The Chicago Cubs just lost a series to the Milwaukee Brewers, but, like, it’s fine.
They’ve already won 89 games and have a six-game lead for the best record in all of baseball (and seven-game lead for the best record in the NL). The Cubs will head down to Texas next, to take on the Houston Astros in a three-game set, so maybe they can get back some of those wins there.
The last off-day check in came fourteen days (August 25) and thirteen games ago, and since then, the Cubs had nice, but not perfect stretch of baseball. Let’s dive back in and see where their 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 8-5 against the Dodgers, Pirates, Giants, and Brewers, although with the loss yesterday, they’re still one win short of 90 and have lost two of their past four series (which is not something we’ve said often). Then again, they also swept the Pirates and took three out of four from the Giants, so it was still a solid stretch of baseball. Check out the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:
- Chicago Cubs: 89-50 (.640)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 73-65 (.529) – 9
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 68-69 (.496) – 5
- Milwaukee Brewers: 62-77 (.446) – Eliminated
- Cincinnati Reds: 57-81 (.413) – Eliminated
The Cubs now have a 15.5 game lead over the second place Cardinals and a 20.0 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their Magic Number for the division stands at just 9 games, with plenty of time left. The Chicago Cubs will be going to the 2016 Playoffs.
The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.640), is a little worse than last time (.643), but still has them on pace to win nearly 104 games. I really hoped they won yesterday, so that they could have been the only team with 90 or more wins and fewer than 50 loses, but hey, they’re pretty close. They have six more wins and seven fewer loses than any team in baseball. You can’t ask for more.
Since August 25, the Cubs’ run differential has improved once again, now up to +221 on the year. It remains the best differential in all of baseball by a healthy margin. Here are the rest of the top five run differentials, so you can put that in perspective:
- Chicago Cubs: +221
- Boston Red Sox: +151
- Washington Nationals: +143
- Cleveland Indians +100
- Toronto Blue Jays +96
The Cubs’ run differential is 70 runs better than the second place Red Sox, and 125 runs better than the fifth place Blue Jays. Just for fun, the Cubs run differential is also 374 runs better than the last place Philadelphia Phillies (lulz). The Cubs have also continued to allow the fewest runs per game (3.10) of any team in baseball (slightly better than last time, again), and have moved up once again to third in runs scored per game (5.01). They really haven’t slowed down all season long.
The Cubs’ expected record is either two or four wins 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 true talent and 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.
The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) continue to gush over the Cubs and have them winning up to 98 freakin’ games already this year. Could you even imagine what a 98-win Cub team with 23 games left to play would look like?
So, yes, the Cubs still have the best record in baseball, but by three separate accounts, it could and should have been way, way better. According to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will win 13 (BP) or 14 (FG) more games this season, which would put them right at 102 or 103 wins – about the same as last time.
So, what does it mean for the playoffs and beyond? Let’s check back in on that at FanGraphs.
- Chances of winning the division: 100.0% (+0.1% from last check)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100.0% (+0.0%)
- Chances of winning the NLDS: 62.5% (+2.1%)
- Chances of winning the NLCS: 33.6% (+0.1%)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 18.5% (-0.1%)
After going 8-5 in their past thirteen games, the Cubs still have a 100.0% chance of reaching the playoffs (We already discussed the implications of this here). Their odds of winning the World Series have gone down a bit, but their odds of getting there have increased slightly. Of course, these will go up and down all year; and you can’t be too upset with an 18.5% chance of winning the World Series. The most important thing, is the Cubs relative positioning (first) still has them on top.
- Chances of winning the division: 100.0% (+0.0%)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100.0% (+0.0)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 22.9% (+0.7)
The Cubs odds’ of reaching the playoffs were already at 100% before today, and, well, that’s where they’ll stay. Like I said, the Chicago Cubs *will* be in the playoffs. Now check out some of their statistics via FanGraphs, with their league ranking and relative positioning since last time in parentheses:
Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics
- Walk Rate: 10.3% (Today: 1st – Previously: T-1st)
- Strikeout Rate: 21.2% (Today: 17th – Previously: 17th)
- ISO: .172 (Today: 13th – Previously: 8th)
- OBP: .343 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 2nd)
- SLG: .436 (Today: T-12th – Previously: 6th) ISO/slugging/wOBA gone down
- wOBA: .332 (Today: 4th – Previously: 3rd)
- wRC+: 105 (Today: T-3rd – Previously: 2nd)
Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics
- ERA: 3.11 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
- FIP: 3.80 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th)
- xFIP: 3.80 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 5th)
- K-Rate: 24.1% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd)
- Walk Rate: 8.5% (Today: 19th – Previously: 19th)
- K/BB: 2.85 (Today: 9th – Previously: 12th)
- AVG (against): .208 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
- WHIP: 1.11 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
Since our last check in, the Cubs offense has hit for a bit less power. Their ISO has gone down a bit, along with the slugging percentage, wOBA, and wRC+. Even still, the Cubs are easily one of the top five offenses in all of baseball.
Of course, they also have one of the top five pitching staffs in all of baseball, as well. Their defense and weak-contact inducing pitchers continues to allow the lowest batting average by a wide margin, which has led to the best WHIP and ERA. But even under the surface, the Cubs fourth best FIP and second best xFIP suggest these pitchers aren’t just getting lucky/benefitting from abnormally good defense.
We are officially in the final stretch. Any guesses when and where clinch day will be?