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homer at the chalkboardAs mentioned in the Bullets yesterday, the 2014 Chicago Cubs now have a -5 run differential, which would yield an expected record (using Pythagorean Expectation calculations) very close to .500. The Cubs, of course, are actually 12 games under .500. That’s quite a disparity, and it got me thinking about the last few years. Haven’t we seen this before? I seem to recall the Cubs underperforming their expected record last year, and it was a frequent discussion point. Maybe the year before, too.

Wait a minute. Am I crazy, or does it seem like the Cubs always underperform their expected record?

I am not crazy.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference, we can look at the Cubs’ actual, and then expected, winning percentages over the years. And, man, look at this thing going all the way back to the start of divisional play in 1994 (underperforming expected record is bolded):

2014: .342 – .485
2013: .407 – .439
2012: .377 – .403
2011: .438 – .434
2010: .463 – .448
2009: .516 – .523
2008: .602 – .609
2007: .525 – .539
2006: .407 – .431
2005: .488 – .493
2004: .549 – .578
2003: .543 – .527
2002: .414 – .467
2001: .543 – .547
2000: .401 – .424
1999: .414 – .406
1998: .552 – .522
1997: .420 – .455
1996: .469 – .501
1995: .507 – .515
1994: .434 – .457

16 out of the last 21 seasons, the Chicago Cubs’ actual record has been behind what you would expect the record to be, based on the number of runs they’ve scored and given up. And two of the five “outperformed” seasons were basically flat.

I know that, over a normalized curve, you’d expect some MLB teams to be unlucky by this metric over the past couple decades, but the Cubs look like they’re falling on the unlucky side of unlucky. (Unlucky squared.)

The way that this kind of thing happens, by the way, is in a year where your team is winning its wins by a healthy margin, but losing a whole lot of close games. Is there a “skill” built in there somewhere? Even if there were, doesn’t the 21-years-worth of records mute some of that?

That timeline spans three font office regimes, a boatload of managers, and a wide variety of roster compositions. The only constant, so far as I can tell, has been the team name, city, home pinstripes, and home ballpark. I’m not smart enough to know whether there’s anything statistically significant going on here, but I do know to feel an internal sense of sweet-hot-damn-that’s-ridiculous.

  • Swence32

    Could this be reflective of the abundance of day games and lack of quality facilities at Wrigley? Players have said it definitely takes a toll on them. This could be a measure me of just how much of a difference it makes.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s certainly one different feature about the Cubs; but it doesn’t quite explain why the Cubs score so many runs (relatively speaking), but convert them into so few wins.

      In other words, the issue here isn’t that the Cubs are more shitty than other teams over this 21 year stretch. It’s that they’ve had a bad record relative to their actual (shitty) performance.

      • Swence32

        Special Wrigley magic shitty voodoo powers. Or a ton of bad luck.

        • CubsFaninMS

          Bunt tournaments (the were sveuming in them for two years) and poor management decision-making has certainly played a part, although I would certainly think it is not the main reason.

      • 5412

        Hi,

        It tells me the weighting is wrong. Tweak things like hitting with RISP or something and I wonder if it would bring things in line.

        It sounds like according to the averages they should do this or that; however that is not the case, generally they underperform.

        I used to call Soriano the king of the insignificant home run. Much truth to that. I don’t recall the exact numbers but one year he has something like 12 HR’s and 20 RBI’s hitting in the 4 or 5 spot in the lineup.

        Bottom line is the timeliness of when they do perform seems to me to be a huge factor. Historically they are great at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

        regards,
        5412

        • Brocktoon

          There’s not “much truth” to Soriano being the king of the meaningless HR, and without looking I can feel pretty confident he never had something like 12 HRs and 20 RBI in the 4 or 5 spot.

        • SirCub
          • MightyBear

            OMG you said the “c” word. Don’t let Doc see that.

            • SirCub

              Not saying its a repeatable skill, but it is a measurable occurrence. The Cubs have performed more poorly in high leverage situations (men on base, close game, late inning situations) than they have overall. Probably its just bad luck, but it has happened.

        • http://tootblan.tumblr.com wv23

          That Soriano canard simply is not true. One season I went home run by home run to show when he hit them, what the score differential was, and what impact they had on the score/game.

          His home runs were far from “insignificant.” You see what you want to see.

          • CubsFaninMS

            Soriano was not perfect and could never have met the expectations of our fanbase. I admit to being in the “get rid of Soriano” contingent for several years but, if you look at his numbers, he was a productive player (certainly above average) throughout his tenure with the Cubs. He’s one of the greatest sluggers of this era of Cubs players. Yes, his post-season performance was woesome. Yes, his fielding needed refinement. But he was a valuable asset to us for several years. There are certainly large contracts that have performed much worse than his (Werth, Hamilton, Uggla, etc). Despite his downfalls, I believe most of us will grow to appreciate the contributions he made as a Cub.

          • Brocktoon

            Soriano and Sosa only hit solo HRs when down by 9 runs in the 9th, duh.

            • Brocktoon

              Oh, and Ramirez too. But his solo HRs down by 9 only happened in August and September after we were out of the race.

          • http://tootblan.tumblr.com wv23

            Of the home runs Soriano hit with the Cubs, here are the numbers by score differential:

            Tied – 53
            +/-1 – 56
            +/-2 – 38
            +/-3 or more – 38

            (This may not add up to the exact number of homers – and I may be off one or a couple on each, as I scanned and jotted quickly. But it is absolutely representative of the score situations.)

            This does not speak to the totality of the Soriano years, by any stretch of the imagination. But the repeated claims that his “home runs didn’t matter” is simply false. I suspect they “didn’t matter” because they didn’t fit the pre-set story in certain Cubs fans’ minds.

          • 5412

            Hi,

            It depends on what year and time frame we look at. Soriano’s year end numbers were always acceptable for a guy making half what he made which was part of the problem.

            At the same time, very few quality pitchers feared him because he was not that hard to strike out.

            For the last few years he was the best we had with little support in the order around him.

            Regards,
            5412

      • Zoolander

        Brett, it may be that if the Cubs don’t hit home runs in a game, there’s a very good chance they will lose the game. For example, they could hit 3 home runs in a game and score 8 runs, but then get shut-out the next night.

        • Brocktoon

          I’d bet every team has a crappy record when they don’t hit HRs.

          • Darth Ivy

            It’s not about whether a team hits homers or not. It’s about how much they rely on those homers, or, what their homers-to-runs ratio is.

            And it’s also not even just about how good or bad the team is. It’s about a team’s record relative to its run differential.

            • Zoolander

              The point is that the Cubs rely too much of their run production on home runs. Could someone look up this % for the Cubs and how those numbers compare to the rest of the league?

              • Darth Ivy

                someone posted it below. I believe the Cubs have the 4th most homers per run

                • SirCub

                  Yea, for the 1994-2014 time frame (at 0.24 HR’s / R). However, that’s not to say exactly what percentage of their runs have come via the home run.

        • SirCub

          Yea, but why does a HR-reliant team have to hit 3 in a game? Or that those 3 hoe runs will score 8 runs? That would mean that they would have to have had 5 men on base for those home runs, and that would imply that they’re good at getting men on base, which goes against the narrative of them being a team that only scores via the home run. It’s much more likely that such a team would hit 2, and score 2-5 runs.

    • Medicos

      Swence32: I worked at the Friendly Confines for 9-years and I can tell you that the “abundance of day games and lack of quality facilities at Wrigley” must have some effect on the players. The “batting cages” under the right field bleachers consist of a coach tossing a ball into the air and the hitter hitting the ball into a net less than 30-feet away. Each player’s allotted area in the clubhouse is so small that the players barely have enough room to move around.

      • Swence32

        People were gushing this spring over the facilities at Cubs park. To go from that to what they have now has to be awful.

      • MoneyBoy

        Medicos…

        I went to a season ticket holder function a few years ago where we could go into the dugouts (home and away) and clubhouses as well as the “batting cage.”

        Batting cage first… The netting thing is a joke. I told the friend I was with that they’d be better off doing the old Billy Williams trick – spitting in the air and trying to hit it with the bat.

        Clubhouse(s)… I was stunned to walk into the Cubs clubhouse. I could not believe how small and cramped it was. Here’s how abysmal it is… the visitor’s is bigger, roomier and better equipped. And it’s no palace either.

        • Medicos

          MoneyBoy: So you saw what I observed concerning the inadequate clubhouse and batting cage facilities. Many times I was stationed near the area that led out to the parking lot with the players’ wives, family members, and GFs. The athletes couldn’t leave the lot fast enough after those hot, sweaty, humid summer day games in July and August. Obviously money is the biggest concern of a FA and his agent, but you can bet that in some cases, players decided to sign with other teams because of the lousy conditions at the Friendly Confines. It’s going to be years before all the proposed renovations are completed at Clark and Addison.

  • Rebuilding

    It’s a small sample so it could just be random. It’s definitely been suggested that the quality of your bullpen could have something to do with it – poor bullpens don’t matter in blowouts and matter in close games. With that said, I don’t think there is anything that’s been put out that definitively supports the idea. And some of those pens featured good Carlos Marmol and some overall effective bullpens

    • SirCub

      Sample’s not really all that small, lol. I think the pen’s the biggest culprit. Over that time span, the Cubs have pen ranks:

      25th in ERA
      25th in FIP
      29th in WAR
      29th in WPA (-16!)

      • Rebuilding

        Yikes, I didn’t realize it had been that bad over the time period. But I do think 21 of anything is a pretty small sample

        • Beast Mode

          It is a sample of over 3,400 games. What more do you want?

          • Brocktoon

            Over that sample of 3,400 games, the Cubs are playing .014 below their expected W-L. It’s not that huge of a difference.

            Increasing the sample by 50% drops it down to .005. Double the sample and it’s down to .003. Push it to 1901 and it’s .001.

            • J

              It averages out to about 2-3 fewer wins a season. Not a substantial difference, since the Cubs were not competitive in most years. But given a recent trend of consistently underperforming – across managers, front office and players – the team should examine if it is merely unusually bad luck or some other consistent factor. 2-3 wins could be the difference in making the playoffs.

          • Rebuilding

            The underperforming/overperforming pythagorean expectation was based on seasons (16 of 21) and not on individual games. Out of those 3400 games the Cubs are performing under expectations by around 50 games, which probably isn’t statistically relevant, but I’ll have to check

            • SirCub

              If you just look at the odds of the Cubs under-performing their pythag record in 21 years (50% in a given year), you’d expect that to happen 16 (or more) times 0.4% of the time.

              • Rebuilding

                Really? That seems low to me, but I’ll take your word for it

                • SirCub

                  Yup, its just a binomial probability.

              • OCCubFan

                Wrong. It’s 1.3%, not 0.4%.

          • Rebuilding

            I would also point out that assuming Brett started in 1994, over the 10 seasons (’84 to ’93) previous to that the Cubs actual record exceeded their expected record 9 out of 10 times – so maybe it was good luck evening out

            • Rebuilding

              So, if we take the last 21 years as statistically significant and then the 10 years before that as statistically significant – what was the big difference between the 84 to 93 Cubs and the 94-14 Cubs? Defense, bullpen, homeruns? I have no idea off the top of my head – my guess is bullpen

              • SirCub

                Yea, and in fact the 84-93 Cubs performance was even more unlikely than the 94-present Cubs, at just 0.1%. However, I don’t think it has anything to do with good luck “evening out.” The 94-14 records don’t know what the 84-93 records did.

                • OCCubFan

                  It’s not 0.1%; the correct answer is 1.1%.

  • DarthHater

    I keep looking for phlogiston, but it’s never where my theory predicts it should be. The phlogiston must be hiding somewhere. Such a mystery.

  • Funn Dave

    It’s just bad luck. If there is a factor beyond luck, it is the pressure of playing for a team in the midst of a 100+ World Series drought. That pressure is extra high when the score is close, and almost nonexistent during blowouts. It has *nothing* to do with the stadium or its facilities.

    • Khross

      I’ve wondered about whether or not there is extra pressure from the drought. I would think it depends alot on the player. To me, those with big egos would only care about what they are doing and not even have it enter into their mind.

      Obviously, there is no way to prove one way or the other, but I doubt most of them feel any added pressure…… just my 2 cents

      • Brocktoon

        9 of the 16 years of underperforming were on dogshit, never had a chance teams.

  • Darth Ivy

    Damn Brett. Way to kick us while we’re down. What’s next, you’re gonna post the Cardinals logo just for fun?

    That’s it, I’m going home.

  • itzscott

    What’s so surprising??….. It’s the Cubs!

    Probably need a whole different formula when it comes to the Cubs.

    Nobody’s been able to figure out the Cubs for decades and you guys think some formula suddenly will?

  • SirCub

    One thing I’d guess could play a role (aside from a healthy dose of bad luck) is a dearth of quality high-leverage bullpen pieces over that time frame. Good bullpens are going to help you protect small leads, and bad bullpens are going to give more of them up. And it certainly seems like the Cubs have been oft-maligned in the back-end of the bullpen…

    • Swence32

      Makes sense. Only way you lose games in which you score a ton is to give up a ton of runs as well. Do the numbers show the Cubs have had bad enough bullpens to lose shootouts at a fairly high rate?

      • SirCub

        Yea, they’ve been pretty bad… overall, probably 2nd worst in the league.

      • Edwin

        But in 2006, 2007, and 2008, the Cubs actually had good bullpens. And they still underperformed relative to runs score/runs allowed those years. In fact, from 2003-2009 their bullpen had an ERA- less than 100 each season.

        • SirCub

          That’s a good point. One thing I’d note about the Cubs pen at that time, is that they still lacked a real shutdown pen that could come in and protect a one-run lead after the 7th inning. For that, you’d want a couple dominant guys at the back end. What those Cubs teams had were a bunch of above-average typed guys (eg- Remlinger, Howry, Wuertz, Farnsworth). Still, that pen probably wasn’t bad enough that you’d expect them to perform really poorly in close games.

    • Brocktoon

      Bad bullpens will also let close losses become blowout losses.

      • SirCub

        True. What we really need to be looking at is not overall bullpen performance, but the performance of the top tier of your pen (those who will be used specifically to protect small leads). That’s where I expect the Cubs have really underperformed over the years.

        • SirCub

          To re-emphasize the point that dominant, shutdown relievers make the difference here, let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum.

          The Yankees have OUT-performed their pythag 17 times in the past 21 years. If I had to guess, I’d say that having the best closer of all time pitch for you for a couple decades helps you win a couple of extra 1 run games…

          • Brocktoon

            With modern closer usage, having a lights-out closer doesn’t necessarily make a difference. For every 1 run game Rivera doesn’t let slip away, there are 2 and 3 run leads that he doesn’t let slip to 1 run victories.

            • SirCub

              Yea, but the point is that teams with great closers and setup men will tend to have better records in 1-run and 2-run games, which is true.

              http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=347

              This will help them out-perform their pythag.

              • Brocktoon

                But if they’re more likely to hold a 1 or 2 run lead, aren’t they also more likely to hold a 3 or 4 run lead rather than let it slip to 1 or 2?

                Hadn’t seen that piece before. Would be interested to see an updated one to see if the small trend still holds true.

                • SirCub

                  3, probably. But not 4, based on modern closer usage, like you said. I’d guess that winning more 3-run games has little effect on under- or out-performing your pythag, one way or another, though.

    • 5412

      Hi,

      For years the Cubs and Bears played the same game. Pay some decent money to some players to put people in the seats and then surround them with minimum wage fringe players or over the hill guys.

      There was never a commitment to winning. If there was every roster spot would be cherished and they would commit to finding the best player available to fill that spot regardless of what it cost.

      regards,
      5412

  • http://becomehealthier.com drcub1908

    Sometimes trying to put a science where one does not exist is fun for the woulda coulda shoulda game. I don’t see the should have been ?? Every game is unique and dynamic

  • ryanswartz7

    Having a worse record than your runs scored would indicate basically means you are losing close games. A bad bullpen is going to play a huge factor in close. This is shitty luck with shitty bullpens

    • ryanswartz7

      *close games

    • SirCub

      It is kind of amazing that the Cubs bull pen has been so consistently shitty though. I mean, we’re talking a steady run of crappy relievers, who ended up pitching quite a few high-leverage innings for the Cubs:

      Carlos Marmol
      Bob Howry
      Rod Beck
      Kerry Wood
      Randy Myers
      Latroy Hawkins

      • SirCub

        A couple funny things about that list…

        1. Most or all of those guys had really good runs as relievers with the Cubs, but ended up being really inconsistent.

        2. Carlos Marmol is probably overall the best and most consistent of the group. Recency bias really hurts him in fans’ memories, I think.

        3. Looking over that time frame, I think the only consistently good reliever the Cubs had was Sean Marshall. That’s incredible.

      • Brocktoon

        Were those supposed to be the crappy relievers you were listing?

        • SirCub

          Maybe not all crappy relievers on the whole. But guys who definitely had crappy seasons as relievers. Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol were definitely pretty good over their respective careers with the Cubs, but ended their tenure there pretty poorly.

  • Scombs

    I’ve heard arguments that this type of “underperformance” is the result of bad bullpen configuration (which, if true, would make sense), though I’m not sure that I’m sold on that.

    • Scombs

      And there are already multiple comments making that same point. My bad…

      • Funn Dave

        Haha. I was just about to tell everyone to shape up and actually read the article and other comments before posting. At least you’re self-aware enough to realize what happened.

  • cubsfaninca

    I’d say there is a crowd factor involved due to the drought. In every game there’s going to be an error, pitcher struggling with control, etc. where somebody does something bad. They can probably feel and hear the collective “here we go again!” from the crowd as they are EXPECTING to lose. This gets into the players’ heads, they don’t want the next ball hit to them or the pitcher gets even more nervous and one bad thing turns into many. In the blowouts the crowds relax.
    I think this even explains some of the fake rallies, everytime they get close the nerves kick in.

  • Beast Mode

    Maybe we have a tendency to lean on power (home runs) and when you hit home runs you tend to put crooked numbers on the board. Also when one player hits a HR chances are that pitcher or subsequent pitchers( bullpen) has a more likely chance of giving up a HR and expand our lead even more. Since most games you don’t hit multible HR’s that causes you to score very few runs by means of “manufacturing runs” so you lose a close game with good pitching.
    Voila a weird “Unlucky” run differential.

    Disclaimer:
    I have no data just throwing my crazy theory out there.

    • SirCub

      Could be you and Darth Ivy are onto something, too. Sorting by Home Runs per Run Scored, the Cubs are 26th in the league over this time frame.

      • SirCub

        I mean 4th. Meaning they have the 4th highest HR/R ratio.

        • Beast Mode

          I’m trying to think of another team that has a pretty good pitching staff and also rely’s on the long ball to compare to the Cubs. Any suggestions?

          • SirCub

            The Braves the past couple years come to mind.

            • Beast Mode

              I thought of the Rockies. I know there in a different league per se playing at coors field. The results were interesting though. Since 2000 when their pitching became somewhat respectable, they have “under-performed” 12 out of 15 years. I’m starting to think that there may be a correlation.

              • Beast Mode

                *they’re

      • Darth Ivy

        I wonder if relying on homers/scoring in bunches will always lead to underperforming the run differential, or if it just means that the run differential means less and the team has a better chance of out performing or underperforming.

        To me, it makes sense that a team is just as likely to out-perform their run differential with bunching their runs as underperforming

        • SirCub

          I think the thing is that scoring most of you runs from home runs doesn’t necessarily mean you will score big or none. You can just as easily score 2-5 runs in a game relying on the HR as you can 6+. So I’m not sure that HR-reliant teams are more likely to be a part of blow-outs one way or the other.

          • Darth Ivy

            that may be about how bunched their homers are. A team that is able to spread their homers out evenly should perform closer to their run differential than a team that hit them in bunches. But two things:

            1- it seems to me that it’s just the nature of a homer-reliant team to hit them in bunches

            2-it may be more about simply scoring in bunches than hitting homers.

            • SirCub

              Yea, I just don’t know how solid the assumption is that a homer-happy team will hit more of those home runs in bunches.

              I think your second point is spot on thought. A team that scores in bunches will probably under-perform their pythag (regardless of where the runs come from (ie- HR’s)).

              • Darth Ivy

                And maybe it’s the opposite with pitching. Let’s say the average runs per game is 4. If a pitching staff gives up 2 runs per game for 8 games then gives up 12 runs for 2 games (just to use extreme numbers to emphasize the point), the team has a much better chance at winning more than games than a pitching staff that gives up 4 runs every game

                So maybe inconsistency is bad for offenses but good for a pitching staff?

                • SirCub

                  I’d say that assumption hold true on the extremes, at least. Somebody should do a study!

  • Darth Ivy

    Maybe it has to do with relying on homers more than usual. Homers tend to come in bunches. And when you score runs in bunches (whether it’s because a team relies on homers or just so happens to score in bunches, anyway), it may lead a team to playing away from their run differential (whether on the better side or worse side). Bunching up runs could be like playing different numbers for each spin in roulette. You may get really unlucky or really lucky. But if you play the same numbers every spin, you’re more likely to get closer to the expecting winning percentage. Same with bunching runs.

    This may make no sense, just a thought.

    • Darth Ivy

      So it may have more to do with how spread out or bunched up a team scores…or pitches, i guess. The more consistent a team performs, the more likely their record is close to their expected record based on run differential.

    • Beast Mode

      Holy crap did you just copy my comment.
      If not at least someone agrees with me.

      • Darth Ivy

        whoa, I just noticed that.

        I can tell that you’re a very smart person.

        • Beast Mode

          Great minds think alike.
          But so do dumb ones:)

  • Beast Mode

    Hey, where’s Doc when you need him?

    • SirCub

      I’m subbing for him today. If there are any questions that I can’t address, he has office hrs Tue and Thurs from 2-4.

  • MightyBear

    This is a big concern of mine in that when Baez, Bryant, Edwards, Almora, Alcantara, Johnson, Black, Vizcaino, etc do come to the big league club, will this losing close games continue. Even though the talent is there, winning close games is the key to having a great season. Tommy Lasorda said, “In baseball, you are going to win 50 games and you are going to lose 50 games, it’s what you do in the other 62 games that determines your season.” Winning close games can become contagious, so can losing them.

    • Brocktoon

      Tommy Lasorda is a big fat idiot.

      • Medicos

        Brocktoon: Although you called Tom Lasorda “a big fat idiot” he seems to have compiled a highly successful managerial record with the Dodgers. In 2 decades his Dodgers appeared in 4 WS and won 2. I have to agree with you that he has become somewhat overweight in his later years. Must be all the outstanding Italian restaurants in LA and when he visits our city.

        • JB88

          Maybe Brocktoon thinks he is a big, fat idiot for the ridiculous things he said in defense of Donald Sterling …

          • Brocktoon

            There’s no limit to the number of things that make Lasorda a big fat idiot.

    • Edwin

      I hate that cliche.

      • Funn Dave

        The more I hear it, the more I hate it.

        • Edwin

          It’s almost as bad as the “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you”.

          • Brocktoon

            Or million dollar arm, 10 cent head.

            • Edwin

              Pretty much anything from Bull Durham as well. Crash Davis was an idiot who had no idea what he was talking about. No wonder he barely played in the Majors.

              • Brocktoon

                Bull Durham is the WORST, and appears to be where 90% of sports talk callers learned about baseball.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Waitaminute…I thought it was 60-60-42. Or maybe it was thirds.

  • rc24jr

    there are several seasons at .03 to .07 is that really that far off? I think i counted 5 of those that you have on the unlucky side.

  • Rebuilding

    Starting in 1946 the Cubs have outperformed their Pythagorean record 32 times and underperformed 36 times. From 1946-1965 they were 10-10, from 1966-1985 they were 10-10, since then they are 12-16

    • DarthHater

      Pythagoras didn’t know beans about baseball.

      • Rebuilding

        He was known to lay big money on the pentathlon

    • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

      Yeah, the sample size is questionable, Brett. Why stop at 94? If you go back to 84, the record looks a lot different. 15 out perform, 16 under perform.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I stopped at the start of divisional play because it was a natural line of demarcation.

        And, because it was kind of the point: 21 years is a long stretch of time, all within most of our memories. Going back to 1970 or 1950 or whatever … not many of us can actually relate to that.

        As I indicated throughout, this is not designed to be a statistical dive, because I don’t have the chops for that. Just pointing out something strange. And I do stand by it being very strange.

        • SirCub

          Yea, this is clearly just kind of a, “huh, isn’t that funny?” type of thing. You clearly explained that this spanned multiple rosters, coaching staffs and front offices, and that the only constant was the team name. More relevantly, the only constant is that we (read: fans born in the 70’s and 80’s) have been watching and pulling our hair out over that time frame. So while its pretty much a random sample, its also one that is really deviant, and also relevant to us as fans. I don’t really care much about the 1950s Cubs (Sorry Spriggs).

  • wkranz

    I only have one thing to say about this article…#FireTheo

  • ssckelley

    So when the Cardinals sold their souls to the devil did he grant them 2 wishes? We might need some divine intervention here.

  • Dafoxx

    It’s genetic, passed down from team to team.

  • cubs2003

    This is a weird thought, but I wonder if the day games and party habits of Cubs players actually do play into it. It seems like when people are tired or hungover, adrenaline kicks in when there’s something big going on. Like an at bat or a pitcher’s start or whatever. When that adrenaline wears off is when mistakes are made. Getting that extra base. Forcing pickoff attempts from the opposing pitcher. Mental mistakes even if they aren’t errors. Stuff like that. I’m not sure all that is caught in win expectancy. I’ll admit I’m not sure how it’s calculated, though. Just a thought.

    • Brocktoon

      You wouldn’t have any adrenaline while you’re getting blown out either.

      • cubs2003

        I’m pretty sure players care a lot about their personal numbers still, but I get you’re saying.

  • J

    Brett, for your next task, check whether there is a home/road divide. Has the Cubs performance at home deviated more from expectation than on the road.

  • Zoolander

    High strickout batters + low on base percentage lineup + cannot generate many runs without hitting home runs + wind blows in at home more than it does blowing out + low base stealing team + cold weather in April and May = always underperform against their expected record.

  • fromthemitten

    “three font offices”

    If Hendry were a font, he’d be comic sans

    • SirCub

      *rimshot*

  • Jon

    It’s the day games + shithole facilty. Dallas Green had the right idea 30+ years ago to move to da burbs

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Doc had a busy day. Yeah, the probability of this is pretty low. By definition, half of the teams over-perform expectations and half under-perform expectations. Only one in 277 teams should underperform in 5 (or fewer) of 21 years. So, something clearly is up.

    People have focused on the Cubs losing close games as the explanation. I would suggest a different possibility: the Cubs might have greater numbers of blow-out wins than you would expect overall, which in turn would artificially inflate their core numbers and thus their expected wins.

    The one problem that I see with this is, what is the process? As others have noted, the Cubs actually had a pretty good Pythagorean run prior to 1994: that argues against something related to Wrigley. 20 years means that it’s not the players or the coaching, or even general tactics.

    • mudge

      Maybe over the last 20 years many other stadiums have improved their facilities, weight rooms, batting cages etc., relative to Wrigley, skewing the numbers.

    • Brocktoon

      Or it means they had a bad 20 year run of variance. But thank God Doc is here to teach the Stats 101 class that everybody already knows but makes him feel better about himself.

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