The Cubs are 25 games over .500 and have outscored their opponents by 162 runs. They have utilized only five starting pitchers, all of whom have ERA’s under 3.00 and two of whom are sitting under 2.00. Cubs players lead the All-Star Game voting at first, second, short, third, and the outfield. They are, without a doubt, the best team in Major League Baseball.
But they should be so much better.
Based on Pythagorean expectation, the Cubs should actually be 48-13 and have a 10-game division lead on the Cardinals. The cold, hard reality of the situation is that the Cubs are only 43-18 and hold a mere 9-game lead over their division rivals. Disappointment, thou wearest royal blue pinstripes.
Okay, kidding and fun little digs at beat writers aside, this Cubs team might actually be better than what we’ve seen to this point in the season. I know that’s probably hard to believe, given that I’m writing this following a pair of laughers in Atlanta that represent the Cubs’ 22nd and 23rd blowouts (margin of 5 or more runs) out of those 43 total wins.
And then there’s the pervasive sense that the rotation is due to come back to earth over the next few months, not to mention questions about the bullpen. Oh, and then there are all the injuries. Mix it up, cook it in a pot, let it simmer, and you’ll soon have what smells a lot like a steaming bowl of regression gumbo. Don’t get me wrong here, gumbo is delicious. But it’s too damn hot for that stuff right now, not to mention for a penguin just to be walkin’ around.
What I’m trying to say is that these aren’t Ron Cey’s Cubs. Wait, no, that’s not it. What I’m really trying to say is that we should be expecting at least as much improvement from the offense as we are drop-off from the pitching staff. If you think I’m nuts for even suggesting that, think about the slump Anthony Rizzo has endured for much of the season and the fact that Jason Heyward is only now remembering that he’s actually a really good hitter. Addison Russell has yet to realize his offensive potential and Kris Bryant can get better too.
And as far as the staff, yeah, we’re seeing some pretty historically significant numbers, but it’s not as if you’re talking about a bunch of noobs who’ve never displayed any measure of competence before. There’s certainly reason to worry about Clayton Richard’s inability to get anyone out or Justin Grimm’s suddenly awful fastball, though I’d argue there’s a reasonably good chance one of those two things is rectified before long. I’ll let you figure out which one I mean, but here’s a hint: it doesn’t involve the guy who beat out Jeff Samardzija for Indiana Mr. Football.
We can employ all manner of conjecture and projection, but the only thing that really matters is that the Cubs are really good and that they should continue to be so for the remainder of the season. They’re not playing over their heads (much) in any areas and it’s quite possible they’re actually underperforming in others.
Is their record clouding the truth a little bit? Sure, it’s keeping us from seeing that the Cubs could be even better.