Winning seasons have historically been too few and far between for the Cubs and their fans. So much so, Friday’s doubleheader sweep of the Phillies ensured the Cubs’ first winning season since 2009, when the team went 83-78. And it represents only the seventh winning season since the turn of the century.
But clinching the team’s first non-losing season in six years is not what made Friday’s two wins unique.
With win No. 82, the 2015 team became the youngest Cubs team to post a winning record since 1967.
The Cubs have had 18 winning seasons in the last 50 years. They have had consecutive winning seasons three times in that span, the most recent coming from 2007-09. Even then, those were veteran-laden teams that featured playoff-tested players and a front office that was trying to win one for Tribune Tower in its last years of ownership.
Here is a look at the average age for every Cubs team that finished the season with a winning record since 1965 (thanks to the help of Baseball-Reference):
|2008||97-64||30.2||Lost LDS 0-3|
|2007||85-77||29.5||Lost LDS 0-3|
|2003||88-74||31.3||Lost LCS 3-4|
|1998||90-73||30.3||Lost LDS 0-3|
|1989||93-69||27.8||LOST LCS 1-4|
|1984||96-65||29.5||LOST LCS 2-3|
Eight of the 18 squads had an average age of 30 or older. Four others featured an average age of 29 or older.
Only two teams rival the kind of success the Cubs are having in 2015.
The 1989 team had an average age of 27.8, which is the youngest of the six playoff teams fielded by the Cubs since divisional play began in 1969.
Led by manager Don Zimmer, the 1989 Cubs featured five regulars (Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Dwight Smith, Damon Berryhill and Shawon Dunston) who were in their age 26 seasons or younger. Four of the five (Grace, Walton, Smith, Dunston) posted an OPS+ at or above 100.
Grace (3.9 bWAR) was the best of the bunch, while Smith (2.3 bWAR), Dunston (2.3 bWAR) and Berryhill (1.4 dWAR as a catcher) rounded out the best of that bunch. As it turns out, Walton — who won the 1989 N.L. Rookie of the Year — had the lowest bWAR of that group (1.9).
The most valuable pitcher? Look no further than a 23-year-old Greg Maddux, who posted a team-best 5.0 bWAR in a season in which he went 19-12 with a 2.95 ERA, 3.45 FIP and 129 ERA+ in 238.1 innings. Maddux’s WAR ranked fifth among National League starters and 13th among all MLB pitchers that season.
The 1967 Cubs were the foundation to a run of relative success for the franchise. The team went 87-74 under second-year manager Leo Durocher. It was the first of six consecutive winning seasons for the Cubs, something that hasn’t been matched by the organization since.
That team had four players who were in their age 26 season or younger — three of whom posted seasons 3-WAR seasons or better.
Center fielder Adolfo Phillips (6.0) was the best of that bunch, followed by catcher Randy Hundley, whose 3.9 bWAR was the fourth best among major league catchers that season. Second baseman Glenn Beckert posted a 3.9 bWAR, too, which was the third best in The Show behind Detroit’s Dick McAuliffe (5.1) and Houston’s Joe Morgan (5.0).
While the youngsters on the ’67 Cubs held their own, the offense was led by a pair of stars in their prime years. Ron Santo’s 9.8 bWAR in his age 27 season was the best in the N.L. and second best in baseball behind Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski — who won the A.L. Triple Crown that season in a year in which he led the league in eight different offensive categories. Santo finished fourth in the N.L. MVP race.
Billy Williams, 29, posted a 4.7 bWAR which ranked him 14th among major league outfielders.
The leader on the rubber was 24-year-old Ferguson Jenkins, whose 5.0 bWAR was the 10th best in all of baseball. Jenkins tossed a whopping 289 innings and pitched a big-league leading 20 complete games.
With three weeks left in the regular season, the 2015 Cubs are still only beginning to etch their respective names in Cubs lore.