A statistical look back at the 2014 Chicago Cubs as a whole, and a little bit of hope for 2015 there at the end …
- Their 14.6 offensive WAR (FanGraphs) was 24th in baseball, ahead of only the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Phillies, White Sox, Padres, and Astros. A full 5.6 of that came from Anthony Rizzo. Five teams (Dodgers, Angels, Orioles, Pirates, Nationals) had 25 WAR or more.
- The Cubs’ .303 wOBA was 23rd in baseball (although 9th in the NL), and their wRC+ was 25th (10th in the NL). The Rockies led in wOBA at .337, and the Tigers were on top in wRC+ at 111.
- OBP was a particularly dark spot for the Cubs, at 28th in baseball, just a touch below the Mariners, although both teams nominally finished at an even .300. Baseball-wide, the average OBP was .314 this year.
- The Cubs’ .296 BABIP was just about middle-of-the-pack.
- At 24.2%, the Cubs were the most strikeout-tastic team in baseball. At least they were strong in the process – their .146 ISO was 7th highest, and .385 SLG was 14th. (Seriously, bring back the offense. The league-average slugging percentage this year was just .386.
- The Cubs walked 7.2% of the time, which was 18th in baseball.
- With respect to overall baserunning (per FanGraphs), the Cubs were middle-of-the-pack, and didn’t really add or subtract to their overall performance via the basepaths.
- The Cubs’ 17.6 pitching WAR (FanGraphs) was 6th best in all of baseball, once again underscoring the Cubs’ strange position: in recent years, the pitching has been quite good, especially relative to the offense. But, medium and long-term, it’s pitching that the Cubs need to add. Still, adding a quality bat or two for 2015 would be nice.
- The Cubs struck out 21.1% of batters they faced, good for 11th in baseball. But they gave a few too many back: their 8.1% walk rate was 8th worst.
- How’s this, though: by ERA, the Cubs were just 21st in baseball at 3.92. Only the Rockies and Diamondbacks were worse in the NL.
- So, what gives? Well, the Cubs fared much better by FIP (3.51, 6th) and xFIP (3.70, 13th). Their .304 BABIP against was 9th highest in baseball, and their 69.6% LOB% was third worst. Translation? It’s possible that the Cubs had a little bad luck with balls falling in for hits, and also doing so in an order that happened to maximize opponent runs.
- Take it all together, and you have the picture of a team that finished 73-89, the 8th worst record in baseball. But, according to Baseball Prospectus’s calculations using the underlying performance, the Cubs were actually closer to a true talent 77 or 78-win team – by that measure, they were the 4th unluckiest team in baseball.
- Irrational hope moment: imagine that the Cubs don’t do much to improve themselves next year beyond replacing guys who were traded early, and imagine that they then swing to the lucky side rather than unlucky. That’s a 78-win true talent level, and tossing on a five-game swing to the positive based on luck. In other words, even if the Cubs did nothing to improve their team in 2015 from the 2014 iteration, 83 wins is a pretty legit statistical possibility. Now imagine the Cubs actually add some players to improve the team, and imagine that they don’t get huge sub-replacement-level performances from some of their young guys. The Pirates and Giants made the playoffs this year with 88 wins. I’m just sayin’.