The Cubs Have Done More Damage to their Playoff Odds This Month Than Almost Any Team in MLB
Almost exactly one month ago, on April 21, the Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-0 at Wrigley Field. You might remember it as that time Drew Smyly nearly tossed a perfect game. After that win, the Cubs playoff odds rose to a season-high 32.4%, as they approached first place in the NL Central.
Pfft. When has throwing a particularly outstanding game against the Dodgers directly preceded an abysmal stretch by the Cubs? That almost never happens!
Since the Smyly game, the Cubs have gone 8-19, falling six games below .500 while flirting with last place in the NL Central standings:
- Brewers: 25-21
- Pirates: 24-22
- Cardinals: 21-27
- Cubs: 20-26
- Reds: 20-27
If it wasn’t for the suckiness of the entire division (as well as struggles by some other preseason/on-paper contenders like the Mets, Phillies, Padres, etc.), this season might already be all but over. Fortunately, for the Cubs, they still have a shot. But make no mistake, their playoff odds have taken a HUGE hit since that high point a month ago.
In fact, according to Baseball Reference, only the Cleveland Guardians (-64.7%) have taken a bigger hit to their playoff odds than the Cubs (-41.3%) over the last 30 days.
Here’s where things stand in an absolute sense:
Cubs Playoff Odds
Baseball Reference: 29.7%
The average there is about 15%. Depending on which source you use, the Cubs are behind the Cardinals, roughly tied with the Pirates, and ahead of only the Reds in the NL Central, with the Brewers leading everyone. Indeed, the Cubs have dug themselves a hole that will be tough to climb out of. Even their 90th percentile outcome from here at Baseball Reference has them at just 87 wins.
That’s with everything going VERY right from here, let alone just normal or bad luck and/or a selloff at the deadline.
And that last part, that’s the sticking point isn’t it?
This Cubs team isn’t going to get all season to get right. They won’t even get the entire first half. If they don’t start winning very soon, the plans for the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline will start steering toward a sell-off. And that means guys who have present value but aren’t locked in for next season (think Cody Bellinger, Drew Smyly, Marcus Stroman, etc.) are going to be dangled on the market. The good news there is that Jed Hoyer tends to be a VERY last-minute deal maker. So maybe they’ll stick around through most of July. But if it gets to that point, the best we may hope for is simply not selling.
In other words, buying may not be seriously considered, making the odds of reaching that 90th percentile outcome even harder. (Even mild buying would be a bit more of a challenge at that point because your staff will have spent more time doing background work/scouting/analysis on possible prospect acquisitions, rather than big league acquisitions.)
So yes, there is still time to right the ship. It’s early *and* the NL Central stinks. But the Cubs have done more damage to their playoff odds over this last month than almost any team in baseball. The turnaround has to start this week.