The Chicago Cubs are undefeated in the second half of the season and have now tied their season high of four games over .500. Woo hoo!
Our last check-in came seventeen days ago (July 3), though the Cubs played just 12 games during that stretch, with the All-Star break splitting things up. So let’s dive back in and see where the Cubs’ record, playoff odds, and a variety of offensive and pitching statistics stand within the division, the league, and all of baseball.
Since that last check-in, the Cubs have gone 8-4 against the Rays (1-1), Brewers (0-1), Pirates (1-2), Orioles (3-0), and Braves (3-0). Here are the standings as of the start of play today (all stats are also as of the start of play today):
- Milwaukee Brewers: 52-45 (.536)
- Chicago Cubs: 49-45 (.521)
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 47-48 (.495)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 46-48 (.489)
- Cincinnati Reds: 40-54 (.426)
The Brewers remain in first place, but have lost four in a row while the Cubs roared out to six straight wins. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have fallen in the standings, relative to the Pirates, who are now in third place in the Central.
And for what it’s worth:
The difference between FIRST and LAST in the NL Central (10.5 games) is less than FIRST and SECOND in the NL East and West (11.5, 11 games).
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) July 20, 2017
The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.521) is a lot better than last time (.500), and the time before that (.492), and the time before that (.481). Indeed, back on June 1, the Cubs winning percentage was a paltry .481 – 40 points lower than it is today. Thanks, six-game winning streak and slowly improving performance!
Since our last check, the Cubs’ run differential (+27) has increased by 13 runs, and, hey, it was up 11 runs the last time we checked in, too. That’s some serious improvement. And with those back-to-back bumps, the Cubs have snuck into the top ten overall.
Take a look for yourself:
- Los Angeles Dodgers: +181
- Houston Astros: +166
- Washington Nationals: +107
- Arizona Diamondbacks: +100
- New York Yankees: +96
- Chicago Cubs: +27
As for the rest of the division, the Brewers (+42) are just one spot ahead of the Cubs (again) at ninth overall. They are still the only team from the Central ahead of the Cubs, though, as the Cardinals (+17) rank 11th, the Pirates (-21) rank 19th, and the Reds (-70) rank 26th.
The Cubs pitching staff has actually allowed 4.43 runs per game as of today, which is worse than the 4.39 mark they posted last time. Of course, that has more to do with the first-half Cubs, than the current version, who’ve allowed just 2.83 runs per game since the All-Star break.
The Cubs’ run scoring, on the other hand, has improved a lot, thanks to an offensive barrage in the second half. Their overall runs scored per game has improved from 4.56 to 4.71 since July 3, but is also a ridiculous 7.33 runs per game in the second half. To say that they’re firing on all cylinders would be a metaphor implying that they’re doing well on offense.
For what it’s worth, the Cubs’ expected record, according to two different measures, is a bit better than what they’ve actually recorded:
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.
According to those two numbers, the Cubs probably should’ve won one to two more games than they already have this season, which bodes well for the future.
The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on different layers of underlying performance), however, have the Cubs winning something between 49 games and 53(!) games, which is obviously a much bigger difference. With four more wins, the Cubs would have a 2.5 game lead on the Brewers right now.
According to FanGraphs, the Cubs are projected to win 40 more games the rest of the season, which is the second highest total in baseball (just one fewer than the Dodgers). That would bring their season total back up to 89 games, which would be six more than the (would-be) second-place Brewers by the end of the season.
Baseball Prospectus pegs the Cubs for 39 more wins by the end of the year, bringing their total to 88. Last time we did this, the Cubs were projected to win just 86 games, so this is a nice bump, all things considered. Let’s check back in on those playoff odds, starting with FanGraphs.
- Chances of winning the division: 80.5% (+8.3%)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 88.1% (+5.6%)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 12.5% (+1.1%)
The Chicago Cubs chances of winning the division this year are back up over 80%, which is freakin fantastic, and their chances of getting to the postseason are closer to 90%. Of course, this is just one measure, so let’s see what Baseball Prospectus has to say.
- Chances of winning the division: 61.7% (+5.7%)
- Chances of reaching the playoffs: 69.5% (+8.4%)
- Chances of winning the World Series: 6.9% (+0.6%)
Baseball Prospectus isn’t quite as optimistic as FanGraphs, but still believes the Cubs’ odds are up across the board. If you blend these two together, you can say that the Cubs have about 70% chance of winning the division, and about an 80% chance of reaching the playoffs.
Although this is usually the spot where we check in on some of the Cubs statistics vis-à-vis the last check-in, I thought it would be more fun to check their stats and rankings since the All-Star break. We’ll go back to usual next time.
Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics
Walk Rate: 8.1% (14th)
Strikeout Rate: 18.5% (6th)
ISO: .293 (1st)
AVG: .316 (2nd)
OBP: .377 (3rd)
SLG: .609 (1st)
wOBA: .410 (2nd)
wRC+: 152 (2nd)
Position Player War: 2.7 (1st)
Well how about that?
By nearly every statistic that matters, the second-half Chicago Cubs have been among the top three offensive teams in MLB. Their walk rate may be in the middle of the pack, but they’re still getting on base a whole lot, and their strikeout rate is much better than it usually is.
Of course, we knew they were averaging a ridiculous 7.33 runs per game, so what were we expecting?
But how about those pitchers?
Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics
ERA: 2.67 (6th)
FIP: 3.93 (11th)
xFIP: 4.07 (9th)
K-rate: 22.5% (11th)
BB-rate: 8.3% (17th)
K/BB: 2.72 (13th)
AVG: .198 (1st)
So, obviously, with the exception of their overall batting average against and ERA, the Cubs staff has been just slightly better than average in the second half of the season. They can probably stand to add a few strikeouts, and reduce the number of walks, but otherwise, the results have been good. And you can probably thank the defense for that, too.
Given that the rotation is getting a healthy Kyle Hendricks back, has added Jose Quintana, and has been witnessing a Jake-Arrieta resurgence, I think the pitching is in good shape. Really, the whole team is. It’s hard not to be thrilled with the way things have gone.
Let’s just see if they can keep it up, with a big series against the Cardinals happening this weekend.