Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Why oh Why (Game Recap: Pirates 4, Cubs 3)

Newsflash: The Cubs are playing terrible right now. But it just doesn't comport with the facts of this team in my eyes. I don't get it. Why are they losing?

Mostly, it's just bad luck. I know that seems like hyperbole but let's look at some basic information on the Cubs.

The Cubs, coming into today's game, were tied for 5th in the NL in runs scored but 7th in the NL in runs scored per game just above league average.

The pitching looks much worse as the Cubs came into today's game 11th in ERA. The runs scored/runs allowed results in a pythagorean won loss record of 17-19, 2 games better than the 15-21 record they had coming into today's game.

So they should be 2 games better just assuming the runs scored/runs allowed were fairer but even that isn't fair. The Cubs should have scored slightly more runs and should have allowed a ton less. They should be challenging the Cardinals right now.

The Cubs are 5th in the NL in wOBA and haven't been especially lucky offensively. They have a decent K rate, a decent walk rate and above average isolated power. Linear weights suggest they should have scored 181 runs this year, not 167.

To make matters worse, the Cubs are second in the NL in xFIP! Only the Padres are barely better. That is partly a sign that the Cubs defense is worse than expected but it's also a sign that they have been very very unlucky. The Cubs actual record this year should be closer to 22-14, not 15-21. Taking away 2 games for defense (which is probably too many) they still come into today's game at 20-16. Can you imagine how much different the tone would be on this site if the Cubs were actually doing that?

Now, two very annoying facts make all this data less relevant. The first is that the Cubs have buried themselves in a hole so deep that even if they played at this level the rest of the year, they probably wouldn't make the playoffs. The second is that they put up that record against less than stellar opposition. Still, it's a sign that things aren't completely what they seem.

If the Cubs were to play 20-16 baseball (.556) the rest of the season,  they would get to 85 wins. That might make them a contender for the NL wildcard. I thought they might be through but maybe not. They need to start showing results that live up to their peripherals but it's the underlying numbers that suggest many have given up a little too early here.

Maybe my memory isn't great,

Maybe my memory isn't great, but I think several of the Cubs' wins have been of the blowout variety. Especially early in the season, that sort of thing could make skew team wOBA and their pythagorean record to make the situation look rosier than it is. Not going off of any data here, just my memory. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, Sayers. This was a very good post.

Your optimism fails to

Your optimism fails to recognize three important things

1 - Good teams find a way to win. Of course the opposite is also true though, and that's the category we clearly fall under...

2 - 15 Games. 15 Games is the number of times we have scored 2 or fewer runs; second highest amount in the NL to only the Astros. So our "average" offense is not exactly "average" at all; its completely hit or miss with nearly nothing in between. And when you have 15 of 37 games where you score 2 or fewer runs and allow 5+ on average, you generally deserve every bit of a .407 win percentage.

Side note - it should also be mentioned that we have scored 4.64 per game, but 7.68 per game against the Brewers and a straight 4.0 mark against everyone else. Those clubs of course being Arz, Atl, Cin, Fla, Hou, NYM, Pit and Was - teams which have combined to give up more then 4.89 per to everyone else

3 - No team* has ever won the Wild Card with 85 wins.
(*outside the strike shortened 1995 season)

In fact, only 3 teams have ever won the Wildcard with fewer then 90 wins of the 30 possible - the 96 O's (88-74), the 05 Astros (89-73) and the 06 Dodgers (88-74). And for us to win 89? We would have to go 74-51 (.592).

So we basically have to become the best team in baseball the rest of the way to hope that 89 would get us in. But sorry, I don't see how a team that can flounder to a 15-22 record in the weakest quarter of their season is going to become the best club there is overnight. Maybe you can hold onto that optimism, and that's fine, but...

Here's the Thing

You're first note is hilarious to me. It's like you died and got occupied by a 1960's baseball man (good teams find a way to win, uh no, good teams put good players on the field and hope that fait doesn't smack them in the face).

You're second note is a good point but given how few games we have played, I'm a little more interested in the whole of the package rather than individual sums of the parts. The Cubs are a good team that have had bad timing.

You're third note, I agree with completely. 85 wins may not be enough to win the division or the wild card. I sort of referred to that in the body of my post but if the Cubs were to play like that from now until the end of the season, I guarantee you they would put themselves into the conversation and most of us would have much more of a good feeling about them going into next year and beyond.

Fait has dug the Cubs a pretty big hole but it's not out of the question that they can make a season of it.

On the first point - find in

On the first point - find in funny or not, its 100% true. Look at the Cards the last umpteenth years it seems. They are never a great team on paper, but they are seemingly always there... Other teams like the Twins and Angels live of playing above ability by doing the little things to increase their winning ways.

On the second - let me ask you a question. Say a team plays a series, and see this from their lineup:
1 10-10, 2 0-10, 3 0-10, 4 10-10, 5 0-10, 6 0-10, 7 0-10, 8 10-10, 9 0-10
Overall the team would have gone 30-90 at the plate, a 300 average. But would that 300 result in any wins? Highly unlikely... Similarly, looking at our "individual sums" right now is meaningless without context - and context says we are a team that either scores -3 or 7+ while giving up 5 per. (and no, it isnt unlucky pitching - its the AAA relievers that have been as hittable as a little-leaguer that has our BAbip higher then average and, in turn, producing an unrealistic xFIP that we don't deserve)


This team is full of guys that just are going through the motions. Think back to spring training --- this team was fun to follow, with young, energetic players all over the place.

Then spring training ended and the young, energetic players (except Colvin and a couple of nondescript relief pitchers) all went back to the Minors ... and the team went back into hibernation.

They bring up Castro, and everybody gets excited. Then, after a few days, it's back to sleep again.

You might as well bring back those Minor Leaguers ... the current team doesn't seem to be tough enough to get the job done, and the experience the young guys would get will help them replace the veterans over the next couple of years. Besides --- from the looks of things, a number of those veterans will be gone in a couple of months.

Back in the "old days" (2008), that team came out of the tunnel ready to go, and scored early and often. These guys wake up in the 7th inning. The competition is ready to go, and it's tough to get motivated as a pitcher when the other team scores a couple of runs in the top of the 1st and you know you've already lost the game.
Carlos Z is not a relief pitcher ... at least not in the role of your "8th inning guy". Even as a starter, he tended to take a couple of innings to get into his groove; how do you reconcile that with him being your set-up guy? If he's going to pitch from the pen, he needs to go in in the 5th inning, not the 8th. Otherwise, you might as well go to a 6-man rotation --- there's no real standouts among the starters these days.
And ... I don't care if he did knock in a couple of runs today --- I refuse to take A-Ram seriously again until his batting average tops .200.

You wanna shake things up? Move Soriano to 3B (he has played there a little bit, and he wouldn't have to worry about hitting the ivy when he backs up for a popup), put Colvin in LF, and PLAY THE SAME LINEUP EVERY DAY. When/if A-Ram gets his swing back you can undo the changes, but I haven't seen that the lefty/righty stuff is doing anything except justify using a different lineup for every game. That's not "change we can believe in".

THAT'S why.

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