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Cub Tracks spills the beans

Area X, the clutch factor, the rules of silence, and other bullets

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Chicago Cubs v New York Mets
‘sall good, man
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In our last episode, Cub Tracks let it slide, speaking of meatloaf, Saul ball, saltwater origins, and other bullets, while damning Rob Manfred and the rest of the league office cretins with no praise whatsoever. This last is likely to continue as I am not overfond of anything those nitwits do and wish they would just spend their time counting their money instead of messing with the game I love.

I do love me a Cub win though, and it was great to see them come back big against the hated Metropolitans. I liked that so well that I watched the last third of the game three times before commencing the authorship of this particular missive.

To continue our recent media-referent narrative, I’m watching the first of two recent films made from stories by people I know and hoping that the titles reflect the fate of the Mets this weekend. My hope is that the Cubs head into Monday’s off-day with at least a New York diner-style meatloaf and remain in the hunt for the grand prize, and may the Mets continue to be bozos. I would however prefer complete Annihilation. We’ll know more about that after Sunday’s game. Mike Montgomery is reportedly going today, and that gives the Cubs a sporting chance.

Ian Happ sure had a point about that ball in the top of the 8th. That didn’t seem very strike-ish. Perhaps the umpiring crew could be banished to Area X or have a Schwarbomb dropped on their pointed little heads.

I’m going to vanish into the mist of the Southern Reach and enjoy the film with my new little friend, fluffy kitten-boy Pugsley, who is going to move in soon. I’ll leave you with today’s Cub news. As always * means autoplay on, or annoying ads, or both (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Cubs News and Notes:

The Cubs’ clutch factor

When it comes to tracking the game on a daily basis, I love catch-all metrics that can lead you toward trends and deeper numbers. Wins above replacement is obviously the ultimate catch-all metric, but another I like is the “Clutch” rating at Fangraphs. Clutch is an overall measure of a team’s situational success, and while the number in and of itself might not be easy to translate into concrete terms, it does point you in certain directions.

Here’s how Fangraphs defines its Clutch metric: “The difference between a player’s total WPA/pLI and their WPA/LI defined above.” So you can see why it hasn’t exactly caught fire with the masses. In a nutshell, it’s a measurement of how teams and players improve (or hurt) their chances to win based on success (or lack thereof) in certain situations.

That brings us to the Chicago Cubs. When I refer to a team’s situational performance, it’s usually based on the Clutch metric. It’s often a good explanation for why a team’s win-loss record deviates unusually from its underlying metrics. To date, the Cubs have a National League-best run differential of plus-82 but still are just six games over .500, four games behind the Central-leading Brewers. Chicago is on pace to win 90 games, but it “should” be on pace to win 105.

There’s never just one explanation for something like this, but the Cubs have been dead last in offensive Clutch for much of the season, despite all the focus Joe Maddon has put on having his hitters improve situationally. Clutch is backed up in splits from, where Chicago ranks last in high-leverage situations. (As compared to how they do overall.)

The good news is that this is a portrait of what the Cubs have done and an explanation for why their win-loss record is disappointing. It is not particularly meaningful for what Chicago can do going forward. Through that lens, we can observe that the Cubs are the National League’s second-highest scoring team.

This profile is why, as much as anything, I still view Chicago as the favorite in the NL Central. — Bradford Doolittle.

  • Darrell Horwitz (The Sports Post): Theo Epstein’s grade is dropping as Cubs’ warts show. “Why do they keep overpaying with their future for rentals and middling players?” This is almost as good as the one from Sportsnaut.
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): Here are ten things we learned about the Cubs in May. “Can you handle at least four more months of this?”
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): What we learned about the Cubs in May. “Maybe this is just who this Cubs team is.”
  • Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic {$}): The Cubs are confident in their current rotation, but what if they need reinforcements? “Chris Gimenez spent the last month-plus in Iowa getting to know the likely Triple-A candidates and gave his thoughts on each.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Jose Quintana’s scoreless start, improving velocity, and stabilizing season. “Quintana managed to last at least six innings without allowing a single run, and he looked good doing it.”
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Hate-free zone: Cubs Jason Heyward, Jon Lester can relate to Yu Darvish angst. “He’s absolutely battling something right now that I can relate to, that [Jon] Lester can relate to,” Heyward said.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Yu could be next on Maddon’s dinner invite list. “He’s no different than any one of my other players,” Maddon said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Justin Wilson, Randy Rosario keys to Cubs’ bullpen without Carl Edwards Jr. ‘‘You’re going to miss C.J. Edwards; anybody would,’’ Joe Maddon said. ‘‘But I think if I move it around well enough, I think all these guys can have some success.’’
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): Connecting the dots between Brandon Morrow and what the Cubs are thinking in this year’s draft. “Everything goes in cycles and nothing is guaranteed.”
  • Doug Glanville (NBC Sports Chicago*): Gimenez and the rules of silence. “...there is a silent code about your staying silent about other people’s business.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Javier Baez’s brilliance could earn him 1st ASG trip. “Second baseman leads Cubs on ballot for 2018 Midsummer Classic.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Kylr Schwarber HR seals Cubs’ comeback vs. Mets. “Chatwood didn’t get the win, but he may have fixed some of the problems he’s had this season regarding command of his pitches.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Okay, I think Heyward has really figured some things out (No, seriously). “If I told you the Cubs could have a guy who slashed .250/.340/.400 and played Gold Glove defense, you’d probably be okay with that.”
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald {$}): 20/20 hindsight on Sammy Sosa’s June slugfest for Cubs in 1998. “Feelings about 1998 now are conflicted and mixed for many fans. Should they remember June 1998 fondly or should they attach a mental asterisk?”
  • Justin Schull (Cubs Insider): This Week in Cubs History: More Overall please. “Orval Overall was one of the top pitchers of his era.”

Food For Thought:

Thanks for reading.