Where We Stand Now

In Commentary And Analysis, Major League Baseball, Playoffs, Projections by dmick89

Following last night’s 6-0 loss to the Indians, the Cubs are a solid 34-28, but are 8 games behind the Cardinals who have hacked their way to baseball’s best 43-21 record. The Pirates are in 2nd place and after winning 6 in a row are a couple of games ahead of the Cubs. The Cubs remain 5th in the NL, which is good for a playoff spot, one game up.

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 (Pythagenpat is what BP uses). It’s based on actual runs scored and allowed.

The Cubs 1st Order Winning Percentage is .500. They’ve scored 250 runs and allowed 250 runs. That’s a 31-31 record. The Cardinals are at the top at .637, 9.8 games ahead of the Cubs. The Pirates aren’t all that far behind the Cardinals here. The Cubs are 8.1 behind the Pirates.

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 .531, which is good for a 32.9-29.1 record. The Pirates are at the top of the division here at .607 and the Cardinals are at .599. The Cubs are 5.9 games behind the Pirates here.

Apparently 2nd order winning percentage also has a built-in penalty for hacking.

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 best here at .540 (still a bit under the .548 in real life). The Cardinals are at .608, 5.4 games ahead of the Cubs. The Pirates are .576.

The Cubs have been a bit lucky when it comes to 1st and 2nd order winning percentage, but pretty much right on when it comes to the 3rd one. The Cardinals, while very good, have been lucky. They’re still the best team in the division and possibly the best in the National League.

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 87.2 wins while the Pirates win 87.6. Basically a tie. More importantly, the simulations currently give the Cubs a 62% chance of reaching the playoffs. The division is pretty much over, and has been for some time.

Kris Bryant now leads the team in fWAR with 2.6 with Anthony Rizzo‘s long ongoing slump (2.5). Addison Russell and Chris Coghlan are tied for 3rd on the team with 1.3 each. Starlin Castro is dead last on the team with -0.5. He’s been much better in June after a horrible May. That’s one way the Cubs should be considerably better moving forward. Castro isn’t a great player and never will be, but he’s closer to league average and far better than a below replacement level player.

If you look at the Cubs lineup and their performances to date, the Cubs really don’t have a lot of areas they can improve at the deadline offensively. Jorge Soler should be back and hopefully striking out less than before. It would also be nice to see some more power for him, but overall, he’s been fine for a rookie. Dexter Fowler hasn’t been all that impressive overall, but he’s a placeholder, the Cubs hope. Chris Coghlan has been impressive, and that, along with Javier Baez‘s injury, may have put to rest any thoughts of Kris Bryant moving to LF at some point this year.

On the pitching side, I wanted to point out that currently, only 16 qualified pitchers have a K-BB% of better than 20%. Actually, better than 18.6%. Two of them are Cubs. Jason Hammel‘s is 21.4% and Jake Arrieta‘s is 20.5%. Kyle Hendricks sneaks in at 28th best with a K-BB% of 16.4%. The Cubs rotation has been good. The top 30 doesn’t even include Jon Lester who many believed was the team’s best starter entering the season.

Myles wrote here on OV at some point that he believed Arrieta to be the best. I didn’t buy it at the time, but have come around to agreeing with him on that one. I believe it was Myles.

Even the Cubs bullpen has come around somewhat, but bullpens are notoriously unpredictable.

The Cubs aren’t going to be messing with the top four in their rotation, but there is Tsuyoshi Wada at 5th. This is the one spot the Cubs are likely to look for an upgrade. If time permits, I’ll try to explore some possible options down the road.

The team they have now is for the most part the team that will finish the season with them. They’re in contention so they won’t be sellers, but they probably won’t be big buyers either. I do think that may have been different had Javier Baez stayed healthy, but he didn’t.

If the season ended today, the Cubs would be in the playoffs. That’s a good thing. An even better thing is that they’re better than the Pirates and I think they’ll finish ahead of them. They’re also fun to watch. Even more fun will be getting to see Kyle Schwarber in the lineup tonight.

Source: Baseball Prospectus

Original Where We Stand Now by Shawn D. Goldman

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