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The Cubs At The 2016 Quarter Pole

It's Preakness day, so let's use a horse-racing term.

David Banks/Getty Images

The Cubs completed their 40th game of the 2016 season Friday night, one-quarter of the way through this year. (Hard to believe it's gone by so fast.)

It's unlikely they can keep up this sort of winning pace -- 29-11, .725 -- for the rest of the year. But that is a pace for 116 wins, which would tie the team, and big-league, record.

Note that I'm certainly not predicting that. This Cubs team is good, but winning that many games is really, really hard. The 2001 Mariners, the last team to win that many, had winning streaks of five, six, seven, eight, nine and 15 games during their 116-46 run. Could the Cubs do that? Sure, but it would take not only talent, but luck.

Here is where previous Cubs playoff teams in the divisional-play era stood after 40 games:

2015: 23-17, second, 3½ games behind
2008: 24-16, first, 1 game ahead
2007: 19-21, third, six games behind
2003: 24-16, first, 2½ games ahed
1998: 23-17, second, 2½ games behind
1989: 22-18, second, ½ game behind
1984: 25-15, first, two games ahead

As you can see, the 1984 team was the closest to what this year's squad has done, and the 2016 version is four games better than that team at this juncture. The Cubs lead the Pirates by 6½ games and the Cardinals by eight, and are 7-2 so far against those teams.

Here's a look around the other five divisions in baseball, with my thoughts on what's happened there so far.

N.L. East: The Phillies are the biggest surprise; I don't think anyone figured them to be six games over .500 and within two games of first place at this point. They've managed to do this with a fantastic 14-3 record in one-run games, even while outperforming their Pythagorean projection by seven games (-34 run differential). This is likely to even out over the season, and the Phillies are probably a .500 club at best. The Nationals are starting to assert themselves, winning six of their last nine. The Braves are going to be historically bad, perhaps becoming the third team in the expansion era to win fewer than 50 games.

N.L. West: The Cubs just ended the Giants' eight-game winning streak, and as of today none of the other teams in the division are over .500. The Rockies, at 20-21, are in second place, but that isn't likely to last. The Dodgers should be fighting for this division title, but there just seems something not-quite-right about that team. Without the magnificent Clayton Kershaw, they might be a bottom-dweller.

A.L. East: I still expect the Blue Jays to make a run at the top, as they did last year. The Orioles and Red Sox hang in there, alternating in first place for the last couple of weeks. Baltimore, who had a hot start like the Cubs did (they were 7-0, the last undefeated team), but since that start are just 18-15.

A.L. Central: The White Sox have lost seven of their last nine and their lead has dwindled from six games to 1½. Beyond Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, their rotation is mediocre at best. They'll have to keep scoring runs to win. I expect the Royals to take charge in this division before too long, perhaps as soon as Sunday, as they are facing the Sox in a weekend series.

A.L. West: Last year, with their surprising playoff appearance, the Astros looked like they were going to be the A.L. version of the Cubs, contending for years to come. But they have struggled and are in last place, largely because their pitching has been awful. Dallas Keuchel, last year's A.L. Cy Young winner, has been terrible. The Mariners have weird home/road splits: 8-10 at home, 16-7 on the road. That can't be sustainable. In the end, I think the Rangers win this division for the second straight year.