You know, it didn’t occur to me until I sat down to type this very first sentence: this is the first September in seven years when I haven’t been doing a Scoreboard Watching post every morning. The reason is obvious, but I just hadn’t thought about the fact that the Cubs’ terrible season deprived me of something I really did like obsessing over!
I can’t really make the Reverse Standings Check a perfect replacement because, while I do care about where the Cubs wind up, I definitely don’t have the same I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS buzz that I get from thinking about the playoff races and how this team could impact that team could impact that player could impact the schedule could impact the Cubs.
That is all to say, this is important, I want to do it, and I definitely like to check in after a long stretch of results in a particular direction (i.e., that last winning streak or the current losing streak). I just don’t want to create the impression among the readers that this is a perfect parallel for a playoff race. *MAYBE* if the Cubs were in the hunt for the number one or number two pick, I might get a little more obsessive. I also know that some folks really hate thinking about the Cubs losing being a good or desirable thing, so I try to be sensitive to that.
To that end, if you aren’t into “it’s good that the Cubs lost!”-type stuff, you probably want to stop reading now.
As it stands, the Cubs absolutely cannot get any higher than the five spot in the 2022 draft, and that still feels like a stretch. But the last four days have certainly helped the cause.
Here’s where things are after the Cubs got swept by the Giants this weekend:
As you can see, the Rockies and Royals finally won a game, which allowed the Cubs to slide – just barely – back up into that 8th spot. And I gotta tell you, if I could lock that in today for the Cubs (the number eight pick and the bonus pool that’ll come with it), I would take it. The big risk is falling into 11th, where you get bumped back an extra spot, so I’ll be content with 10. But if the Cubs could just stay ahead of a couple of these other teams in this grouping, that’s be great. The Rockies and Royals both have .500-ish remaining strength of schedules, right there with the Cubs.
What about moving even higher? Well, sweeping the Twins in that two-gamer in Minnesota was a blow, but the Cubs and Twins do play two more games next week. Odds are good that the Cubs can’t pass the Twins without losing both of those games, but at least the Cubs hold the tiebreaker over the Twins based on 2020 records (the Twins were the only team in this grouping to have a better 2020 record than the Cubs). We’ll see where things stand after the upcoming series against the Phillies and the Brewers.
Speaking of which, the Phillies are desperately fighting for a playoff spot (4.5 back in the East, 2.5 back in the WC), so they’ll come into tomorrow’s series aggressive. Think about it when you’re on the other side of one of these series. Hosting a terrible team at home. You view them as absolute must-win, no-excuses series. The only caveat there is that the Phillies have structured their rotation, understandably, to move both Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler into the following series against the Mets.
The Brewers, who will host the Cubs this weekend, have the NL Central locked up, but they still have an outside shot at the top overall record in the NL. They’re gonna want that. So they will still be pushing come this weekend, particularly in a home series they know they could sweep. The only pitcher who is off the table for that series is Brandon Woodruff, who starts on Wednesday. Corbin Burnes? Basically a lock. Freddy Peralta? Highly likely. Adrian Houser, who somehow keeps getting great results? Also highly likely.
That is all to say, the next two series are particularly “good” opportunities for the Cubs in the Reverse Standings. I will get caught up in the individual games, no question, but when I look back next Monday, let me be honest: I hope the Cubs will not have gone better than 2-4. Even that would be a little dicey given how tight things are.
As for moving way up in the reverse standings, it’s tough but not impossible. The Marlins and Nationals are way out in front, but if you want to skew optimistic, you’d note that they have among the easiest remaining schedules, including SIX head-to-head games. That means, barring a split there, the Cubs *could* pass one of those two with enough losing. Passing both, however, would be pretty tough. If you want a rooting interest, you would probably pull for the Marlins, since the Nationals will ALSO get six games against the Rockies.