I can’t help myself …
With yesterday’s blowout win, the Cubs now have a +1 run differential on the year, meaning that they’ve scored one more run this year than they’ve given up. That’s the hallmark of a .500 or better team, and yet the Cubs have a losing record, at 21-30.
Know how many other teams have a positive run differential and a losing record?
The Cubs – who are nine games below .500 – are the only team that has outscored its opponents and doesn’t have a winning record to show for it. The Nationals and Giants have a negative run differential, and they have winning records. Hell, the Mariners have a -43 run differential(!!!), and they have a better winning percentage than the Cubs!
It should be unsurprising, then, to learn that Baseball Prospectus still has the Cubs as the unluckiest team in baseball when studying the underlying statistics, and calculates that the Cubs’ record should be right around 28-23. Wrap your head around that.
… but then I remind you that even a 28-23 Cubs team would be five games behind the Pirates and Reds for second place in the NL Central and the wistfulness fades slightly. The NL Central appears to be crazy tough this year, and, even if the Cubs were recording wins at a pace commensurate with their performance, they’d still be fighting for 4th place.
To reasonable stave off a mid-season sell-off, the Cubs will need to be a little over .500 by the All-Star break – let’s say 47-45. Otherwise, given the division and the struggles early, it would be counterproductive to keep this team together just so that it has the privilege of finishing with 75 wins instead of 70 (frankly, even at 47-45, I’m not so sure keeping the team together is the right move unless the Cubs are going to BUY). To get to those 47 wins by the All-Star break, the Cubs have to go 26-15 over the next 41. Doable? Yes. They play a weaker schedule ahead than they have so far.
But even the underlying stats don’t suggest the Cubs are that good. Which means that, if the Cubs are going to make that kind of run, they’re going to need a lot of good luck. And luck hasn’t been on their side so far.