Goatriders of the Apocalypse


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Setting the Odds: How the Cubs could miss the playoffs


September Song

It's become tradition now that, at the start of every new month, I take a gander at the upcoming schedule and discuss the team's chances.  If you want to see what I said about the Cubs in August, just go back to this post here, although I will summarize the important stuff for your convenience.  I wrote, "n their 28 games played, I believe the Cubs are capable of going 17-11 without breaking much of a sweat. I'd submit that if they do worse than that, even to the tune of 16-12 or 15-13, then it will be a tight race until the last day of the season. However, if the Cubs can win their 17 - and they truly should be capable of winning as many as 20 - then it might not be as much a race in September as it is a victory lap, because I don't think Milwaukee or St. Louis will be able to keep up."

Well, the Brewers have succeeded at keeping up, but the Cubs met my high water mark of 20 wins and they made it look easy.

In September, the Cubs play 25 games, and they are all important.  They play 9 games at home and 16 on the road.  Their home games include battles with Houston, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, and while the Astros and Cardinals have fallen off the pace, both teams would be division leaders in the NL West right now.  Of their 16 games on the road, the Cubs travel to Cincinnati, St, Louis, Houston, New York, and they finish the year in what may be an epic series in Milwaukee.

I'm going to predict that the Cubs could and should go 15-10, and I'm not saying that because I want them to win 100.  However, I do think that 15 wins is well within the realm of possibility, and while they also may "only" go 14-11, they could just as easily kick it up another notch and go 17-8 or even 18-7.  It's not probable, but it is possible.

Milwaukee, for comparrison's sake, have a much easier schedule and they play 16 games at home.  It very well might come down to the last series in September in order to determine if the Cubs have home field advantage, or if they are the wild card team.  I'm sure a lot of us would be nervous if the Cubs failed to win the division; I'm not really one of them.  What's important to me, above all else, is that the Cubs play very strongly in their final 10 games this season and that they enter the playoffs with momentum.  

How They Match Up

My brother called me up a few days ago and said "you know, you should do a post about the Cubs records against playoff teams."  I'm going to do that, but I will take it a step further.  

Right now, it looks like the following teams could be playoff bound: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Arizona.  Here's how they are all doing against each other:

Phillies: 5-10 vs. Mets 
            4-3 vs. Cubs
            1-1 vs. Brewers
            4-4 vs. Dodgers
            4-3 vs. D-Backs
Total:     18-21

Mets:    10-5 vs. Phillies
             0-2 vs. Cubs
             1-2 vs. Brewers
             4-3 vs. Dodgers
             3-3 vs. D-Backs
Total:     18-15

Brewers: 1-1 vs. Phillies
             2-1 vs. Mets
             4-6 vs. Cubs
             2-4 vs. Dodgers
             5-1 vs. D-Backs
Total:     14-13

Dodgers: 4-4 vs. Phillies
              4-3 vs. Mets
              2-5 vs. Cubs
              4-2 vs. Brewers
              5-7 vs. D-Backs
Total:      19-21

D-Backs: 3-4 vs. Phillies
              3-3 vs. Mets
              1-5 vs. Brewers
              3-4 vs. Cubs
              7-5 vs. Dodgers
Total:       17-21

Cubs:      3-4 vs. Phillies
              2-0 vs. Mets
              6-4 vs. Brewers
              5-2 vs. Dodgers
              4-3 vs. D-Backs
Total        21-13

So, there you have it.  Based on these statistics, we don't even need the playoffs.  Let's just give the Cubs the NL crown and send them to the Series!

In all seriousness, though, despite the hard schedule, I like Chicago's chances in September.  Consider it a run through the gauntlet in preparation for the playoffs, where their experience - and success - against winning teams will be huge.   

Numbers are fun...when used for speculation

Obviously I'm not a genius with numbers like some of the other Goatriders, but I do like using them to predict the future and make outrageous claims. It's good fun for all.

So before I take off for a wedding this weekend, I just wanted to mention two quick things using the power of numbers and other stuff that hurts my head...

Thing #1

I'm not sure if Colin has ever mentioned this specific website before (he usually has a fleet of links in his posts, so by now I generally accept anything he writes as pure knowledge and fact), but I found this interesting place called coolstandings.com.

At this site, they use current statistics, career numbers/trends and transactions to constantly predict how a team will finish the season. On a daily basis, the expected records of every team in MLB changes as do the chances of each team making the playoffs.

Right now, of all the teams in Major League Baseball, the Cubs have an 83.9% chance of making it to the postseason (best in the league). Coolstandings calculates the Cubs have a 64.2% chance of winning the NL Central and a 19.6% chance of taking the wildcard. Not bad.

And while the Cubs have the best chance of making it to the playoffs based on these numbers, can you guess which team has the best overall chance of winning their division? You guessed it, the White Sox. According to this site, they have a 72.9% chance of winning the AL Central.

Interesting stuff.

Thing #2

I have yet to weigh in on Rich Harden despite the explosion of content in the universe about the recent trade.

So now you're going to sit down and listen to everything I have to say about it! Yeah, that's right. And you're going to like it...Wait! Don't leave. Don't close your browser. I was just kidding. You can read it if you want. I'd like if you did sir.

Anyway, there has been a lot of talk about the "I" word and Harden's dipping velocity, but I want to talk about his line this weekend against San Francisco.

In his first start with the Cubs, Rich has the advantage of facing a team he has already dominated this year in the Giants. Back on June 14 at San Francisco, Harden threw 6 innings of solid baseball in which he gave up 0 runs on 1 hit with 9 strikeouts.

While the expectations from the fans will be high and the scrutiny from the media will be harsh, I expect Rich to have similar numbers against the Giants on Saturday. Here is my predicted line...

5 IP, 1 ER, 3H, 6 K/1 BB...0 "I" words

I really can not see Lou letting Rich go more than 5 innings (expect to see some bullpen action the second Harden goes over 80 pitches and he gets into any kind of trouble), but he should be able to dominate in those five innings.

Realistically, if he allows 3 or less runs in about 5 innings then I think the Cubs have a solid chance of winning the game...and that is always the most important thing. 

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