Off Day Check-In: The Odd Are Up Across The Board for the First Place Cubs

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Off Day Check-In: The Odd Are Up Across The Board for the First Place Cubs

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboard

What a wacky win yesterday, right?

Luis and I were at the game, and while I wouldn’t tell you we lost faith in their ability to come back in the ninth, things didn’t look especially bright with the bottom of the order due up and the Cubs down two.

But it only took a double, a single, a walk, a sacrifice fly, an intentional walk, another walk and a wild pitch to win that one! Okay, now that I type it out, that seems like a heck of a lot. Still, the Cubs pulled it off and one their fourth game in a row!

The last off-day check in came exactly two weeks ago (July 21), and things have looked better and better every day. So 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, the Cubs have gone 9-4 against the Brewers, White Sox, Mariners and Marlins. They also won both series just before this stretch against the Mets and the Rangers, but that preceded our last off-day check-in. Still, all of the winning has done wonders for the Cubs record. Check out the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 6641 (.617)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 57-50 (.533)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 53-52 (.505)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: 48-58 (.453)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 43-63 (.379)

The Cubs now have a 9.5 game lead over the second place Cardinals and a 12.0 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s two (over the Cardinals) and three (over the Pirates) games better than our last check in.

The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.617), is significantly better than last time (.606), and puts them on pace to win 99.96 games (let’s call it an even 100). That’s the best record in baseball. The Cubs have two more wins and three fewer loses than the second best Nationals.

Since July 21, the Cubs’ run differential increase by quite a lot, from +151 to +171. It remains the best differential in all of baseball by a healthy margin, but the Nationals have been gaining ground. Here are the rest of the top five run differentials, so you can put that in perspective:

  1. Chicago Cubs: +171
  2. Washington Nationals: +136
  3. St. Louis Cardinals: +88
  4. Toronto Blue Jays: +83
  5. Boston Red Sox: +82

The Cubs’ run differential remains 35 runs better than the second place Nationals and 84 runs better than the third place Cardinals (who dropped from +101, last time … yeesh). The Cubs have continued to allow the fewest runs per game (3.18) of any team in baseball, but are tied for third with 5.07 runs scored per game with the Cardinals (5.07), and are behind the Rockies (5.19) and Red Sox (5.48).

The Cubs’ expected record is either four or six 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 4-6 more games than they have.

The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) have the Cubs winning – and you’re going to want to sit down for this – up to 75 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 (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 (like yesterday!), helping keep the Cubs where they are)). According to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will win 32 more games this season, which would put them right at 98 wins – two better than the last time we checked.

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: 98.9% (+4.3% from last check)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 99.9% (+1.7%)
  • Chances of winning the NLDS: 57.5% (+3.1%)
  • Chances of winning the NLCS: 32.3% (+2.0%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 18.3% (+0.7%)

Well, how do you like that? After winning a lot of games, the Cubs are now at a 99.9% chance of reaching the playoffs. These will go up and down all year, but you can’t be too upset with an 18.3% chance of winning the World Series. It just doesn’t get all that much better than that. Indeed, the Cubs odds at winning the World Series are 5.3% points higher than the next best team (Nationals).

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 98.6% (+3.8%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 99.9% (+0.8)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 19.3% (+1.2)

The Cubs odds of reaching the playoffs as close to a certainty as any statistician would reasonably suggest. Nothing is definite, but October baseball seems very likely at this point.

Now 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: 10.8% (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.8% (Today: 19th – Previously: 20th)
  • ISO: .171 (Today: 13th – Previously: 10th)
  • OBP: .346 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 2nd
  • SLG: .425 (Today: 13th – Previously: 10th)
  • wOBA: .333 (Today: 3rd – Previously: 4th)
  • wRC+: 106 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th) 

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

  • ERA: 3.21 (Today: 1st – Previously: 2nd)
  • FIP: 3.79 (Today: 6th – Previously: 6th) 
  • xFIP: 3.79 (Today: 6th – Previously: 5th)
  • K-Rate: 24.0% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd) 
  • Walk Rate: 8.4% (Today: 19th – Previously: 17th) 
  • K/BB: 2.86 (Today: 12th – Previously: 9th) 
  • AVG (against): .212 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 
  • WHIP: 1.13 (Today: T-1st – Previously: 1st) 

So, as you can see, the Cubs remained where they were in eight categories (Batting BB-rate, wRC+, FIP, Pitching K-Rate, Pitching BB-rate, AVG against and WHIP), went down relative to the rest of the league in four other categories (ISO, SLG, xFIP, K/BB), and improved in three categories (Batting K-rate, wOBA, ERA) since the last check in.

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

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Author: Michael Cerami

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