Fear of a Blue Hat
It's August 20th and the Cubs are 29 games over .500. They remain on pace to win about 100 games, but most impressive, they are now tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the best record in baseball.
The Cubs currently have scored 677 runs. That's 60 more runs than the second-best team in the NL, the New York Mets. (By the way, the Mets have played one more game than the Cubs.)
In the American League, where they have one extra talented hitter in their lineups, only one team has had a better offense than the Cubs - the 62-65 Rangers, who've scored 705.
As a team, the Cubs are 3rd in baseball in doubles, 9th in homers, 2nd in RBI, they lead with a .281 team AVG, they lead in OBP (.359 to Boston's .358), they lead in OPS with .808, and they lead all of baseball with 504 walks, to Boston's 492.
On the pitching front, the Cubs have allowed 506 runs to score. No team in baseball has a greater run differential. Chicago's is +171, second best are the Red Sox with +122.
In the NL, only one team has allowed fewer runs to score, the Dodgers, who have given up 500. Next, behind them and the Cubs are the Phillies, who've allowed 533 runs.
In the AL, there are actually 2 teams with better pitching - the Rays and the Jays. Tampa's allowed 497 runs to score, and Toronto's given up 488.
As a team, the Cubs have the best ERA in baseball for starting pitchers, with 3.80, while the Cubs bullpen has a modestly respectful 3.72 ERA, 8th in the league and a full 0.70 runs behind the Dodgers pen. (For comparison's sake, Arizona's bullpen has an ERA of 4.04, another reason why I'm pulling for the D-Backs to hold down the Dodgers).
Overall, the Cubs have the 4th best ERA in the game, at 3.74, and they lead baseball with 978 strikeouts.
I obviously can't speak for them, but if I played for the Phillies, Mets, Brewers, or Cardinals, the only comfort I would have is knowing that the Cubs play my division rivals equal to how often they play me. Teams can not be looking forward to traveling to Wrigley Field this year, and that fear of a blue hat needs to be carried into the post season.
It's true that when you are the team to beat, you play with a target on your back, but the intimidation factor cannot be denied. And the Cubs are intimidating, rather than the intimidated. It's a refreshing change.