Goatriders of the Apocalypse

The Cubs have lost a couple (Game Recaps, etc)

Not even Carlos Silva could stop the Cubs' most recent slide.

He certainly tried his best, and pitched well enough to win for most teams: seven innings, six strikeouts, and just two runs allowed. Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol each contributed a scoreless inning of relief to the Cubs' pitching effort, as well.

But Mark Buehrle and the White Sox were better. And now, in two games, the Cubs have lost a 10-5 shootout and a 2-1 pitcher's duel.

Strange that the Cubs were only able to score one run in their more recent loss when the leadoff man went 3-for-5 and their cleanup hitter was 3-for-4 -- except, not really strange at all, because this is the Cubs we're talking about.

Speaking of which: this is what Rob and I are talking about when we don't buy your optimistic analyses, Sayers. Of course, I encourage you to continue carrying the banner for us all, and I appreciate your enthusiasm, I truly do. But with Derrek Lee going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, Alfonso Soriano posting the same line, and Chad Tracy striking out in both of his at-bats, where do you see the unlucky break for the Cubs? It's one thing to aggregate stats and say the 10% should really be a 40%, but I see nothing on the field of play to suggest the Cubs are suffering from just some bad breaks.

And now the Cubs are eight games back from .500. We're about to be enter "Root for one player" mode, where instead of getting pissed off every other day about another stoopid loss, you pick your favorite guy and track his stats independently.

Game on ESPN tonight. Can we prevent the sweep?


I am not optimistic for this season. The Cubs are a better team than their record. That is a fact. But that doesn't matter because even if they play *that* good, they will not make the playoffs. Since it's all about getting into the playoffs, the Cubs season is about playing out the string and looking to next year. I realize that as much as you guys do. I just don't "trust" the won loss record to tell me how good the team is. There is more to it. Do you want me to stop presenting that information here?

Here is a primer on what I'm talking about:

A major league baseball team's won/loss record is the residue of two things: runs scored and runs allowed. Most teams will end up with a record that matches their runs scored and runs allowed. When a team does not match it, they will tend to regress more to their PYTHAGOREAN record (runs scored/runs allowed) than their actual record. Teams get lucky and unlucky over the course of a season and from season to season.

Now, runs scored and runs allowed are the result of a series of things teams do on the field. Every thing a ballplayer does has a linear weight. Player hits a double, he gets a certain linear weight. Player walks, he gets another linear weight. Linear weights do a pretty good of predicting how many runs a team should score (and allow). When a team is lucky and happen to string their good events together, they will score more runs then their linear weights suggest they will score. The opposite is also true. Ultimately, most teams regress to where their linear weights suggest they should.

Now, as a further jump. Every event that occurs on the field has to be seen as a result of balls in play. Sometimes, offenses and defenses have a hits allowed and HR allowed different than what they should based on the number of balls in play and the number of fly balls allowed. Every at bat has a component to it.

What I am doing is trying, as best as I can, to look at all three of these aspects and see what I can see about the Cubs' underlying performance. What I am presenting isn't opinion per se but rather a crudely put together fact. I'm not looking at the Cubs and saying "Well, they lost, but I think they are a better team than this." I am actually analyzing the stats as best as I can.

I know you may not believe it but the Cubs have been rather unlucky this year and are probably a .500 team, roughly. Would you think differently about the Cubs if they were .500 or so right now?

If I were to ask myself that question, I'd say that yes, I would look differently at them as a .500 team. As a .500 team, they only need to get a little lucky and maybe see an uptick in the performance of Lee and Ramirez in order to become relevant in the NL Central. But as a .435 team like they are now, it would take them playing a level higher than is possible for even a .500 level team to play. So it doesn't matter.

I think all along both you and Rob have misunderstood my point. Hopefully this response clears it up.

Frankly, this team could be

Frankly, this team could be tied with Cincinnati right now, and I still wouldn't give them any shot at making the playoffs. Aramis Ramirez looks impotent, Derrek Lee is still taking his time on the comeback trail, and the starting pitching that looked so solid at the beginning of the year is finally revealing itself for what it is: slightly above average at almost every spot of the rotation.

As for the luck factor and the Pythagorean record, trust me, I'm with you on the numbers side. I'm an avid Fangraphs reader, and I even took a few math classes in college. But for me, an unlucky team is one that has its middle-of-the-order hitters slapping hard outs right into gloves; one that frequently loads the bases but never scores; etc etc etc

Here's a question for you: if you're so convinced the Cubs are unlucky this season, tell me, which Cubs have been suffering the most? Which individual players have stats that are worse than their play has been? I'll give you Derrek Lee, but not Aramis -- his K-rate is just gawdawful. And I don't think 60 points on Lee's average are worth eight wins.

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