The Standings, the Schedule, and a Little Bit of Optimism
Crazy, but true: despite the many close losses over the past few weeks, the Cubs are just 2.5 games out in the NL Central, and 0.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot. Yes. I’m looking at the standings on May 12.
Obviously you know the counter to that: if the Cubs had just won a few of the games they EASILY could’ve/should’ve won this year, they’d be leading the NL Central. It’s not even really all that much of an ifs-and-buts situation, either, since the underlying metrics all kinda tell the same story: the Cubs should have a much better record than 18-19. Alas. Can only move forward at this point.
To that end, I did like the way Dansby Swanson talked about the recent stretch of close losses (via The Athletic): “It’s a lot of close games, a lot of things that if it kind of falls in our way, we’re not having this conversation,” Swanson said. “It’s so easy to kind of — I don’t want to say overreact — but it’s so easy to say, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ We’re all for making adjustments where things need to be adjusted. We’re just going to continue to go out and do what we do. The teams I’ve been on that have been successful, that’s the mentality: You show up tomorrow and go about your business the same way and things will start to work in our favor.”
That feels right, of course. Make your adjustments as part of a normal process, yes, but otherwise don’t let these kinds of losses fundamentally change what you’re doing. Because what the Cubs are doing, at an individual performance level, is mostly pretty darn good.
In other words, you can be disappointed about the banked losses – whether you “deserved” to win a game or not, once it’s complete, there’s no changing that L into a W – but you shouldn’t let it impact what you do the next day *IF* you have the talent and the right approach. So if the Cubs do believe themselves a solid team, then at an individual player level, they just need to keep doing what they do, and more wins will come.
Consider that, by the underlying numbers, the Cubs “should” be something like 24-13 (Pythag) or even 25-12 (BaseRuns). They have arguably been the “unluckiest” team in baseball so far this year, and are probably much better than their 18-19 record. Heck, the Cubs’ -7 wins by BaseRuns (i.e., 7 games worth of flukey bad bounces, so to speak) is the most in baseball by a lot (the Cardinals and Royals are next at -4). (The Marlins, of course, are the luckiest, at +5 wins. Some of those directly came from the Cubs!)
A related point: I find it interesting to note that, while the Cubs are in the middle of the oft-discussed tough stretch in May, it’s looking a little different than it did back in early April on paper.
The Cardinals were supposed to be the kick-off to this stretch, and obviously we know they came into the series with the Cubs as the “worst” team in the NL. Now the Cubs have the Twins, who’ve been kinda more like a .500 team than an incredible one. Then there are the Astros, who are just a game over .500 and have been a real disappointment so far. The Phillies are banged up and have the same record as the Cubs. And the Mets are a mess right now.
Long story short? How the upcoming schedule “looks” can change really quickly in the first half of the season, and I’m not so sure the Cubs don’t have a good chance over these next few weeks to win a lot of series if they just continue to be themselves.
And don’t look too far ahead to the 10-game West Cost trip against the Padres, Angels, and Giants that looms in early June. Or will that not look so scary by then, either?