Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Everything's Better Than Ever, if You Can Believe It

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Cubs Off-Day Check-In: Everything’s Better Than Ever, if You Can Believe It

Chicago Cubs

cubs win standings flags scoreboardThat was an odd series with St. Louis, wasn’t it?

Our spirits started off sky-high, when the Cubs followed up a walk-off win on Thursday night with an utter blowout on Friday, but quickly turned south after two late-inning meltdowns ended the Cubs’ 11-game winning streak and split the series.

Still, the Cubs definitely did more damage to the Cardinals’ chances of taking the division then they did to their own chances of winning it.

The last off-day check in came ten days (August 4) and nine games ago, and since then – the last two games notwithstanding – the Cubs have been mighty good. Let’s dive back in and see where their 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 7-2 against the Athletics, Angels, and Cardinals. With their series split against the Cardinals, the Cubs still haven’t lost a series since the All-Star Break, which is all anyone can ask for. They also posted an 11-game winning streak, which was their best since a 12-gamer in 2001. Check out the NL Central standings as of the start of play today:

  1. Chicago Cubs: 73-43 (.629)
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 62-56 (.525)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 59-56 (.513)
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: 52-64 (.448)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 48-68 (.379)

The Cubs now have a 12.0 game lead over the second place Cardinals (13 in the loss column) and a 13.5 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s two and half (over the Cardinals) and one and half (over the Pirates) games better than our last check in … in just 9 games! Not bad.

The Cubs’ winning percentage today (.629), is much better than last time (.617) and significantly better than the time before that (.606). No other team has reached 70 wins yet and none has a winning percentage above .600. The Cubs are on pace to win about 102 games.

Since August 4, the Cubs’ run differential has – once again – increased by quite a lot, from +171 to +194. It 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: +194
  2. Washington Nationals: +142
  3. Cleveland Indians +105
  4. Boston Red Sox: +103
  5. Toronto Blue Jays +88

The Cubs’ run differential is now a ridiculous 52 runs better than the second place Nationals, and over 100 runs better than fifth place Blue Jays. For the second straight check-in, the St. Louis Cardinals have dropped considerably (now down to +64). The Cubs have continued to allow the fewest runs per game (3.13) of any team in baseball, but have dropped to fourth with 5.08 runs scored per game – although, that’s slightly better than their mark last time.

The Cubs’ expected record is either three or five 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 3-5 more games than they have.

The Adjusted Standings at Baseball Prospectus (based on underlying performance) continue to gush over the Cubs and have them winning up to – I really can’t even believe this – 82 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, helping keep the Cubs where they are)). According to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs will win 27 more games this season, which would put them right at 100 wins – two better than the last time we checked-in and four better than the time before that.

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: 99.8% (+0.9% from last check)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100% (+0.1%)
  • Chances of winning the NLDS: 60.1% (+2.6%)
  • Chances of winning the NLCS: 34.2% (+1.9%)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 19.6% (+1.3%)

After winning eleven games in a row, the Cubs are now at a 100.0% chance of reaching the playoffs. We already discussed the implications of this here, and I don’t have much more to add. What can you say? These will go up and down all year, but you can’t be too upset with an 19.6% chance of winning the World Series – six percentage points higher than the next best team (Nationals).

Chicago Cubs Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus):

  • Chances of winning the division: 99.8% (+1.2%)
  • Chances of reaching the playoffs: 100.0% (+0.1)
  • Chances of winning the World Series: 20.9% (+1.6)

The Cubs odds of reaching the playoffs as close to a certainty as any statistician would reasonably suggest. If there exists a scenario where the Cubs do not reach the playoffs, it will be due to an absolutely historic implosion on a level we may never have seen.

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: 10.5% (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.7% (Today: 19th – Previously: 19th)
  • ISO: .174 (Today: 10th – Previously: 13th)
  • OBP: .345 (Today: 2nd – Previously: 2nd
  • SLG: .429 (Today: 12th – Previously: 12th)
  • wOBA: .334 (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd)
  • wRC+: 106 (Today: 4th – Previously: 4th) 

Chicago Cubs Pitching Statistics

  • ERA: 3.15 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st)
  • FIP: 3.80 (Today: 5th – Previously: 6th) 
  • xFIP: 3.77 (Today: 6th – Previously: 6th)
  • K-Rate: 24.0% (Today: 3rd – Previously: 3rd) 
  • Walk Rate: 8.2% (Today: 15th – Previously: 19th) 
  • K/BB: 2.94 (Today: 9th – Previously: 12th) 
  • AVG (against): .211 (Today: 1st – Previously: 1st) 
  • WHIP: 1.11 (Today: 1st – Previously: T-1st) 

Well, you can’t say the Cubs didn’t earn their eleven-game win streak. They have either improved or held steady in every single statistic listed above. They’re the leaders in four categories are top five in nine categories, and area a top ten team by 12 of the 15 most important categories on offense and defense. That’s hard to beat.

The year is slowly winding down, and things have never been so good.

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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