The Chicago Cubs lost last night’s showdown against the Washington Nationals 5-4 in the bottom of the 12th inning. They were subsequently kicked out of the league for disgracing the city of Chicago, and none of the players will be allowed to play the game ever again.
Or so it felt.
Of course, the Cubs lost a really suspenseful, but highly entertaining, matchup against the Nats last night, which means they lost the series overall. The loss was particularly tough for some Cubs fans, in part because of the playoff intensity and multiple comebacks for both teams. With an off-day today, stewing with that loss might sting, but don’t let it! Even if you weren’t already distracted by the Willson Contreras news, I’m here to tell you there’s plenty to be happy about in the Cubs’ world.
The last scheduled off-day for the Chicago Cubs was June 9th, but that came so quickly after the one before it (May 26) that we didn’t need to check back in to see how much better or worse the Cubs were doing. But now that it’s been another few weeks, let’s dive back in and see where the Cubs’ record and playoff odds, and a variety of offensive and pitching statistics stand within the division, the league, and all of baseball.
Since our last off-day check-in, the Cubs have gone 13-6 against the Phillies, Dodgers, D-Backs, Braves and Nationals. They dropped the two out of three in Washington, but that was their first series loss in seven tries. So, like I said, things still look good. Want more? Check the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:
- Chicago Cubs: 44-20 (.688)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 35-30 (.538)
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 33-32 (.508)
- Milwaukee Brewers: 30-36 (.455)
- Cincinnati Reds: 26-40 (.394)
The Cubs now have a 9.5 game lead over the second place Cardinals and a whopping 11.5 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who’ve hit a serious skid.
The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.688), is just one tiny point off from our last check in (.689). At that pace, the Cubs would win 111 games in 2016 (it’s no record, but it’ll do).
Since May 26, the Cubs’ run differential increased once again, from +119 to +159. In other words, the Cubs have scored 159 more runs than they’ve allowed. That remains the best in baseball by far. Here are the rest of the top five run differentials, so you can put that in perspective:
- Chicago Cubs: +159
- Boston Red Sox: +86
- Washington Nationals: +79
- St. Louis Cardinals: +68
- Seattle Mariners: +53
The Cubs’ run differential is 73 runs better than the second place Red Sox and more than double the third place Nationals. That said, each of the Nationals and the Cardinals made a huge push in this regard since the last time we checked in. The Cubs have continued to allow the fewest runs per game (2.61) of any team in baseball, but have now scored the third most (formerly second) runs per game (5.38), behind those very Cardinals (5.43) and the Boston Red Sox (5.89).
Still, the Cubs’ expected record is actually a few games better than reality by two separate measures:
The Pythagorean and BaseRuns records are a way to measure how many games a team should have won over a given stretch based on the number of runs score and allowed (Pythagorean) and other underlying metrics (BaseRuns). Obviously, teams frequently under and over-perform these numbers, but they are usually a pretty good indication of how well a team may do going forward. The Cubs, according to those to numbers, should have probably won about 2-4 more games than they have.
Further proving the point, even the Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) have the Cubs winning up to 49.6 games total so far.
So, fret not, friends. The Cubs already have the best record in baseball, and by three separate accounts, it could and should have been even better (arguably meaning better luck is on the way (which could come in the form of an even better winning percentage, or simply some good luck wins that otherwise would have been losses, helping keep the Cubs where they are). According to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will win 57 (FG) or 56 (BP) more games this season, which would put them right at 101 and 100 wins, respectively (which is one game better than last time). That’s five more wins than the Nationals and ten more than the next best Boston Red Sox when all is said and done. I think we’d all be plenty happy with those results.
So, what does it mean for the playoffs and beyond? Let’s check back in on that at FanGraphs.
- Chances of winning the division: 96.9% (+2.6% from last check)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 99.7% (+0.8%)
- Chances of winning the NLDS: 55.8% (+0.3)
- Chances of winning the NLCS: 31.7% (-0.1%)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 18.4% (-1.3%)
Woof. The Cubs increased their chances of reaching the playoffs up to 99.7% (I’m honestly not sure the stats would allow it to get much higher than that), but their chances of winning the NLCS and the World Series have each gone down to a lowly 18.4% (/s). Yes, the odds have gone down ever so slightly. No, it’s not because this objective measure of every team in baseball is concerned about the Cubs’ weekday series against the Nationals or if they can land Andrew Miller from the Yankees. These will go up and down all year, but you should be pleased by their level, regardless.
- Chances of winning the division: 97.5% (+4.0)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 99.8% (+1.5)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 18.1% (+0.8)
The Cubs odds, based on two entirely different systems, are beginning to converge even more this week. That 4 percentage point increase for the NL Central is particularly encouraging. The next closest team in terms of reaching the playoffs with any sort of certainty is the Washington Nationals, who are now at a Cub-level 95.6%.
Even as the Cubs winning percentage comes back down to a terrestrial level, they are still favorites to win more games, including ones in October, than any team in baseball. Check out some of their statistics via FanGraphs, with their league ranking and relative positioning since last time in parenthesis:
Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics
- Walk Rate: 10.8% (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
- Strikeout Rate: 21.8% (Today: 19th – Previously: 10th)
- ISO: .169 (Today: 11th – Previously: 12th)
- OBP: .347 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 3rd)
- SLG: .424 (Today: 10th – Previously: 10th)
- wOBA: .334 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th)
- wRC+: 108 (Today: 5th – Previously: 4th)
Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics
- ERA: 2.66 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
- FIP: 3.36 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 3rd)
- xFIP: 3.62 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th)
- K-Rate: 24.6% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 2nd)
- Walk Rate: 8.1% (Today: 14th – Previously: 20th).
- K/BB: 3.04 (Today: 7th – Previously: 10th)
- AVG (against): .200 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
- WHIP: 1.05 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
So, as you can see, the Cubs remained where they were in seven categories (Batting BB-rate, SLG, wOBA, ERA, xFIP, Batting Avg. Against and WHIP), went down in three other categories (wRC+, Batting K-Rate, Pitching K-Rate), and improved in five categories (ISO, OBP, FIP, Pitching Walk Rate, K/BB) since the last check in.
They have long been the leaders in ERA, batting average against and WHIP, but there’ll be a dedicated post on that specific topic shortly, which I’d prefer not to spoil. Otherwise, yeah, it’s hard to be concerned. The Cubs are a top 10 team in 12 of the 15 categories, and are top five in 10 of those. They were a good team; they are a good team.
A lot will happen before the season is over, but on today’s off-day, things look as good as ever.