Chicago Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Well, It Just Got a Little Worse and It's Gonna Get a Little Tougher

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Chicago Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Well, It Just Got a Little Worse and It’s Gonna Get a Little Tougher

Analysis and Commentary

The trade deadline and BN Blogathon madness may have helped you miss it, but our last off-day check-in actually came just 10 days ago. Since then, the Cubs have split a two-gamer with the Pirates (1-1) and a four-gamer with the Padres (2-2), before taking two of three from the Royals (2-1). That’s good for a 5-4 stretch and a continued lead in both the Central and National League as a whole.

Here’s an updated look at the standings as of the start of play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 66-48 (.579)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers: 66-51 (.564)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals: 60-55 (.522)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 59-56 (.513)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 50-65 (.435)

The Cardinals have gone 7-3 over their past ten games, which has helped them climb a bit in the standings, leapfrogging the Pirates, but they remain 6.5 games back. It’s not *over-over* for them, but it sure feels like it’ll be the Cubs or Brewers in the Central this year. Speaking of which, the Brewers (5-5) have actually done worse than the Cubs (6-4) over the past ten games, and remain 1.5 back of Chicago coming into play today.

It wasn’t the best stretch for the Cubs, who probably should’ve cleaned up given their opponents, but it was hardly a nightmare. What’s coming up, however …

But before we get into what’s next, let’s run through our off-day checklist, starting with run differential:

  1. Houston Astros: +202
  2. Boston Red Sox: +199
  3. New York Yankees: +134
  4. Cleveland Indians: 112
  5. Chicago Cubs: +96
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers: +96
  7. Atlanta Braves: +72
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks: +71
  9. Washington Nationals: +64
  10. Oakland Athletics: +58

The Cubs are still among the top five teams in baseball by run differential, but they’ve moved down behind the Indians and are now tied with the Dodgers. Meanwhile, their upcoming opponent, the Nationals, has been roaring forward.

As I’m sure you would’ve guessed their 4.96 runs/game is down from the 5.02 runs/game last time and from the 5.12 mark before that. BUT it’s still the top mark in the National League by a wide margin (Braves, 4.77) and among the top four in all of baseball.

Of course, they’re not just scoring fewer runs/game lately, they’re also allowing more. Two check-ins ago, the Cubs had a 3.88 runs allowed per game average. Today? It’s 4.11. The team should be getting Yu Darvish back at some point , as well as Brandon Morrow. And Cole Hamels has looked good, so hopefully this will turn around soon.

The good news, I guess, is that the Cubs overall record is almost exactly on pace with what you’d expect out of a team with these numbers:

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.

Maybe they could’ve squeezed an extra win out of their performance, but it’s basically about right. The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus agree.

As for the rest of the season, FanGraphs is projecting the Cubs to go 27-21 the rest of the way, which is only slightly behind the Dodgers (28-19) in the National League and sixth best overall. If that is indeed the way things play out, the Cubs will wind up with a 93-69 final record, leading the National League. How about that?

But what about the playoff odds since the last check-in? Eh …

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (FanGraphs)

  • Chances of winning the division: 77.2% (-5.1%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 95.3% (-1.2)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 8.7% (-0.9)

The Cubs odds have taken a bit of a hit lately, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, again, just remember: they’re projected to have the best record in the National League and have a 95.3% chance of reaching the postseason in some capacity.

Here’s some more odds, for context:

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 70.8% (-4.3) 
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 92.7% (-1.6)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 12.3% (-0.7)

There’s no doubt that this stretch hasn’t helped the Cubs, but would you rather be the Brewers? Didn’t think so. Also, again, it’s worth repeating: the Cubs have the best odds of reaching the postseason of any team in the National League.

Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics (Ranking Today, Previous)

Walk Rate: 9.6% (5th, T-4th)
Strikeout Rate: 21.0% (10th, T-9th)
ISO: .158 (T-18th, T-19th)
AVG: .266 (2nd, 1st)
OBP: .344 (1st, 1st)
SLG: .424 (9th, 9th)
wOBA: .331 (4th, 4th)
wRC+: 105 (T-6th, T-5th)
Position Player War: 23.1 (1st, 1st)

The Cubs didn’t move a whole bunch from last time until today, but there’s still a lot to like. At the highest level, the Cubs still essentially have the best average and OBP in baseball, and because of their overall offensive dominance (top-5 wRC+, top in the NL) and superb defense, their position players have earned more WAR than any team in baseball. Imagine if Kris Bryant had played all season healthily all season.

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

ERA: 3.81 (8th, 7th)
FIP: 4.35 (21st, 23rd)
K-rate: 20.9% (2st, T-20th)
BB-rate: 10.7% (T-29th, 30th)
K/BB: 1.95 (29th, 29th)
AVG: .235 (9th, 8th)
GB-rate: 45.2% (4th, 4th)
Soft-Contact: 18.8% (11th, T-13th)
Hard-Contact: 32.6 (7th, 7th)
Pitching Staff WAR: 6.6 (24th, 24th)

You know …

… ahh, never-mind.

Up Next: Starting tomorrow, the Chicago Cubs will play five games at home, three against the Nationals, a break, and then two against the Brewers, before heading out on the road to face the Pirates for four. It’s a tough stretch, in terms of the opponents.

After that, however, they’ll get the Tigers (2 games), Reds (4 games), and Mets (three games) for a little rest, before playing the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Nationals, and Brewers for 14 straight games. That’s … yikes … season defining. We’ll get there when we get there, but strap in.


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Author: Michael Cerami

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