My research began when Brett over at Bleacher Nation posted an intriguing blog entry "Dude, the Chicago Cubs always Underperform Their Expected Record"
Thanks to Baseball-Reference, we can look at the Cubs’ actual, and then expected, winning percentages over the years. And, man, look at this thing going all the way back to the start of divisional play in 1994 (underperforming expected record is bolded):
2014: .342 – .485
2013: .407 – .439
2012: .377 – .403
2011: .438 – .434
2010: .463 – .448
2009: .516 – .523
2008: .602 – .609
2007: .525 – .539
2006: .407 – .431
2005: .488 – .493
2004: .549 – .578
2003: .543 – .527
2002: .414 – .467
2001: .543 – .547
2000: .401 – .424
1999: .414 – .406
1998: .552 – .522
1997: .420 – .455
1996: .469 – .501
1995: .507 – .515
1994: .434 – .457
16 out of the last 21 seasons, the Chicago Cubs’ actual record has been behind what you would expect the record to be, based on the number of runs they’ve scored and given up. And two of the five "outperformed" seasons were basically flat.
That got me thinking so I decided to take it deeper and run the numbers back to 1916. I further broke down numbers against the league averages of Run Differential to 1993 along with Runs scored and Runs Allowed by the other 29 other teams going back to the same date. Win Expectation by Pythagorean Expectation used the modified James formula used by Baseball Reference. I also ran numbers back to 2002 against splits of H/A.
The data is suggesting that the Cubs underperformed in the following era's: Overall
- 2002 to 2013, by 2.23 wins average per year! It is an era when they made 3 playoffs births and had winning season 5 out of 12 42% of those seasons),
- 1993 to 2013 the math suggests that they averaged 2.02 less wins when they moved to the NL Central.
- 1992 to 1969 they averaged 0.47 less wins per year.
- 1968- to 1946 they underperformedan average of 0.68 wins per year.
- 1945 to 1916 they underperformed an average of 0.99 wins per year.
- 1916-2013 the entire average is 0.77 per games underperforming per year.
- 66% of the years between 2002-2013 pitching in allowing more runs than the Cubs scored at Wrigley The same ratio of 66% of the time Cubs were also outscored on the road as well.....BUT HERE IS THE KICKER,
- Cubs differential at home was 35.80 runs per year average under their average runs allowed, an average of 0.444 runs per game when playing at home),
- On the road the differential falls to an average of 12.5 per year of less runs scored versus runs allowed (or 0.15 runs per game), which coincidentally falls within the standard deviation for the entire MLB of H/A splits.
- Cubs scored an averaged a total of 341 runs per year when playing at Wrigley between 2002 and 2013 and averaged 340 runs scored when playing on the road game annually making their offense very consistent either venues.
- But the opposition scored an average of 23 more runs annually when at Wrigley per year more than what the Cubs pitching allowed when playing on the road per year.
Finally the math suggests something disquieting for Cubs Fans. Do you want to win, or merely enjoy the confines of Wrigley and root, root for the home team? If I were a Ricketts, and I am now seeking to expand and renovate Wrigley I would demand figure out the following:
- Why is the opposition scoring more runs on our pitchers in Wrigley?
- Why are the Cubs not scoring more runs at home than they are when on the road?
- What factors are under my control? Is is more night games? Is it field dimensions? Is it placement of the bullpen? Is it the proximity of the stands along the outfield to the field giving away outs on foul balls? (You can blame Bartman but really, what if those seats were ten or twelve feet back?) Is it the wind factors? Or are all these factors adding up to a -0.444 run differential?
- Are the unseen facilities for the Cubs players a factor, as in clubhouse amenities, training and pre game preparation, even the feel compared to modern facilities? Because the Pyth Expection appears to be exponential where over the period of 1993-2013 it is 2.02 less wins, but from 2002 to 2013 it is 2.23 less wins per year, ) as with each passing era and new parks coming on line.
- Could these disadvantages also be a factor when the Cubs have been in the playoffs when margins are razor thin?