Before the season started, there were many, many articles predicting major success for the Chicago Cubs. So much so, in fact, that other teams/fans/pundits in baseball were reportedly already sick of hearing about the Cubs (before a single pitch was even thrown!).
That had me a little worried.
Although the Cubs had a relatively light schedule early on, I was concerned that the hype was going to get too high, that no matter what the Cubs did, people would be disappointed, and that the pressure was finally going to exceed the pleasure.
But boy I was wrong.
If “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” could outlive it’s hype train, so could the Chicago Cubs, and that is precisely what they did. Here we stand, 16% into the season, and the Cubs are the best team in baseball with a record of 20-6. More impressively, their run differential is on pace to be the best in the history of baseball and everything seems to be clicking, despite several very key injuries.
Well, like they did before the season started, other teams/fans/pundits are taking notice of the Cubs’ progress and there’s been a lot of attention directed towards their efforts.
For example, today, I’m here to share with you three such pieces, recognizing the Cubs excellent start to the 2016 season. If you were having a tough day today, if that extra cup of coffee just wasn’t doing it for you, or if Bridget – the overly strict office manager who JUST DOESN’T GET IT – won’t get off your back, I have three posts to turn around your day.
- First, at FiveThirtyEight, Rob Arthur argues that the benchmark for the Cubs season may no longer be whether they are the best team in baseball this year, but whether they may have one of the best seasons in baseball history. Indeed, as we know, the Cubs’ run differential is being set at a record pace, but, as Arthur points out, that’s more impressive than we really give it credit for. Baseball is in its highest level of parity, with the spread of talent between teams being as thin as it’s ever been. The Cubs’ scaled run differential (3.50) was actually the best in baseball history before they beat the Pirates 7-1 and 6-2 in the two games played since the article was written.
- Okay, so they’ve won a lot of games, but will it last? Well, at the New York Times, Victor Mather addresses that very topic. The Cubs’ current .769 winning percentage is almost certainly unsustainable, as that would put them on pace to win an unthinkable 125 games this season, but it’s not entirely unheard of up to this point. Every season, Mather explains, there is usually one team that starts off almost unthinkably hot (small sample sizes, after all). Last year, for example, the Cardinals were wining at an excellent .750 pace at this point. However, there is one big difference that separates the Cubs winning ways from the Cardinals and any other hot team in baseball: their insane, insane, we’re-going-to-keep-talking-about-it-insane run differential. Usually, at this point in the season the league leader is at about a +50 run differential. The 2015, 100 win Cardinals, for example, were at +40. The Cubs right now are at +93.
- According to their Pythagorean record, the Cubs should actually have won two more games than they did. The Cubs, if you can believe it, are underperforming (slackers). There’s much more in there, so I encourage you to give it a read. The gist of it is, though, that the Cubs aren’t getting lucky (normal BABIP) or squeezing out one run wins that could have gone either way. They are genuinely very, very good and could be even better. Amazing.
- Lastly, at the Washington Post, Barry Svrluga writes about the Cubs seemingly magical, historic season, while addressing the process along the way. How are the Cubs doing it, Svrluga asks: Pitching, defense and Joe Maddon. As of Thursday, Svrluga writes, the Cubs are leading the league in ERA and DRS (defensive runs saved) and it can be thanks, in large part, to Joe Maddon. Maddon’s ability to utilize and maximize the capabilities of an extremely versatile roster has proved invaluable over a season with many loses of key regulars.
- And it’s not just that. Maddon has a way to penetrate the minds and be a real, actual leader of this team of grizzled veterans and green newbies. Check out what he had to say about how he tries to deliver the message on a daily basis: “To me, it’s always been a good way of getting your message out there in a subliminal way,” Maddon said via Svrluga at the Washington Post. “Maybe it’ll stick, even to the hardcore dude that doesn’t believe it. Maybe in a weak moment, I’ll get them with a thought.” And that’s the magic of Joe Maddon. He sees, is worried about, and addresses things that most people would never notice in a million years. He is a perfect fit for just about any roster, but that seems to be especially true for these Cubs.