Cubs Off-Day Check-In: I'm Running Out of Ways to Say "They're Doing Great!"

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Cubs Off-Day Check-In: I’m Running Out of Ways to Say “They’re Doing Great!”

Analysis and Commentary

cubs win standings flags scoreboardThe Chicago Cubs just swept the San Diego Padres – their sixth series sweep since the All-Star Break – en route to their 81st win of the season.

The fact that the Cubs can now lose every remaining game and still be a .500 team is pretty incredible … but I’ll guess they have some higher hopes than that.

The last off-day check in came eleven days (August 15) and ten games ago, and since then – the Cubs have had yet another nice 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 8-2 against the Brewers, Rockies, and Padres – admittedly not their strongest competition – helping them reach 80 wins before any other team. That said, both loses came against Colorado, which represented the Cubs first series loss of the second half. Then again, that also means that they swept the Brewers (in four) and the Padres (in three) adding two more sweeps to their collection of six already in the second half. Check out the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 81-45 (.643)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 67-58 (.536)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 63-61 (.508)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: 56-70 (.444)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 54-72 (.429)

The Cubs now have a 13.5 game lead over the second place Cardinals (13 in the loss column) and a 17.0 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just ten games later, that’s one and half (over the Cardinals) and three and half (over the Pirates) games better than our last check in.

The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.643), is once again much better than last time (.629) and significantly better than the time before that (.617). No other team has reached 80 wins yet – the second best team in baseball, Texas Rangers, have seven fewer wins than the Chicago Cubs. There was a time when the Cubs weren’t the best team in baseball (by number of wins, at least), but that time is no more.

Since August 15, the Cubs’ run differential has reached and exceeded 200 (+217 to be exact). 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:

  1. Chicago Cubs: +217
  2. Washington Nationals: +135
  3. Boston Red Sox: +120
  4. Cleveland Indians +105
  5. Toronto Blue Jays +94

The Cubs’ run differential is now 82 runs better than the second place Nationals, and nearly 100 runs better than the third place Red Sox. If there was ever any question over whether the Cubs are the best team in baseball, it should be over. They are. That doesn’t guarantee anything come October, but for now, it’s the truth. The Cubs have also continued to allow the fewest runs per game (3.11) of any team in baseball (slightly better than last time, too), and have even moved up to fourth with 5.13 runs scored per game.

The Cubs’ expected record is either three or five 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 3-5 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 – and this is starting to get ridiculous – 90 games already this year.

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 21 more games this season, which would put them right at 102 wins – five better than last season.

So, what does it mean for the playoffs and beyond? Let’s check back in on that at FanGraphs.

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (FanGraphs)

  • Chances of winning the division: 99.9% (+0.1% from last check)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100% (+0.0%)
  • Chances of winning the NLDS: 60.4% (+0.3%)
  • Chances of winning the NLCS: 33.5% (-0.7%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 18.8% (-0.8%)

After going 8-2 in their past ten games, the Cubs still have a 100.0% chance of reaching the playoffs (We already discussed the implications of this here). Their odds of reaching and winning the World Series have gone down a bit, but these will go up and down all year; you can’t be too upset with an 18.8% chance of winning the World Series – it seems the various projection systems like the Nationals recently – clearly they have an East Coast bias.

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 100.0% (+0.2%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100.0% (+0.0)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 22.2% (+1.3)

The Cubs odds’ of reaching the playoffs were already at 100% before today, but now BP suggests that they’ve likely got the NL Central locked up, as well. 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: T-1st (Brewers?) – Previously: 1st) 
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.2% (Today: 17th – Previously: 19th)
  • ISO: .177 (Today: 8th – Previously: 10th)
  • OBP: .346 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 2nd
  • SLG: .436 (Today: 6th – Previously: 12th)–
  • wOBA: .336 (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd)
  • wRC+: 107 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 4th) 

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

  • ERA: 3.13 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
  • FIP: 3.80 (Today: 4th – Previously: 5th) 
  • xFIP: 3.80 (Today: 5th – Previously: 6th)
  • K-Rate: 24.1% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd) 
  • Walk Rate: 8.4% (Today: 19th – Previously: 15th) 
  • K/BB: 2.86 (Today: 12th – Previously: 9th) 
  • AVG (against): .210 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 
  • WHIP: 1.12 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 

Since our last check in, the Cubs offense has done some work. After hitting for some more power (thank you Addison Russell and Kris Bryant), the Cubs have the 8th best ISO and 6th best slugging – both represent nice improvements from last time. That has kept their offense among the three best in all of baseball.

On the pitching side, Cubs hurlers have walked a few more batters than before, lowering their walk rate and K/BB, but continue to get the best results with peripherals that mostly support that. They are simply a good team playing well.

We’re getting close to the final stretch, but the Cubs haven’t let off the gas. Let’s see if they can keep the pedal to the metal and finish out strong.


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.