Off-Day Check-In: The Cubs Have the Best Record in Baseball Again

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Off-Day Check-In: The Cubs Have the Best Record in Baseball Again

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboardUgh … off-days. The only thing that could make this day off from baseball worse was if it happened on a Monday. Ugh … Mondays, right?

Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that the Cubs (and, let’s be honest, their fans) were dying for an off-day, to put to end a brutal streak of losing in the midst of a 24-day period of non-stop baseball.

The break came, the Cubs rested, then they started pitching, then they started hitting, and eventually they won back-to-back series against two very good teams in the Texas Rangers and New York Mets. Whew. Four wins later and we’re annoyed with the off day. Baseball, man, it messes with us.

The last scheduled single off-day, if you can believe it, was over a month ago (June 16), so we haven’t quite done the check-in thing for a while. But now that we’re here, let’s dive back in and see where the Cubs’ 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 (this was right before the bad stretch of baseball), the Cubs have gone 13-17 against the Pirates, Cardinals, Marlins, Reds, Mets, Braves, Rangers. However, they won their final game before the break and then both series immediately thereafter, so things have looked a bit better lately (5-2 in past 7 games). Check the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 57-37 (.606)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 50-44 (.532)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 48-46 (.511)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: 40-52 (.435)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 36-59 (.379)

The Cubs now have a 7.0 game lead over the second place Cardinals and a 9.0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not quite the best distance they’ve had all season, but it’s still significant.

The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.606), is just well off from our last check in (.688), but that does leave them on pace to win 98 games in 2016 (one more than last year! #progress). And that’s actually the best record in baseball!

Since June 16th, the Cubs’ run differential actually decreased a bit, from +159 to +151. Even still, that 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: +151
  2. Washington Nationals: +117
  3. St. Louis Cardinals: +101
  4. Cleveland Indians: +95
  5. Toronto Blue Jays: +85

The Cubs’ run differential is 34 runs better than the second place Nationals and exactly 50 runs better than the third place Cardinals. Although, for the second straight check-in, each of those two teams has improved rather dramatically. The Cubs have continued to allow the fewest runs per game (3.21) of any team in baseball, but have scored the third most runs per game (5.13), behind the Cardinals (5.17) and the Boston Red Sox (5.61).

The Cubs’ expected record is either five (5!) or six (6!) 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 5-6 more games than they have.

Even crazier (and this is almost getting painful), the Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) have the Cubs winning up to 66 games total so far.

Yikes. Yes, the Cubs once again have the best record in baseball, but by three separate accounts, it could and should have been way, way better (arguably meaning better luck is on the way (which could come in the form of an even better winning percentage, or simply some good luck wins that otherwise would have been losses, helping keep the Cubs where they are)). According to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will win 40 (FG) or 39 (BP) more games this season, which would put them right at 97 and 96 wins, respectively.

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: 93.9% (-3.6% from last check)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 98.2% (-1.5%)
  • Chances of winning the NLDS: 54.4% (-1.4%)
  • Chances of winning the NLCS: 30.3% (-1.4%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 17.4% (-1.0%)

Well, okay, you didn’t expect the Cubs odds to increase, did you? They did lose a lot of games, after all, many of which came at the hands of their divisional rivals. These will go up and down all year, but you can’t be too upset with a 17.5% chance of winning the World Series. It just doesn’t get all that much better than that. Indeed, the Cubs odds are 4.5% points higher than the next best team (the Red Sox). Wouldn’t that be a World Series to watch.

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 94.8% (-2.7%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 99.1% (-0.7)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 18.1% (-.2)

BP, it seems, was a bit less concerned over the Cubs skid than FanGraphs, but both are converging pretty closely. The Cubs odds of reaching the playoffs are plenty good and they are looking like legit World Series contenders, too.

But even as the Cubs winning percentage comes back down to a terrestrial level, they are still favorites to win more games, including ones in October, than any team in baseball. Check out some of their statistics via FanGraphs, with their league ranking and relative positioning since last time in parenthesis:

Chicago Cubs Offensive Statistics

  • Walk Rate: 10.6% (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.9% (Today: 20th – Previously: 19th)
  • ISO: .178 (Today: 10th – Previously: 11th)
  • OBP: .346 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 2nd)
  • SLG: .432 (Today: 10th – Previously: 10th)
  • wOBA: .336 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th)
  • wRC+: 108 (Today: 4th – Previously: 5th)

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

  • ERA: 3.25 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 1st)
  • FIP: 3.80 (Today: 6th – Previously: 2nd)
  • xFIP: 3.84 (Today: 5th – Previously: 4th)
  • K-Rate: 22.9% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd)
  • Walk Rate: 8.3% (Today: 17th – Previously: 14th).
  • K/BB: 2.90 (Today: 9th – Previously: 7th)
  • AVG (against): .212 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
  • WHIP: 1.12 (Today: T-1st – Previously: 1st)

So, as you can see, the Cubs remained where they were in seven categories (Batting BB-rate, OBP, SLG, wOBA, Pitching K-Rate, AVG against and WHIP), went down in six other categories (Batting K-rate, ERA, FIP, xFIP, Pitching BB-rate, K/BB) +, Batting K-Rate, Pitching K-Rate), and improved in two categories (ISO, wRC+) since the last check in.

A lot will happen before the season is over, but on today’s off-day, things look as good as ever.

Author: Michael Cerami

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