Just over one week ago, Cubs President of Baseball Operations was asked about the first half of the season, and here's how he was quoted:
Theo on #Cubs 1st half: "If you wanted to sum up the first half, you'd say it went really well for the first seven innings"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 30, 2013
So that got one BCB reader, Stephen King (no, not that Stephen King! -- and not, either) to thinking -- what would the Cubs' record be if all their 2013 games ended after the seventh inning? I mentioned to him via Twitter that if he wanted to do the research on this, I'd write about it.
Sunday night, he emailed me this spreadsheet which shows exactly how the Cubs did in each game this season, and how they would have done if the games had ended after seven innings.
Seven games were tied after the seventh inning. The Cubs were 2-5 in those games.
The Cubs trailed three times after the seventh inning in games they eventually won.
And, the Cubs led seven times after the seventh inning in games they eventually lost, and this is the thing that I think Theo was talking about (as well as the 2-5 mark in tie games). This is what's directly related to the bad bullpen work so far this season.
If games this year had ended after seven innings, the Cubs would be 40-39 (along with the seven games tied after seven, in which they went 2-5). This is precisely in line with the team's -10 run differential and 42-44 Pythagorean record. I have believed most of the year that, talent-wise, the 2013 Cubs are essentially a .500 ballclub and these sorts of peripheral numbers bear that out. With any sort of more solid bullpen, that's probably where the Cubs would be; a .500 record this year would be more than a 20-game improvement over 2012's 101-loss squad.
There are other holes on this roster, obviously, and expected contributions from Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, expected to be part of the core of the next Cubs contender, haven't happened. But maybe something like this shows you that fixing one critical issue -- late-inning relief work -- can lead to contention sooner rather than later.