Before the end of the 2016 postseason, I openly wondered about the effect a World Series victory would have on the majority of Cubs fans, including myself.
Put more simply: Would the 2017 season be business as usual, or would that Cub-magic – born from an elusive, century long title-chase – be gone?
I think it’s safe to say that very little, if any, magic has been lost; and in fact, it seems to me that more people are paying attention to the Cubs now than ever.
But the notion that the postseason (or multiple, consecutive postseasons, in the Cubs’ case) could have a negative effect on a group of people is still sound logic. But the group potential being negatively impacted is not necessarily Cubs fans.
We can probably all agree that Cub fandom is at an all-time high heading into 2017, but what about relative player performance? Can consecutive, deep postseason runs – which result in shorter offseasons – create a lasting, negative affect on the Cubs’ players and pitchers? At the Athletic, Rob Arthur examined just that.
At the Cubs Convention, manager Joe Maddon indicated a twinge of concern for the players that are nursing and rehabbing injuries over a much shorter offseason than normal. And these injuries, mind you, don’t have to be of the public, big-deal variety. Plenty of players – most, probably – sustain and play through minor injuries every month throughout the season; the offseason, then, is the only time when their bodies can play catch-up. Of course, this year they’ll have almost a month and a half less than usual, which could make things a bit more difficult.
But this is a young, lively group; let’s assume everyone is healthy enough to play. What other problems might they encounter? Well, according to Arthur, a fatigue-based drop off in production following the deep postseason run is a real possibility.
“Playoff hitters tend to see a bit of a drop off in production the following year relative to their better-rested counterparts (from 2 to 10 percent, depending on the season),” as you can see in the chart:
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticChi) January 23, 2017
Fortunately for the Cubs, a big part of the expected drop off in offensive production is the fact that most playoff teams tend to skew a bit older than the Cubs were in 2015 and 2016. That means that at least some part of baseball’s historical decline in offensive production following a postseason run can be attributed to the natural process of aging – something the Cubs don’t project to be bitten by as badly as other teams in history, given their extreme youth.
But … the pitchers.
Although pitchers, as a whole, are just as tough as their position player teammates (yeah, you can be the one to tell Jake Arrieta he’s not as tough as a position player – I dare you), they are undoubtedly more fragile. It’s just the nature of the job.
And although there’s not a ton of evidence that velocity is affected after a lengthy postseason, Arthur did find that playoff pitchers tend to throw a lot less during the following season than their non-postseason counter parts. See his post for the charts and more detail.
Arthur goes onto explain how the Cubs might mitigate this risk in the coming season, including the potential use of a six-man rotation. And with Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery ticketed for the rotation, that may just be an ideal set-up anyway.
We saw even last year that Joe Maddon made a conscious effort, right from the start of Spring Training, to take pitchers’ previous season workloads into account, given the Cubs’ NLCS run in 2015. Hopefully, if the Cubs are proactive, they can limit the impact of the shortened offseason.
While it may be difficult to know just how much of an impact the consecutive postseasons will have on the 2017 Chicago Cubs, it feels safe to conclude that it’ll definitely be non-zero.
For much more on the postseason hangover effect, check out Arthur’s full piece.