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It may seem impossible to believe, but, even after dropping three of four to the Brewers, the 2012 Chicago Cubs have a winning record at home.

Let that rattle around your head a bit – despite being 31 games under .500 on the road, the Cubs are a game over .500 at home. Is it a statistical anomaly? Merely the reflection that teams play better at home than on the road? Or is there something more?

Well, on the statistical anomaly thing, we can’t really rule it out.

Although I’m sure a statistician of more skillz than I could crunch the numbers and determine how frequently you would expect a team to have that kind of crazy home road split purely by chance (error bars and z-score and what have you), but my guess is that this kind of thing does happen by chance, albeit extremely rarely. This season, looking at the standings, there are a few teams that have a greater than 10-game split between their home and road records, but none even approaching the 16-game difference the Cubs currently sport, save for the Astros, whose 14.5 game difference still has them 11 games under .500 at home (they’re that bad).

Looking back a few seasons (through 2008), the most extreme teams tend to have a nine to ten game difference between their home record and road record (e.g., 52-29 at home, 42-39 on the road), with a handful of 20+ seasons (2010 Tigers, 2010 Braves, 2009 Rays). Only the 2010 Tigers weren’t a great team (finishing 81-81), but even they were just 23 games under .500 on the road (and, obviously, 23 games over .500 at home). I can’t find a team – again, this was just a sweep through 2008 – that was so extremely bad on the road as the 2012 Cubs, and still managed a winning record at home.

So, what about the fact that teams just play better at home? Well, that they do. But, in recent memory, that blanket statement hasn’t always applied to the Cubs. Heck, the 2010 Cubs were five games better on the road than they were at home. You know how many other teams in baseball had a better road record than home record that year? Exactly none.

You have to go back to 2008 to find a Chicago Cubs team that was significantly better at home (55-26) than on the road (42-38). But, the thing is, that team was just awesome all around. When a team has a winning record like that on the road, it’s harder to argue that they’re gliding by on a home-field advantage. Instead, they’re just good.

Given that backdrop of how rare it is to have this kind of extreme home/road split, and how the Cubs haven’t always been extremely good at Wrigley Field in recent years, to what do we attribute their success at Wrigley this year, relative to their failure everywhere else?

If we assume it isn’t a mere statistical anomaly (which, as I’ve said, is entirely possible), then you’ve got to conclude that there is something to this roster that plays better at Wrigley than other teams’ rosters. We know that the new front office stated repeatedly coming into the season that they were trying very hard to build a roster that plays to Wrigley’s unique conditions, including the pitcher-friendly early-season, and hitter-friendly mid-season. What might those moves have been? Well, they worked to improve the defense, which is particularly important earlier in the year. They also added lefty starters, who have historically had slightly better success at Wrigley than righties (that is to say, the park plays among the best in the league for lefty hitters, who can, in the aggregate, be better neutralized by lefty pitchers).

In other words, it’s possible that, in this dismal, dark season, we’re already seeing a sliver of success. Yes, the roster is terrible, and needs to be improved. But if these guys in charge already have a grasp of how to construct a roster at the margins that plays THIS much better at Wrigley than on the road, how good is the team going to be when it can muster a .500 record on the road?

There’s still a month to go on the season, and these numbers could all fall apart during that stretch. But it’s interesting to wonder what we’re seeing develop, if anything. After writing this piece, I think I might be ever-so-slightly more encouraged about the near-term future than I was before I started.

  • TWC

    Was it 2008 when we started out with a ridiculous home record? Something like 20-2 before coming back down to earth a bit over the rest of the season…

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The ’08 Cubs were 15-7 through the first 22 home games (which took them up to mid-May). They actually kept up that ridiculous home winning percentage through the end of August, when they were 51-21 at home: that means 36-15 after mid-May!

      The home record dropped in September (4-5) but the entire team collapsed that month.

      • TWC

        Yeah, I looked it up after I posted that — and would have amended it if there was an edit button. For some reason I remember the winning percentage being much higher, but a ~67% winning percentage is nothing to shake a stick at, really.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          No, no it’s not!

        • Cubbie Blues

          I don’t appreciate being told what I should do with stray sticks that I may or may not pick up.

          • TWC

            Well, I then have a suggestion for where you can put one.

    • toonsterwoo

      Like the man said, ……………….wow, exciting……………….Theo, and maybe another toonsterwu, whatever that is, just a bunch of ………………..loser assholes

  • mudge

    good one , Brett.

  • Spencer

    Even really good teams play right around .500 baseball on the road.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nah. “Good” teams play around .500 on the road. “Really good” teams play slightly above .500 on the road.

      ( :) )

      (And speaking of the road, I’m hitting it. Keep it friendly, friends.)

  • fortyonenorth

    I wonder how the player splits are: home vs. away. I know Barney is (or at least was coming into this homestand) hitting over .300 at home.

  • Spriggs

    So who will the September call ups be and when are they announced? Anyone from AA? Hope it’s not just Campana, Sappelt and a few boring AAA pitchers?

    • fortyonenorth

      Starting to see some names. This from Twitter: “Beliveau up for Rusin today. Campana, Cardenas, Sappelt up Sat. when rosters expand. Socolovich up Sun. Rusin, Recker up Tues.”

      • ssckelley

        Good to see Beliveau back up, I think he has a good chance at making the team next year as a lefty in the bullpen.

      • TonyP

        I’m betting Sappelt is gone over the winter.

  • terencem

    Thanks for doing the research on that. It’s definitely a weird situation. Makes me glad that my next Cubs game will be at Wrigley, though.

  • cubchymyst

    Maybe it is the day games. I would assume the cubs are more used to playing day games then any other team in the league. The Cubs players have a routine built around day games at home while the opposing team needs to shift its night schedule to an earlier time. If the opposing team doesn’t have an off day then they need to travel and play a day game the next day. So I could see how day games could play in the cubs favor at home.

    • cubchymyst

      the 2010 season does not match up well with the day game theory though.

  • The Dude Abides

    16 road & 16 home left with current percentages to date we will finish 62 – 100 but we have six of 16 road games against Astro’s & Rockies, so have a decent chance those nights. All things in this means nothing but would be nice if they could pull off a little better than season to date averages on the road and stay 500 at home to finish with less than 100 losses. Unfortunately they also play quite a few teams still fighting for playoffs. Really isn’t much to hang your hat on but less than 100 losses will make it easier to bury in history when we turn this around in a couple of years.

  • Idaho Razorback

    Hey Brett, got any rosd sodas in the car? You know, beer…. If not, do what I do when I’m a passenger, down a Natty Datty at a gas station. Helps a lot!!!

  • Fastball

    Well we had much better starting pitching until a month ago is one reason we did okay at home. Now that we don’t have Garza, Dempster and Maholm starting for us we have tanked since August 1st. I think we can look at this through rose colored glasses if we choose too. Our pitching has ended any success that we could have realized. Right now we have Shark and Wood and a few decent starts from call ups but nothing compared to the starting pitching we had earlier. When you at least have a remote chance of winning because your starters keep you close in the games it makes all the difference in the world. Shark will be shut down soon and you have to think Wood will be shut down at some point as well. That leaves us very little chance to win even 30% of the remaining games. We haven’t come close to that since August 1st. I don’t think the record at home was anamoly due to the fact we had better pitching. I don’t think at the end of this season you will be able to make any kind of connection as to how this roster was put together as being indicative of the record at home. We had pitchers who knew how to pitch at Wrigley. Now we don’t. That’s the difference in the roster. The roster still stinks like it did at the beginning of the year. We have also lost some veterans who were used to playing at Wrigley Field during the day. We don’t have that any longer either except for Soriano, Castro and Barney. The rest all have less than a year on the job in Chicago.

    • AmazGrace

      O.K.?

    • AmazGrace

      I believe in Riz, Castro, Jackson, Castillo at this point,( offense ) That’s about it.

      • chirogerg

        /Soriano or DeJesus?

        • AmazGrace

          Yes, your point is well taken. DeJesus and Soriano have very good OBP percentages. Look at what Jackson has been doing lately!

          • Drew7

            “DeJesus and Soriano have very good OBP percentages.”

            Soriano’s OBP is .317…

            • AmazGrace

              Actually, I think Soriano has a career OBP@ .330 or above. I could mistaken on that stat.

              • Cubbie Blues

                His lifetime OBP is .323. He hasn’t been over .330 since 2008 when he had a .344.

              • Drew7

                Sorry, I didn’t realize you said career OBP.

                Wait, you didn’t? Oh…

  • gutshot5820

    If the Cubs kept Ramirez at third and picked up a decent center fielder, didn’t trade Marshall, and kept Garza, Dempster and Maholm throughout the year, the team would actually have competed. This is not to say that breaking the team and starting from scratch was the wrong thing to do.

    My concern is that even though everyone thinks Theo is really smart, he has to get lucky in order for the Cubs to be competitive in the next few years. The draft picks need to pan out and he no longer has the ability to outspend others in the draft to compensate for failures. If the draft picks in the minors end up not being so great, this team is going to be bad for a decade. It appears there are barely any market inefficiencies anymore besides the Dodgers way. The time to start adding free agents is now. Not like the Dodgers, but a few here and there in order to start competing and also to protect against the farm failing to produce.

    • AmazGrace

      I’m tired of the Ramirez thing. Look. The guy played with us how many years and we never won crap!

      • TWC

        I’m tired of the Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson and Greg Maddux thing. They played for us for how many years and the Cubs never won crap!

        • Flashfire

          Maddux: not nearly enough. If he’d played more, you might not be able to make that joke.

          • TWC

            Bah. The Cubs were going nowhere in the early 90′s. Maddux alone — had we re-signed him — couldn’t have changed that.

            • Flashfire

              Imagine Maddux on those 98 and 2003 teams, though. Especially the latter.

              • TWC

                *sigh*

                Ain’t that the truth.

            • AmazGrace

              Have to agree on that one.(Not that I wanted to)

              • Drew7

                Ha

                • AmazGrace

                  ramirez was over-rated. do i know you from somewhere?

        • TSB

          Cubs never went anywhere with Banks, Santo and Williams. They are still Hall of Famers. Do you disagree?

          • TWC

            Do *I* disagree? I think you’re only reinforcing my snark about the ridiculousness of AmazGrace’s comment, no?

            I know you have it out for me, kiddo, but you’re gonna have to try a bit harder.

            • AmazGrace

              I’ll put money on the fact Ramirez NEVER PLAYS on a WS team.($100,000?)

              • TWC

                Oh, for cryin’ out loud. I’ll raise you a BILLION dollars and bet you that Ernie Banks doesn’t either. What kind of argument *IS* this?

                • AmazGrace

                  No argument . My point was Ramirez WAS and IS still OVER-RATED. One of Theo’s best moves was moving Ramirez.. He will never play with a “team” that will take it all.

                  • Drew7

                    Didnt take you long to come back again.

                    Ramirez was not overrated.

                    • AmazGrace

                      Why did Theo move him?(Ramirez) Please explain. I am very serious as to how you saw the deal.

                    • Flashfire

                      Aging and expensive third baseman who was going to be in serious decline by the time the Cubs could compete in 2015-2016. The benefit to the team wasn’t worth the money he was going to cost. So he took a flyer on a former #4 prospect in all of baseball, which didn’t work so well.

              • Mrp

                The only bet I would take is that Ramirez never leaves the NL Central. The odds seem pretty good on that one.

                • AmazGrace

                  Yes.

            • TSB

              I’m out to get you? On a baseball site? Black helicopters above your house much?

              • TWC

                Yo, kid, lighten up. I’m just playin’ around. It’s Friday afternoon, baby! Time for a bourbon and a beer.

    • TWC

      If the Cubs kept Ramirez at third and picked up a decent center fielder, didn’t trade Marshall, and kept Garza, Dempster and Maholm throughout the year, the team would actually have competed. … [snip]

      You new here? This topic’s pretty much been beaten into the ground for, like, months, man. I mean, comment away and all, but what new arguments do you hope to uncover here?

      • cas-castro

        That team still would not be good enough to compete for the playoffs and would delay the inevitable for another year. I like the direction we are going. Lets ride this out and root for every prospect that comes thru. We’ll get the right pieces together because we have the right people and the right plan. Have faith all.

        • FFP

          I like the direction we are going

          Me too. But, I tend to agree, (with those that pick up (sticky ends of) sticks to wag at dead horses) the team I saw in the first few months this year (minus Marmol(or Mormol’s use)) could have gotten a playoff spot.

          And once we’re in the playoffs, folks, anything can happen.

          But, I think Theo is aiming at being a regular playoff contender. He is building a Cubs machine. Good Luck to Marshall, Dempster et al.

          Say hello, Chicago, to the 21st Century Cubs.

          We’ll remember these days of doubt fondly (or deny that we ever doubted our Deerfield Academy darling)

    • King Jeff

      I’m not sure if that iteration of Cubs would have been competing. Adding a centerfielder and Paul Maholm to last years squad, still probably wouldn’t have been good enough to compete. On the Theo point, I don’t think he needs to get lucky, he needs to hit on some draft picks, which I don’t see as the same thing. They added greatly to the scouting department this past year, so I think he’s as on top of hitting on draft picks as could be expected. Also, when the Cubs start bringing in tv dollars like the Dodgers do, then they can start spending like the Dodgers. Until then, I think that they should add only long term building blocks, or short term guys who can help immediately and be traded down the road for more prospects.

    • Tommy

      Yes – adding free agents is a must. Look how it worked out for the Marlins! We need to copy that blueprint!

    • Drew7

      They would have competed alright- for 4th place, the 15th pick in the draft, and a lower draft pool.

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