The Milwaukee Brewers announced on Tuesday that outfielder Christian Yelich will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his kneecap during their game against the Miami Marlins. Yelich, who won the National League Most Valuable Player Award last fall, suffered the injury in the first inning when he fouled off a pitch from Elieser Hernandez. It’s unknown if he’ll require surgery.
The Brewers have every right to be upset and disappointed given how much Yelich means to them as a person and as a player. The nature of baseball, however, is that the beat goes on. Come Wednesday night, Milwaukee will resume its schedule with an eye on reaching October. Remember, the Brewers won on Tuesday, pushing their winning streak to five. They trail the Chicago Cubs, who recently lost their own MVP candidate to injury in Javier Baez, by just a game for the second wild-card spot. The Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and New York Mets are each within three games of the Cubs.
There are valid reasons to be skeptical about the Brewers’ chances versus the field. In addition to Yelich, Milwaukee is without rookie sensation Keston Hiura and starter Brandon Woodruff. That trio comprises three of Milwaukee’s eight most productive players this season, per WAR. But the Brewers do have a big factor working in their favor — and we don’t mean Yelich’s replacement, Trent Grisham, showing signs of maturation. Rather, the Brewers have a leg up on everyone else in the race by virtue of having the easiest remaining schedule in the NL.
Once the Brewers finish their current series with the Marlins, they’ll head to St. Louis to play the Cardinals for three games. After that, the Brewers will play 13 consecutive games against losing teams to conclude their schedule: four against the San Diego Padres, three against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then six split evenly against the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.
According to Baseball-Reference’s calculations, the average record of Milwaukee’s remaining opponents is 65-78. The Diamondbacks, who have the next-easiest schedule, will face opponents with an average record of 67-76 — or about two wins better over a full season. That may not seem like a big deal, but it could make a difference in a tight race.
Consider, for instance, that the Phillies and Washington Nationals — who the Brewers trail for the top wild card by 3 ½ games — have the toughest and second toughest remaining schedules. The Phillies will play the equivalent of an 88-win team the rest of the way — that’s a huge swing when compared to the Brewers’ average opponent.
Of course, just because the Brewers’ schedule looks easier on paper doesn’t mean it will prove to be easier in reality. One of the reasons the Brewers are on the outside looking in is because of their poor play against losing teams. Thus far, Milwaukee is 30-29 versus sub-.500 clubs, as compared to 46-39 against teams that are above .500. The Brewers’ winning percentage against bad teams is the fourth-worst in the NL, ahead of only the Rockies, Marlins, and Padres.
Still, it stands to reason that the Brewers don’t have some special deficiency that makes them perform worse against losing teams. As such, don’t completely disregard SportsLine’s projections that give them a 46.6 percent shot at October. It’s possible that, even without Yelich, the Brewers end up in the postseason.
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