The Cubs are 18-19, which is a record I don’t think any of us expected them to have after 37 games in 2017.
The truth is, perhaps we should have expected it, or at least not have been surprised, because things like this happen to good teams all the time.
I looked at the teams that won their divisions over the last five years and almost every season, at least one of them got off to a start not dissimilar to the Cubs’ this year — in fact, some were even worse.
In 2011 after 37 games, the Brewers were two games worse than this year’s Cubs — 16-21. It took them till June to get to first place and then a 21-7 August had them up by as many as 10½ games. They eventually won 96 games and the N.L. Central by six games.
In 2012, the Giants came off their odd-year slump in 2011 with an even worse start. On May 16, they had the same record the Cubs do now: 18-19, and they were six games out of first place. They eventually moved into first place in late June and were in a tight race with the Dodgers until they pulled away with a 20-10 mark after September 1 and won the N.L. West by eight games. (Incidentally, this was the only one of the Giants’ three World Series wins in which they were a division champion.)
That same year, the Giants’ Bay Area counterparts, the Athletics, were five games under .500 as late as June 30: 37-42, and 13 games out of first place. Then they had a 19-5 July and went 51-25 after the All-Star break. They needed it all, too — they spent only three days in first place all year, the last three days of the season, as they swept the Rangers to overtake them for the A.L. West championship.
In 2013, the Dodgers were mostly under .500 the first half, bottoming out at 12 games under the break-even point June 21, when they were last in the N.L. West, 9½ games out of first place and 5½ games out of fourth. In July and August, though, they went on a 42-12 run which by September 3 gave them a 13½-game lead — that’s a 23-game swing! Even though they had a sub-.500 September they still won the N.L. West by 10 games.
And in 2015, the Blue Jays were 23-30, a season-low seven games under .500 and 4½ games out of first place on June 3. They started an 11-game winning streak the next day and from August 1 through season’s end were 40-18. They won 93 games and the A.L. East by six games.
Point is, nearly every year there’s at least one postseason team that starts off poorly and sometimes even later in the season than we are now has a losing record and is far off the pace. These are just a few recent examples; if I’d have gone back further into MLB history, I certainly could have found many others.
But talent wins out and those good teams go on runs and win their divisions. I have no doubt that the talent the Cubs have will eventually kick it into high gear and win the N.L. Central.