Off-Day Check-In: Cubs in First, Playoff Odds, Projected Record, Dominant Performances

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Off-Day Check-In: Cubs in First, Playoff Odds, Projected Record, Dominant Performances

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboard

On Monday, April 12, the Cubs had a scheduled off-day after playing the first of a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds (and what a game that was). At the time, they were 6-1 (first place in the NL Central) and were about to enter into a 12-game stretch without a break.

Today, Monday April 25, the Cubs find themselves at the other end of that 12 game stretch, having gone 8-4 in the process (Watch a review of the Cubs/Reds series).

The Cubs are now 14-5 on the season, and that’s good for the best record in the NL Central, and second best in all of baseball (Washington Nationals: 14-4). With just over 10% of the season in the books, though, and no baseball to be played today, I thought we could take a look into how well the Cubs have performed, how well they should have performed, and how well we can expect them to perform going forward. Consider this the first check-up (of many) on the Cubs 2016 season.

First thing’s first, let’s check out the standings in the NL Central (winning percentage in parenthesis):

  1. Chicago Cubs: 14-5 (.737)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 10-8 (.556)
  3. Pittsburg Pirates: 10-9 (.526)
  4. Cincinnati Reds: 9-10 (.474)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers: 8-11 (.421)

The Chicago Cubs are in first place of the NL Central and boast an impressive 14-5 record through their first 19 games. Although they are playing almost unimaginably well right now (on pace to win about 120 games), it actually could/should have been slightly better (if you can believe it).

Let me explain.

The Cubs run differential through their first nineteen games of the season is plus 68. In other words, the Cubs have scored 68 more runs than they have allowed so far in 2016. Here are the rest of the top five run differentials, so you can put that in perspective:

  1. Chicago Cubs: +68
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: +40
  3. Washington Nationals: +34
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers: +23
  5. New York Mets: +22
Those are the TOP FIVE in all of baseball, and the Cubs still lead by a hefty margin over the second place Cardinals. Similarly, the Cubs have scored the most runs per game (6.26) and have allowed the third fewest runs per game (2.68) of any team in baseball. Which is precisely why their expected record up until this point, is actually slightly better than reality by at least a couple measures:

The Pythagorean and BaseRuns records are a way to measure how many games a team should have won over a given stretch based upon the amount of runs scored and allowed. Of course, teams often over (typically: Cardinals) and under (typically: Cubs) perform these records, but they can be a good indication of how well a team may do going forward. The Cubs, as you can see, had a chance to win 1-2 more games this season, but I’ll bet that no one is complaining just yet. Heck, even the Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) have the Cubs winning somewhere between 15.8 games and 16.5 games up until this point.

All of which is to say, the Cubs are expected to be pretty good for the rest of the season as well. How good? Well, according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will be the best team in baseball when all is said and done. In fact, both systems are expecting the Cubs to finish out the season by going 83-60 for a final record of 97-65 (identical to 2015). As you can imagine, that does wonders for the chances of reaching the playoffs (Warning: depending on how big of a fan you are, the rest of this is not safe for work):

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (FanGraphs)

  • Chances of winning the division: 86.4%
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 96.2%
  • Chances of winning the NLDS: 51.5%
  • Chances of winning the NLCS: 29.2%
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 16.9%

And … I fainted. Look at those numbers. These aren’t homery projections based on my Cubs fandom bias. These are statistical models that are doing their best to objectively measure what is likely to happen at the end of the season. And FanGraphs isn’t alone:

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 82.7%
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 93.4%
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 14.1%
Right now – using data alone – the Cubs have somewhere between a 14.1-16.9% chance of winning the 2016 World Series. We are 19 games into the 2016 season(!!!). That is completely wonkers. And by both measures, the Cubs have the best shot of reaching the playoffs and winning the World Series over every other team in baseball. (Remember, a pure roll of the dice would have each team in baseball with a 3.333% chance of winning the World Series – the Cubs are blowing that away.)

Although you shouldn’t necessarily expect the Cubs to continue winning at the rate they have been, the Cubs haven’t really lucked into any of this. They really have performed exceedingly well. Check out some of their statistics via FanGraphs, with their league ranking in parenthesis:

Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics

  • Walk Rate: 12.7% (1st)
  • Strikeout Rate: 19.7% (7th)
  • ISO: .181 (7th)
  • OBP: .355 (3rd)
  • SLG: .435 (7th)
  • wOBA: .345 (5th)
  • wRC+: 110 (6th)
  • Home Runs: 26 (6th)

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

  • ERA: 2.58 (3rd)
  • FIP: 3.01 (3rd)
  • xFIP: 3.09 (3rd)
  • Strikeout Rate: 25.7% (6th)
  • Walk Rate: 6.5% (4th)
  • K/BB: 3.90 (3rd)
  • AVG (against): .199 (1st)
  • WHIP: 0.96 (1st)

Above, I listed just about sixteen of the most important statistics on both offense and defense, and in every single one, the Cubs are at least in the top seven. It’s not unusual for a team to dominant on one side of the ball, but it is much more rare for a team to be so good on offense and pitching. The Cubs have been, and simply are that good.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The playoffs will not be handed over on a Cardinals’ Red silver platter. St. Louis and Pittsburgh are going to compete in the Central, and there are still many other dangerous teams in the National League (the Nationals and Dodgers, in particular). But as of now, the Cubs are looking mighty dangerous and could run away with it, if everything clicks.

Anything can happen over the course of a long season, but as of now, the Cubs remain the team to beat.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami