Brewers’ series against MLB-worst Phillies won’t be a cakewalk

Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith is part of a bullpen that has one of baseball's best strikeout rates.

Rick Scuteri/Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers begin a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park on Friday and, despite the latter having the worst record in baseball at 46-69, it may not be a cakewalk.

Philadelphia has been playing exceptionally well over the past month, going 17-7 so far in the second half. After owning MLB’s worst record before the All-Star break, the Phillies are attempting to become just the 11th team in history to post a .500 or better winning percentage the rest of the way.

At their current pace, they’d have the best post-break record among those teams.

Best Win Pct. Post All-Star Break by Teams with Worst Pre All-Star Win Pct., All-time

Year Team Record (win pct.)
2015 Philadelphia Phillies 17-7 (.708)
1986 Oakland Athletics 42-30 (.583)
1997 Philadelphia Phillies 44-33 (.571)
2000 Houston Astros 42-33 (.560)
1935 St. Louis Browns 46-37 (.554)

One of the main reasons for that success has been the Phillies’ resilience, not typically a trait of a last-place team. They’ve trailed at some point in 10 of those 17 wins, which is the most comeback victories in the majors since the All-Star Break.

Most Comeback Wins, Post All-Star Break in 2015

Team Wins
Philadelphia Phillies 10
Pittsburgh Pirates 9
Texas Rangers 8
Nine teams tied 7

The Brewers, meanwhile, are coming off a sweep against the Chicago Cubs and have just two more wins this season than the Phillies. But don’t blame the improved pitching staff, which is holding opponents to a .704 OPS since the All-Star break, one of the best marks in baseball during that time.

Philadelphia, too, has seen an improvement by its pitchers in the second half.

Largest Improvement in Opp. OPS, Pre and Post All-Star Game in 2015

Team Pre-ASG Post-ASG Diff.
Toronto Blue Jays .733 .586 -.147
Milwaukee Brewers .745 .704 -.041
Arizona Diamondbacks .745 .709 -.036
Philadelphia Phillies .794 .762  -.032
Cleveland Indians .696 .676 -.020

Milwaukee’s bullpen, which has been a strength all year, has gotten even better — at least in terms of whiffs. Brewers relievers have an MLB-best 28.4 percent strikeout rate since the All-Star break, as Will Smith, Michael Blazek, Neal Cotts, Jeremy Jeffress, Francisco Rodriguez and others pile up the Ks.

Highest Strikeout Pct. by Relievers, Post All-Star break

Team Strikeout pct.
Milwaukee Brewers 28.4
Toronto Blue Jays 26.7
New York Yankees 26.4
San Diego Padres 25.6
Los Angeles Dodgers 25.2

The Brewers will need their bullpen to get plenty of strikeouts because the Phillies have shown they’ve got no problem coming back late to win games.