Chicago Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Ah … That's Better

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Chicago Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Ah … That’s Better

Analysis and Commentary

The last time we did one of these off-day check-ins, we had to cover a stretch of 20 consecutive games, which ended in a sweep at the hands of the Brewers and a lot of changing odds. This time, however, it’s been only one week (#BNL).

While the amount of time/number of games hasn’t quite been as significant as the last stretch of play, I think you’ll find the effect of those games on the playoff odds was relatively huge. In a much better direction this time.

That’s because, during this past week, the Cubs went 6-0, sweeping the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals in back-to-back three-game series at Wrigley Field.

Take a look at the NL Central standings entering play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 83-66 (.557)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers: 79-70 (.530)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals: 77-72 (.517)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 68-82 (.453)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 66-84 (.440)

Over the past six games, the Cubs have increased their overall season winning percentage by 19 points – which, wow – I guess that’s what winning streaks will do for you. They also moved the Brewers (who are still fighting, man) back to 4.0 games behind the Cubs, and may have ended the Cardinals season.

Meanwhile, the Cubs’ new run differential (+106) has exploded by 35 runs, and they’ve moved back ahead the Cardinals:

  1. Cleveland Indians: 227
  2. New York Yankees: +174
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers: +173
  4. Houston Astros: +151
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks: +145

  1. Chicago Cubs: 106
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: +70
  3. Colorado Rockies: +59

As you can see, the Cardinals may be just one spot behind the Cubs, but the Cubs are arguably the last of the best teams in terms of run scoring/prevention. As for the rest of the NL Central, the Brewers (+38) have actually improved their position by 14 runs and are just three spots behind the Cubs, while the Pirates (-79) and Reds (-94), well, you know.

So, how did the Cubs manage to make such a massive leap? Well, that was due – in part – to a ridiculous offensive explosion of 55 runs in just six games. The Cubs (5.11 RS/G) are now scoring the fifth most runs per game in all of MLB, and are just barely behind the Nationals (5.13) and Rockies (5.13) in the National League.

For what it’s worth, the Cubs’ expected record, according to two different measures, is a bit better than what the Cubs have actually produced:

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 over a long enough horizon (to the extent it remains in the season).

According to those two numbers, the Cubs should have somewhere between 1-2 more wins than they actually do right now. While the Brewers, in the meantime, have one more win than they probably “should.”

The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on different layers of underlying performance), however, have the Cubs winning something between 83 and 88(!) games, which is obviously much more optimistic (88 wins right now would be just wonderful).

According to FanGraphs, the Cubs are going to go 8-5 the rest of the way, which is tied for the best remaining record with four other non-NL Central teams. If you can do the math, then, the Cubs are projected to take the division quite handily. The Cardinals, for what it’s worth, are projected to finish 7-6, while the Brewers are expected to finish 6-7. There’s a lot of playing each other left, though, so this is all very intertwined.

All right. Playoff odds time.

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (FanGraphs)

  • Chances of winning the division: 96.6% (+20.3%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 97.7% (+16.4%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 13.0% (+3.6%)

NOW we’re talking.

After a six-game winning streak at exactly the right time, the Cubs chances of taking the NL Central are up as high as they’ve been all season according to FanGraphs. And if they had just managed to win one of their games against the Brewers, you have to imagine this would be all but locked up.

Baseball Prospectus isn’t quite as optimistic, but the gains are real …

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 90.0% (+29.7%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 92.9% (+24.9%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 8.5% (+2.7%)

Whoop, whoop!

The Cubs chances of winning the division have steamed all the way up to 90.0%, while their overall odds at at least one playoff game are around 93%. Given the way this season has gone, I’ll take those odds every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Now let’s take a peek at the statistics (today’s ranking, previous ranking):

Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics

Walk Rate: 9.0% (2nd, 4th)
Strikeout Rate: 22.3% (19th, 19th)
ISO: .185 (8th, 9th)
AVG: .256 (16th, 18th)
OBP: .339 (3rd, 5th)
SLG: .442 (7th, 12th)
wOBA: .333 (4th, 7th)
wRC+: 102 (5th, 10th)
Position Player War: 25.6 (3rd, 6th)

An across the board coup for the Cubs offense.

Aside from holding steady with their 22.3% strikeout rate, the Cubs offense has improved in every single area above relative to the rest of the league, and they did it in a modest six games in mid-September. They’re walking more, hitting for more average, hitting for more power, and are among the very best overall offenses in all of baseball.

As a matter of fact, their .333 wOBA is the highest mark in the National League, how about that?

But how about those pitchers?

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

ERA: 4.06 (10th, 10th)
FIP: 4.26 (12th, 12th)
xFIP: 4.14 (8th, 9th)
K-rate: 23.3% (8th, 8th)
BB-rate: 9.2% (24th, 24th)
K/BB: 2.54 (11th, 12th)
AVG: .237 (5th, 4th)
Soft-Contact: 20.3% (3rd, 3rd)
Hard-Contact: 30.6% (10th, 8th)
Pitching Staff WAR: 13.7 (13th)

Well, as you can see the Cubs staff made very little movement in either direction, but to be fair they subbed out at least one Jake Arrieta/Mike Montgomery start for a Jen-Ho Tseng start, which didn’t go too well. So, treading water is not terrible news.

Up Next: Starting tomorrow, the Cubs will play their two final interleague games against the Rays on the road, before playing eight straight CRITICAL games against the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals all on the road. Sup.

The entire season will be decided in the next ten days. Are you ready?


Author: Michael Cerami

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