I'm bringing back this feature from the olden days…if only because we need a new post. I'm stealing this format mostly from the 2015 version of this post, which credits shawndgoldman for the original regular feature.
Record: 43-45, 5.5 games back of the Brewers and tied with the Cardinals for second place in this shitshow of a division.
The actual record is what’s most important, but runs scored and runs allowed often reflect a team’s actual talent better and do a better job at predicting rest of season wins.
Thankfully for those like me who are lazy, Baseball Prospectus calculates a few different winning percentages.
1st Order Winning Percentage is the team’s Pythagorean record. It’s based on actual runs scored and allowed.
The Cubs 1st Order Winning Percentage is .500. They’ve scored 399 runs and allowed 399 runs. That’s a 44-44 record. The Brewers are at the top at .550, 5 games ahead of the Cubs. The Cardinals also have a better win percentage than the Cubs, at .515 and 1.5 games up.
2nd Order Winning Percentage is based on projected runs scored and allowed. The projected totals are based on the team’s underlying stats. It’s an attempt to rid the team of any good or bad luck runs that may have scored by them or their opponent.
The Cubs 2nd Order Winning Percentage is .532, which is good for a 47-41 record, which is the best in the division by this metric. The Cardinals are right behind at .527 and the Brewers are at .510, showing that BP still has a little skepticism there. But wins in the bank are wins in the bank.
3rd Order Winning Percentage is like the previous one, but it adjusts for quality of the team’s opponents, home park, and league difficulty.
This one is the most thorough of the three and the Cubs fare the second best here at .533. The Cardinals are at .538, just ahead of the Cubs, and the Brewers are at .503.
Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds Report uses the current record and rest of season PECOTA projections to calculate the team’s record at the end of the year. The Cubs finish at 83.3 wins while the Brewers win 84.8 and the Cardinals 81.3. Yeesh. More importantly, the simulations currently give the Cubs a 31% chance of winning the division (let's not kid ourselves with the wild card for any of these teams). The Brewers are at 47.6% and the Cards are at 16.5%. To be honest, despite the Brewers lead, after seeing these numbers I'm most worried about the Cardinals because Cardinals.
538's Playoff projector has the Cubs pegged at 83 wins and a 38% chance to make the playoffs.
The top player by bWAR* is Kris Bryant (3.0), with Anthony Rizzo (2.9) and Willson Contreras (2.1) at place and show. I'm guessing Jon Lester was up there until that last start, which knocked him all the way down to below replacement level on b-ref's formulation. Joining him are Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, who are both at or below replacement level. This is a year indeed. Luckily for Kyle Schwarber, Brett Anderson still holds the title for LVP through the first 'half'.
*fangraphs went down as I was writing this, because of course
There's not a lot to love in the stats for this year other than Bryant being Bryant. The FO has pretty much signaled that they are standing pat, though I would not be surprised to see them flip a relatively big name (not named Bryzzo) for a cost-controlled arm if they find the right deal. Last year's stats still exist too, and there's plenty of reason to believe in positive regression at least on the position player side. The pitching I am much less sanguine about. They might take a page from the Yankees and trade Davis, but it's not like the Cubs have Dellin Betances hanging around like the Yankees did. As much as I like Edwards, I don't know if that's where you want to hang your hat. Maybe they can get something better from the comp pick, assuming I still remember how the CBA works.