What if I told you that, only 20 games into the 2015 season, the Cubs have already spent more time* at or above the .500 mark than they had in all of the previous 5 seasons COMBINED. True story. That’s either a testament to their improvement or a sad indictment of just how abysmal North Side baseball has been in the second decade of the 21st century.
After finishing the 2009 season with a winning record of 83-78, things took a decided turn for the worse. The Cubs never made it over the break-even mark in 2010 and spent only 4 days even treading water, though they never saw .500 after winning on May 2nd to get to 13-13. It would be the latest into a season they’d be .500 for 5 years.
The following season, they reached 10-10 on April 23rd and actually spent 12 days at or over .500, 3 of which saw them a whole game over (3-2, 4-3, 9-8). In 2013, the Cubs started with an Opening Day win (only the 2nd such W in the last 10 seasons) and even made it to 2-1, but peaked there. In total, they spent 4 days at or over and only 2 over.
Lest you get to thinking I forgot about 2012, I did not; I only wish I had. In that hapless campaign, the Cubs were never at or above .500 at any point. Surely such a special kind of awful season must be unique, even by the Cubs lowered expectations, right? Wrong. They did the same thing last year.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a total of 20 days at or over .500 (only 5 of which were actually over) in a 5-year span. That’s out of 810 days of games, which means the Cubs have only not been losers for 2% of the last handful of seasons. Ah, but that’s all water under the bridge, my friends.
That’s because here in 2015, the Cubs are sitting at 12-8 and have now spent 16 days over .500 and 2 more days at it. It’s not even May and the Cubs have ostensibly experienced more success this season than in the last 2 years of Jim Hendry and the first 3 of Theo Epstein.
And with the Brewers coming to town looking like the Cubs of recent history, chances are quite good that this strong run is going to continue. But even a sweep at the hands of the visitors from Milwaukee and a loss against St. Louis on Monday would take the Cubs to May 5th with a .500 record, the latest date they’ve held one since 2009.
None of this will mean anything if the team goes full-on Cubes and conjures images of the past, but I see this in much the same light as I do their improving playoff odds. Little stats and figures like this just fascinate me though, as I love to see our emotions and gut feelings illustrated in numbers.
That’s why I’m going to turn this a new monthly feature called Quantifying Hope: What the Numbers Say About the Cubs’ Chances, in which I’ll take a look at various figures like run differential, playoff odds, and even experts’ power rankings to see how the Maddon Men stack up.
I hope you’ll check it out and I’d love to get suggestions for quirky stats, sites, and sources that I can use in future editions.
*For the sake of ease, I did not calculate off days in these figures. Had I done so, I’d know that the Cubs spend 25 days at or above .500 from 2010-14 (5 above). This season, they’ve been at/over for 21 days (18 over).