Phillies or Brewers? Looking at D-backs’ potential postseason matchups … if they make it
Sep 26, 2023, 4:45 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2023, 2:03 pm
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
First and foremost, looking at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ potential postseason opponents is admittedly premature.
They control their own destiny with five games left, but they are among three teams 1.5 games apart going for the final two National League Wild Card spots after Tuesday’s slate of games.
That said, it has become clear which two clubs will host the NL Wild Card Series. The Milwaukee Brewers won the NL Central and are the third-seeded division winner, and the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the top wild card spot on Tuesday.
The second wild card team will head to Philadelphia and the third to Milwaukee. Looking ahead, the top-seed Atlanta Braves are on the Phillies’ side of the bracket and the Los Angeles Dodgers are on Milwaukee’s. There is no reseeding.
The Phillies and Brewers are very different squads, with Milwaukee dominating on the mound and Philadelphia producing one of MLB’s best offenses, especially lately.
The postseason starts next Tuesday, so here’s a deeper look at the two possible wild card round matchups:
D-backs potential NL Wild Card Series opponents
Brewers vs. D-backs
To sum up Milwaukee’s season, no team in MLB has allowed fewer runs than the Brewers at 628 entering Tuesday. Arizona has allowed 115 more runs this year.
Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are all healthy at the top of the rotation with a combined 2.64 ERA in 13 starts this month. They’ve all pitched in the postseason before, and Milwaukee’s cemented status in the race will allow manager Craig Counsell to line up his starters.
Woodruff has been especially untouchable after he missed most of the season with a shoulder injury. In his last six starts, he boasts a 1.85 ERA and .164 opposing average.
The bullpen has a 2.21 ERA this month, with All-Star closer Devin Williams and setup man Joel Payamps — a former D-back — anchoring the back end.
Like the Diamondbacks adding Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from the Blue Jays, the Brewers used an offseason trade that has led to much of their success this year. Milwaukee grabbed Payamps and starting catcher in William Contreras in a three-team deal with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics and only parted with speed demon but below average hitter Estuary Ruiz.
The Brewers’ offense has been middle of the pack in terms of production with a high walk rate but not a ton of slug.
Christian Yelich has had a resurgent season with a 121 OPS+ (100 league average), but he only has 19 home runs compared to his career high of 44 in 2019 before injuries piled up.
Milwaukee has brought in reinforcements from the farm system with outfielder Sal Frelick and traded for veterans Mark Canha and Carlos Santana to fill out the starting nine. Even former MVP and Yankees cast-off Josh Donaldson was picked up recently. Contreras leads the team with a 125 OPS + this year, along with 37 doubles and .416 slugging.
This is not a nightmare-fueled lineup but one with productive veterans who can work an at-bat.
The Diamondbacks won four of six contests against Milwaukee this year, but they have not played each other since June, well before both clubs were active at the trade deadline.
Phillies vs. D-backs
This is the aforementioned nightmare-fueled lineup.
Since the start of August, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos have all hit at least 15 home runs.
Schwarber, Harper and Turner are among MLB’s top 13 hitters in that span via OPS, as Turner has turned from free agent disappointment to potent contributor after a slow start.
The Diamondbacks only have right-handed starters, which makes lefties Harper and Schwarber more dangerous, while right-handed Turner has reverse splits this year.
Alongside the four sluggers, Philadelphia’s lineup is filled with above league-average hitters in OPS+ like Alec Bohm (110), Brandon Marsh (121), J.T. Realmuto (106) and Bryson Stott (104).
The Phillies have speed, but not as much as Arizona, and Moreno is the best catcher in the NL at catching would-be stealers (40%).
Philadelphia’s rotation is led by Zack Wheeler, who is top-12 among qualified starters in innings, strikeouts, FIP and WHIP. He has a 3.64 ERA, but after him it’s been hit and miss.
Aaron Nola’s ERA has hung around the mid 4s all year, while Taijuan Walker has had a brutal September with 16 earned runs in 23.1 innings. Lefty Ranger Suarez has been consistent with a 3.27 ERA in the past two months, so he may be the No. 2 guy at this point. The Phillies clinching gives their manager Rob Thompson a similar flexibility to Milwaukee.
The bullpen has been improved this year with a 3.67 team ERA. Closer Craig Kimbrel has been lock-down this month, although it has been far from a consistent campaign for the veteran.
The Phillies, like last year, have had their ups and downs this season, but they are 62-39 since the start of June. That’s almost as good as the Dodgers (62-36) who went 24-5 in August. The Brewers are 59-42 in that span. Arizona is 49-51.
The Phillies won four of seven games against the D-backs this year, two in extra innings.
D-backs’ road to postseason
The Diamondbacks entered Tuesday with a magic number of six and three-game sets at the Chicago White Sox and home against the Houston Astros remaining.
FanGraphs gave them a 78.2% chance to make it entering play on Tuesday, but there is very little room for error against an inferior White Sox club.