Is This The Worst Cubs Team Ever?

David Banks

The 2014 Cubs have lost two-thirds of their games this year so far, for a winning percentage lower than the worst Cubs team in history. But are these Cubs really that bad? BCB's Danny Rockett provides a back-of-the-napkin position-by-position comparison to the 1966 Cubs -- the worst Cubs team ever.

Even with a small sample size and a tough schedule so far, most fans agree that the 2014 Cubs look pretty bad. But how bad? As bad as the worst Cubs team in history? The worst Cubs team in history is a tie between the 103-loss 1962 and 1966 Cubs who sported a lowly .362 winning percentage and 103 defeats. The 2014 Cubs have only won one-third of their games so far; if they continue to play at that rate, it would result in the worst Cubs team ever at 54-108 (.333).

Who were these terrible teams from Chicago's baseball Hall of Horrors? Well, the 1962 Cubs were not even the worst team in the majors, as the Mets lost 120 games that year. The Mets, in fact, split the season series with the Cubs  that year at 9-9. The Mets notched nearly 25 percent of their total "W's" against the Cubs! So yeah, 1962 was bad, but I'm going to compare the 2014 Cubs to the 1966 team, since that happened a little more recently.

Catcher

1966 Randy Hundley vs. 2014 Welington Castillo

Welly may have a better OPS than Randy Hundley, but Hundley had nearly twice as many RBIs in 1966 as Castillo did last year. Maybe it had something to do with Hundley's 19 home runs. Though Wellington has four dingers so far in 2014, he only hit eight last year in 380 AB. Hundley batted 200 more times that year. However, Castillo is a better catcher, allowing only eight passed balls to Hundley's 16. Since catchers are usually more prized for defense: Advantage 2014.

First Base

1966 Ernie Banks vs. 2014 Anthony Rizzo

Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub, but his OPS in 1966 was only five lousy points higher than Rizzo's disappointing .742 in 2013. Rizzo looks better this year, and if it ever warms up at Wrigley, he should easily top Banks' 15 homers in 1966. Advantage 2014.

Second Base

1966 Glenn Beckert vs. 2014 Emilio Bonifacio

If you could take Darwin Barney and Bonifacio and put them together, you'd basically have Glenn Beckert. Beckert did commit 24 errors in 1966, and I'd be surprised if Bonifacio even commits half that. Barney is all-field, no-hit, and Bonifacio is an average fielder with a high OBP so far. But a platoon vs. and everyday stalwart like Beckert? Advantage 1966. Though it's close.

Shortstop

1966 Don Kessinger vs. 2014 Starlin Castro

Don Kessinger committed 35 errors in 1966 and batted .274. If Castro does that this year, Cubs fans will run him out of town on a rail. I don't think that will happen. Castro has shown signs of life this year and a fair amount of power. He committed 22 errors last year so he won't even touch Kessinger's, ahem, fielding, at short. Advantage 2014.

Third Base

1966 Ron Santo vs. 2014 Luis Valbuena/Mike Olt ("Oltbuena")

I don't even want to compare their numbers because it's embarrassing to 2014. Santo had an OPS of .950 and slugged 30 homers. Oltbuena? Well, they could be on track for 30 homers, but they're also on track to hit around .200. Advantage 1966 Santo in a landslide.

Outfield

Byron Brown, Adolfo Phillips and Billy Williams vs. Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Sweeney ("Lakeholtzruggisweenish")

Well, so far, only one 2014 Cub outfielder has a higher batting average than any of the 1966 Cubs, Ryan Kalish (.268). And Lakeholtzruggisweenish is nowhere near the pace to hit the combined 61 home runs the 1966 Cubs outfield slammed out of the park that terrible year. Plus. Billy Williams, a future Hall of Famer, was on the '66 Cubs, need I say more? Advantage 1966.

Pitching

Dick Ellsworth, Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands and a young Fergie Jenkins vs. Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Jason Hammel

This competition is tough to compare with so many different pitchers "eating innings" throughout these terrible years. But the overall numbers are as such. The 2014 Cubs (so far) best the 1966 staff with a team ERA of 3.83 vs. 4.33. Even last year's 96 loss team had a better ERA: 4.00. And while the 1966 staff ranked dead last in ERA in the NL, the 2014 Cubs pitchers are only fourth from last. Advantage 2014.

Overall, the 1966 Cubs sported a .694 OPS, just below the league average. The 2014 Cubs are well below average at .645.

The 1966 Cubs had a fielding percentage of .974, third worst in the NL. The 2014 Cubs are at .982 and above the league average.

And even with future HOFer Fergie Jenkins on the mound in 1966, 2014's staff appears to be somewhat better.

Well, it seems that the 1966 team was sunk by lousy pitching and defense, while the 2014 Cubs hasn't so far hit as well as the worst team in Cubs history. With a later trade deadline, and at least two of the Cubs' current starting pitchers likely off the team by the end of the year, we shall see how things stack up when our current starters are starting for a contender. I expect the Cubs' batting averages to rise with the temperature too, hopefully higher than Banks, Williams, and Santo, the core of 1966. Unfortunately, it's going to take the Cubs about five current players to do what those legendary Cubs did in the power department, hitting 74 total homers, even during the embarrassing Chicago baseball season of 1966.

All in all, on paper, the 2014 Cubs are likely to be better than their 1966 counterparts. Pythagoras thinks so, anyway, who would have the 2014 Cubs at 10-14 this year instead of 8-16, raising our winning percentage to .416. Things tend to even out over the course of the season, but last year, the ancient Greek mathematician predicted the Cubs would win 71 games, and they only won 66. What does an ancient Greek philosopher know about baseball anyway? It wasn't even invented until over 2000 years after his death!

The real question is, how could a 1966 Cubs team with four future Hall of Famers be so terrible? Hopefully, we'll find out in a few years when future Hall of Famers on the 2014 Cubs roster win the World Series in 2017. It could happen...

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