We’re not exactly in the “second half” of the season, as that term is generally used to denote the time after the All-Star break. This is odd, but true, even though most teams will have played about 55 percent of their games by next Sunday.
And we’re not exactly at the official halfway mark of the season for the Cubs as of this morning, as they have now played 82 games, with 80 remaining.
Nevertheless, with an off day today, the Cubs’ last before the break, it looked to me like a good time to check out the team’s schedule going forward.
I’m here to tell you that the Cubs’ remaining schedule looks pretty advantageous to them.
The Cubs have played well within the N.L. Central. They are 21-14 against teams within the division, but just 20-27 outside the Central. The poor record outside the division reflects some series against teams that are in first place or otherwise having really good years. (Of course, if the Cubs do wind up back in the postseason, obviously they’d have to find ways to beat teams like that.)
The Cubs are 2-4 in interleague play so far this year, and so there’s quite a bit of that remaining. Four of those games are against the White Sox (split evenly between North Side and South Side), who currently have a losing record. Three more are against the Blue Jays, who are also under .500 as of now. Those games are at Wrigley Field. The Jays have been a poor road team this year (17-22). The Cubs also travel to Baltimore, to face the .500ish Orioles in a three-game set, and have four games against the Rays, two in Chicago and two in Tampa.
That’s 14 games, and of those 14, 10 are against teams currently under .500. The Cubs should be able to go 8-6 or maybe even 9-5 in those games.
The other games outside the N.L. Central are as follows:
7 vs. Braves (3 in Atlanta, 4 at Wrigley)
6 vs. Diamondbacks (3 in Phoenix, 3 at Wrigley)
3 vs. Giants in San Francisco
3 vs. Phillies in Philadelphia
3 vs. Mets at Wrigley Field
Of those 22 games, 16 of them are against teams that currently have losing records. Even though the Cubs haven’t been a good road team so far this season (19-25) they should be able, at least, to beat the Phillies and Giants in their home parks.
The Diamondbacks will be tough. They and the Braves are the only N.L. teams the Cubs have yet to face, and Arizona will be part of a road trip to the Pacific time zone the second week in August. However, that’s the only week the Cubs will play outside of the Central or Eastern time zone the rest of the season. In fact, from July 21 through August 6, a period of 17 days, the Cubs will either be in Chicago or Milwaukee, keeping close to home. (It’ll really be 18 days at or near home, presuming they all spend their July 20 off day in Chicago.)
Here are the Cubs’ remaining games vs. Central division opponents:
11 vs. Brewers (4 at Wrigley, 7 in Milwaukee)
10 vs. Reds (7 at Wrigley, 3 in Cincinnati)
10 vs. Cardinals (6 at Wrigley, 4 in St. Louis)
10 vs. Pirates (6 at Wrigley, 4 in Pittsburgh)
So that’s 41 divisional games, 23 at home and 18 on the road. That should be an advantage, I’d think. The Cubs currently have winning records against the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds and are 4-5 against the Pirates. In all, 30 of those 41 games are against teams that currently have losing records.
Thus, of the Cubs’ remaining 80 games, 56 are against teams currently under .500. Of course, the Cubs are presently a .500 team. However, I still think this Cubs team can play much better than that.
Caveat to all this: it’s easy to look at a schedule and say the Cubs “should” beat a team, but remember that even the worst teams in baseball will win at least a third of their games. The Cubs will lose some games they “should” win, because baseball. Hopefully, there won’t be too many of those, and there will be more games that they win that they “should” lose to make up for that.
The Cubs need to go 49-31 to win 90 games this year, a .613 winning percentage. While 90 wins would be a decline from 2016, it still would probably be enough to win the N.L. Central and get into the October tournament, where just about anything could happen. And the remaining schedule should give them a really good chance to do just that.