I’m not here to tell you that the way the Cubs ran away with the NL Central last year was anything other than satisfying.
Setting aside the postseason – it’s an entirely different, crapshooting beast – it was a fun and laid back time knowing that the Cubs were significantly better than the other teams in the division last year, and almost always had a cushion in the standings even when they were slumping. I never felt like they were going anywhere but the playoffs.
This year, of course, has been wholly different. Although I still feel like the Cubs are the best team in the Central, I don’t have that same level of confidence that there aren’t real issues driving a number of the losses. I have real concerns about three of the Cubs’ starting pitchers. I have real concerns about the length of the adjustment period for a number of the Cubs’ young bats. I have real concerns about how critical – and not repeatable – the Cubs’ historic defense was last year.
This year’s team could still run away with things in the NL Central, but I certainly don’t have that same confidence that it’s coming.
That is to say, if this Cubs team is going to be on top at the end of the regular season, it feels like it’s going to be more of a slog.
And, when I step back from the individual frustrations of a given loss, I can actually convince myself that’s a good thing. Or at least not a horrible thing.
We want to see the team win, of course, but we also want the aggregate experience to be enjoyable. That’s the whole point. And with a “ran away with it, totally dominating, never in doubt” kind of season in the immediate rearview, maybe it’s time to experience a “tighter, had to battle it out, were still hanging on every game in September” kind of season.
The Cubs’ playoff odds are still over 90%, according to FanGraphs. This is still more likely than not to end in October baseball for the Cubs. It’s just that the getting there might be a much bumpier ride than we experienced last year, or that we expected for this year.
But, hey, there’s a reason people choose to ride roller coasters, right?