Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Friday Update (June 11, 2010)

It's time for Rob's favorite post! The Friday update. This is where I try to figure out how good the Cubs really are (or aren't) relative to their actual record. Let me try to point out what this post is about.

Teams have won/loss records. Sometimes those won/loss records are perfectly indicative of how the team has really performed on the field. Sometimes, a team is better than their won/loss record (and should win more games). Sometimes they are worse (and should lose some games). This also affects the number of runs a team scores.

Usually the problem is hitting better or worse with runners in scoring position. All stastical analysis shows this is not a "skill" per se. A good hitter is a good hitter and a bad hitter is a bad hitter. A good hitter will, ultimately, hit better than a bad hitter with runners in scoring position. However, for long swaths of time, a bad hitter (or a bad team) could just get more timely hits (or prevent more timely hits on the pitching/defense side) which will result in a team scoring or preventing a run total different than their actual skill level. There are other things that influence this also. Next week, if I can, I'll deal with the pythagorean theory of looking at a team's record so that my buddy Rob can learn to speak greek as well as Limey English </sarc>

So without further ado. Here is where the Cubs stand:

Currently the Cubs are 27-33. That is 6 gmaes under .500 and 7.5 games out of first place. This means, without looking at any other statistic, they are probably not going to make the playoffs but also aren't quite "out of it". I believe the magic number for "out of it" is 10. 10 games back. 10 games under .500. If that's what's happening, they would be out of the race.

They are averaging 4.3 runs per game scored and 4.4 runs per game allowed. That leads to a pythagorean record of 29-31.

On offense, they have scored 255 runs which would make them 12th in the NL in runs scored. They have a pretty crappy offense but they should have scored closer to 269 runs. That's a 14 run difference. That accounts for about 3 wins. We'll give them 2 to be less generous. This is a league average offense that has been unlucky. Because they are mediocre to begin with, the lack of luck makes them look like a train wreck. The 2 extra wins on offense puts them at 31-29.

On Pitching and Defense they have allowed pretty much what should be expected. They are currently tied for third in the NL in xFIP (an advanced metric that looks at pitching independent of fielding and luck) but they are actually 9th in the league in runs allowed. I'm not giving them a pass on this because the defense does actually stink at the team's ERA is now lower than their xFIP. That having been said, there's no logical reason why the Cardinals should have 27 fewer runs allowed than the Cubs. Still, that is the case. I think the Cubs will eventually move off of 9th in the NL in this category but I can't back that up too much now so I won't try.

So the Cubs are basically a 31-29 team with a current record of 27-33. If they actually play 31-29 baseball the rest of the way, they will end up with a record at the end of the season of 80-82. I think it'll be a smidge better than that. But right now, that's where they are at.

Oy vey

Love the effort here, pal, but this is not a 31-29 team. They deserve their record.

One run Games

It's hard when you're actually smack in the middle of watching them day to day to realize but when a team loses a bunch of 1 run games and is unlucky when hitting with runners in scoring position, they are usually a better team than they appear (the opposite is also true). The Cubs have had a record well below their expected record all season. For what it's worth, while they are still below their expected record, there actual record is starting to resemble their expected record. But having said that, it is true that they are not quite this bad. I'm not saying the Cubs are a playoff worthy team, they aren't. Nor am I saying they shouldn't try to make trades. They should. Only that they are better than there record.

In future years, if I am still here and the Cubs have a record better than they should have, I will say that also and I bet people will disagree with me then also. There is an underlying skill set that is often only seen by looking deeper. I am trying to look deeper while taking a step back from the day to day obsession that many of us have regarding this team.

The Cubs, as a team, are basically a .500 level team that have a worse record than that. I happen to believe they will probably finish the year over .500 but out of the playoffs unless they are able to make several trades(sell off that is) or are beset with injuries. I actually think that is worse than if they actually finish with a .450 record.

If they finish with a .450 record, that will result in real changes and a high draft pick next year. I actually don't think the Cubs will be really good, 2008 good that is, again until 2012 at the earliest. I want the team to start heading in that direction. I think it might be better for the team, longterm, to have a record that is worse than their actual performance.

Not that I am rooting for them to lose but rather that I am trying to have a more philosophical discussion of who this team is and where they are.


I think you are neglecting magical effects, like "curses", etc.

Seriously, inspired by your post I Googled "Pythagorean baseball", found the Bill James connection, etc., so now I have a feel for what you are talking about. I ran some quick calculations against a site that gave 2nd- and 3rd-order win/loss ratios, and if I hit the right buttons the Cubs should win 88 or 81 games by end of year, respectively.

I'm not sure what to make of this. Your analysis uses the stats from these first 60 games to predict what will follow, the idea being that they are more indicative of future success than the actual win/loss ratio.

First, it would be interesting to play with the formulas and see how much a single blowout game affects the results. I think a point is reached in a blowout where the losing team basically gives up -- they don't much care if they lose by 10 runs or 15, they know they're going to lose and their main goal is to just get the game over with. Wouldn't this skew the stats, but NOT be representative of how they REALLY play?

Second, baseball has a HUGE human element. My guess is that your best effort comes at the beginning of the season, when your team is right up there with everyone else, and at the end of the season, IF you have a chance at post-season. Professionals or not (or maybe MORE SO with professionals), once you believe you have no shot at a pennant you let up. Some guys might play for personal stats or the love of the game, but human nature is human nature.

I guess I'm saying they might be CAPABLE of playing 0.517 (31-29) baseball, but I'd put money on their being much closer to the 0.450 team that they currently are -- maybe even worse. Based on my arguments, the best thing the Cubs could do is bring up a bunch of rookies (but with actual skills, not just loveable losers like in the movies) who are so thrilled to be there that they give the mythical 110%.

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