in a division of teams, the leader of which gets to to go to the NLDS at the end of the season. By definition, the answer to “who cares” should be “Cubs fans.” You don’t win a division in isolation.
I don’t so much hear that stuff this time of year, though (as though a September win counts differently in the standings than an April win?). Everyone seems to get on board with the idea that, le duh, what happens to the Brewers right now could have a very direct impact on the Cubs’ postseason plans.
To that end, rather than looking at injuries (the Brewers are healthy) or trades (all done), I just wanted to look at the Brewers’ schedule the rest of the way and ponder, realistically, what kind of win total they could be looking at. Naturally, in baseball, predicting individual wins and losses is a comical fool’s errand, but by looking at a schedule, you can get a sense of what could be coming overall.
- After today’s VERY RESTFUL OFF-DAY HOW NICE FOR THEM, the Brewers will host the Pirates this weekend for three games, and then the Reds for three games.
- After ANOTHER off-day, the Brewers will head out to play the Pirates again for three in Pittsburgh, and then three in St. Louis.
- After ANOTHER off-day, the Brewers will be at home to finish the season against the Tigers for three.
That’s a very lovely schedule to wrap things up for the team that is clipping at the Cubs’ heels, and the Cubs can no longer control what the Brewers do. The Cubs could “take care of business” in a relative sense (their travel schedule is brutal, after all), and the Brewers might still pass them if they continue at their blistering pace.
There is not an obvious series loss there remaining for the Brewers, though predicting them to win every single series the rest of the way probably goes against the weight of the probabilities that I am admittedly just imagining in my head. Sweeps are also generally not something you predict, statistically speaking, so let’s just say the Brewers win (2-1) every series the rest of the way except one.
If that happens, the Brewers will win 9 more games, and will finish with a 93-69 record.
To match the Brewers’ record, then, the Cubs would have to go 9-8 over their final 17 games.* Not too onerous, right? Well, obviously that is the case if the Brewers actually lose six of their remaining games. To be sure, that would be a .600 winning percentage – far better than their .571 mark on the year – but it is also coming against a very weak schedule. Maybe I’m being too optimistic in suggesting only 9-6 for them.
Regardless, you can do the gymnastics in your head about what the Cubs will need to do if the Brewers do X. The point here is that the Brewers have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way, and the Cubs no longer have such an advantage that they can afford not to have a winning record from here on out in order to hang onto first place.
This thing appears to be coming down to the dang wire. And that’s why we pay close attention to competitive division foes all the way back in April.
*(If they tie, by the way, there’s a one-game playoff to determine which team takes the division and which team heads to the Wild Card Game. That game would be played at Wrigley Field, thanks to the Cubs owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.)