Sitting atop the National League Central with a 26-15 record, the Milwaukee Brewers have surprised most baseball pundits (and probably a few of their own fans) with a great start to this 2014 season. The Brewers have used great pitching (starters and bullpen) and timely hitting to have the largest division lead in the N.L. (five games over the Cardinals).
One of the reasons for the great start by Milwaukee has been their ability to win games where they don’t score a lot of runs. Through games of Thursday, May 15, the Brewers have played in the third most games where they scored five or fewer runs (33). They have, however, won 18 of those 33 (a .545 winning percentage). They are the only team to have a winning percentage over .500 in games when they scored five or fewer runs.
Looking back at baseball history, only 81 teams ended a season with a winning percentage over .500 in games where they scored less than six runs in a game. Should the Brewers keep this pace, they would become the 82nd. It’s interesting to note that of the 10 teams that have the highest season winning percentage in games where they scored five or fewer runs, nine of the 10 made the World Series in that season (five actually won the title that season; one team, the 1904 New York Giants reached their mark in a year when no World Series was held). The Chicago Cubs of 1906 hold the mark for the highest winning percentage in such games; they were 66-36 (a .647 winning percentage) in games with five or fewer runs that year.
Speaking of current pace, the Brewers are on a pace to win 103 games. They have won 18 of their 26 games with five or fewer runs (69.2% of their victories). If they continue at that pace, they would win 71 games with five or fewer runs. The 1907 Cubs hold the record for most wins in a season with five or fewer runs in a game, 78. The 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers are the only other team to win 70+ games with less than six runs in a games. They won 71 that season. Since 2000, the 2013 Pirates have the most wins in a season in games with five or fewer runs, 61.
Since 2000, only two teams had a winning percentage over .500 in games where they scored less than six runs. The 2001 Seattle Mariners were 46-40 (.535) in such games; the 2005 White Sox were 57-52 (.523). The Sox won the title that season.
Just to give you a little perspective for this stat, consider that through games of May 15 this season teams that score six or more runs in a game are 291-49, a .856 winning percentage. The Brewers are actually one of five teams who are undefeated in games when they score six or more runs in a game (San Francisco, St. Louis, Kansas City and Atlanta).
Great pitching will help the Brewers continue winning games when they score less than six runs in a contest. We’ll see if they can keep this pace.