This first half seemingly had no end to it with 93 games played by the Cubs before the break, which itself was actually a below average number (league average was 96 and the Cubs played fewer games than every other team in baseball). And yet, it is still hard for me to believe that we are actually at the All-Star break and that we’re closing in on the 100-game mark. There is nothing magical about 100 games other than the roundness of the number. However, I’ve always thought of 100 games the point in which the season begins to turn from marathon to sprint. Teams bounce around in the standings less, statistics are starting to normalize and teams begin deciding if they are “in” or “out” of contention and make roster decisions accordingly.
This was a first half that was at times terribly frustrating. At other times, it was as thrilling as any team I can remember in Cubs history. The Cubs were as far out of first place as 4½ games. They spent time in fourth place… quite a bit of it, actually. 22 times they finished a day on which they played in fourth place, including eight in a row at one point in April. They’ve also spent time in first place. They head into the break having been in first place for three straight games. They have their largest lead of the season at 2½ games. They’ve won 55 of 93 games, a .591 winning percentage that would have them on pace for 96 wins. The team has played on only 43 home games but has won 28 of those (a .651 percentage).
By any measure it was a successful start to the season. Once more the team looks poised to play deep into October and looks to have a good chance to get back into the World Series. As always here at Heroes and Goats, we look at this Cubs team through the eyes of WPA and the lens of Heroes and Goats. Today, we’ll take a look at the full standings for Heroes and Goats for the first half. After that, we’ll also take a look at the Major League standings (with an emphasis on the National League). We’ll then take a look at hitting and pitching statistics and how the Cubs measure up (again with a particular eye on the NL while also looking at some overall stats).
As a reminder, Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA. The highest WPA will be the Superhero. A superhero is worth +3 points in the cumulative standings. Second place is the Hero and that is worth +2 points and third place is the Sidekick and that is worth +1 points. On the other side of the ledger, last place is the Billy Goat and that’s worth -3 points. Second and third to last are the Goat and the Kid which are worth -2 and -1 points respectively.
Year to Date total (change since last full standings)
* = Player currently in the minors/italics no longer in the organization
- Javier Baez 22.5 (+7)
- Brandon Morrow 13 (+5)
- Jon Lester 12 (-1)
- Pedro Strop 11 (-2)
- Ian Happ 8.5 (0)
- Kyle Schwarber 8 (+1)
- Steve Cishek 8 (0)
- Ben Zobrist 7 (-1)
- Kyle Hendricks 7 (+1)
- Mike Montgomery 6 (-1)
- Randy Rosario 4 (0)
- Jose Quintana 4 (+5)
- Luke Farrell 3 (+4)
- Kris Bryant 2 (-2)
- Efren Navarro 2 (0)
- Rob Zastryzny 2 (0)
- David Bote 2 (+1)
- Justin Hancock (DL) 1 (0)
- *Cory Mazzoni 1 (0)
- Anthony Bass (DL) 1 (+1)
- Jason Heyward 0 (-2)
- *Dillon Maples -2 (0)
- Tommy La Stella -2 (0)
- Justin Wilson -2 (+1)
- James Norwood -2 (-2)
- Eddie Butler (DL) -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- Victor Caratini -3 (+1)
- Brian Duensing -4.5 (0)
- Tyler Chatwood -4.5 (0)
- *Chris Gimenez -6 (0)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Carl Edwards Jr. -7 (-2)
- Albert Almora Jr. -12 (-5)
- Anthony Rizzo -12.5 (-2)
- Willson Contreras -23 (-4)
- Addison Russell -30 (0)
The Cubs have already used 39 different players this year. 37 of them have appeared at least once in Heroes and Goats (Mark Zagunis and Duane Underwood have not).
Javier Baez leads the way as he has almost wire to wire in the first half with just one hiccup period in there. Not only does Javy have the top year to date score, but for the second period in a row he doubled down by having the biggest positive move (+7). After crashing all of the way down to 2.5, Javy is +20 over the periods covered by the last two standings updates. Holy cow.
Brandon Morrow, Jon Lester and Pedro Strop round out the plus 10 crowd. That’s been a tough level to sustain as Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Steve Cishek have all spent time above that mark only to fall back a bit. Morrow tied with Jose Quintana for the second largest score for the period at +5. Luke Farrell picked up +4 points to move into positive territory for the year.
On the negative side, Addison Russell brings up the rear. Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Albert Almora Jr. round out the negative 10 crowd. That’s been an easier mark to sustain. Anthony Rizzo escaped the group in May only to fall back into the bottom group. Almora had the largest negative period at -5 and Contreras was second at -4. Tyler Chatwood had the largest negative move among the pitchers (-3).
National League Standings and Run Differential
The Cubs end this stretch of games and the first half of the season with the best record in the National League at 55-38 (.591). In a stunning turn of events, the Brewers lost six straight right before the break and suddenly the Cubs have a 2½-game lead and four less losses than the closest team in the National League (in part due to having played less games than every other team in baseball). The Brewers did manage to hold on to the second highest winning percentage with their 55-43 (.561) mark.
The Cubs have increased their run differential to +114 (+99 last time). Second in the NL are the Dodgers (+82). By expected record, the Cubs would have a 59-34 mark, ahead of the Dodgers 57-39 mark.
For those of you who have never contemplated expected wins and losses, I wanted to point this out. Expected wins and losses favors two statistics and not just one. A gaudy run differential will increase your expected win/loss total. But run prevention is also highly valued. Consider three teams, they’ve each scored exactly 100 runs more than their opponents. One of them did it at 100-0. This team has an expected win total over 100 games of 100. They never allow any runs, so they will always win. The second team did it 300-200. This team has an expected win total over 100 games of 69. The final team did it by way of 1000-900. This team is only expected to win 55 games.
Expected wins and losses actually values run prevention more than it does run differential. It does stand to reason that the less runs you allow, the more often you win. A little more so than scoring more runs does.
Looking at projections, CBS Sports now projects the Cubs to win 97.8 games. They project the Brewers to win only 87.3 games and so they now have the Cubs as 92.7% chance of winning the division. They project the Dodgers to win 94.1 games and no other teams to reach the 90’s. So really, CBS sees this shaping up as a two team race. CBS has the Cubs at 99.2% chance of making the playoffs in some fashion.
Over at Fangraphs, they estimate the Cubs playoff chances at 97.6% (up 4.4%), best in the National League. They estimate the chances of winning the division at 89.2% (up 12%), best in the National League. They estimate the chances of winning the World Series at 10.8% (up .1%), second in the National League to the Dodgers (14%). Those chances are second and third highest in baseball behind the 25.6% chance of an Astros repeat. With just shy of 100 games played, Fangraphs believes that the three best teams on paper heading into 2018 remain the three best teams.
Hitting and Pitching Statistics
The Cubs finished the first half at 5.12 (no change) runs per game. Second place in the NL belongs to the Rockies at 4.86. Team batting average is .265 (down from .266) and is second in baseball behind the Red Sox at .272. Team on base .345 (no change) is first in MLB, slugging percentage is .426 (down .003) is seventh in MLB. Think about these numbers for a minute. Half of the teams in Major League Baseball don’t have pitchers hit. When pitchers hitting is removed, the Cubs line is .276/.357/.444. Credit where it is due, the Yankees and Red Sox still out slug the Cubs even with the pitchers removed.
The Cubs have allowed 3.89 runs per game (down from 3.91), good for sixth overall and third in the NL (Brewers 3.85, Dodgers 3.86). The Cubs are allowing 7.7 hits per nine (sixth overall, third in the NL) which is up over 7.6 last time. They allow 4.2 walks per nine (29th overall), which is down from 4.3 last time. The team WHIP is 1.321 (league average is 1.303) which is down from 1.323 last time.
The offense was pretty steady and remains one of the best in all of baseball. The pitching performed just slightly better. The pitching is where the Cubs continue to have the most room to improve their results. The Astros pitching allows more than half a run less than
the Cubs every other team in baseball. They are the gold standard in baseball.
Up Next: When baseball resumes Thursday night with a special showcase game between the Cubs and Cardinals, it will be the first of a five game set in four days between the two teams. The Cardinals are 5-5 in their last 10 and 10-10 in their last 20. It’s been a long stretch of mediocre baseball for an organization that expects better. They ended the first half on a high note, beating the Reds to salvage the final game of a three game set. This was the first game under interim manager Mike Schildt. The Cardinals have won five of eight games in the season series, but eight of the 11 games left in the series are to be played in Chicago. Five this upcoming weekend and three to close out the season in September.
Kyle Hendricks will be the Cubs starter. He is 6-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. Over his last seven starts, Kyle has a 4.54 ERA and a 2-3 record. But the last two starts have been an improvement with 13⅓ innings, 10 hits, one walk, three runs (two earned) and 11 strike outs. Kyle has been a better starter in his career from July to the end of the season than before. He’s off to a good start in that direction in three starts with a 1-0 record and a 2.45 ERA. Kyle has one start this year against the Cardinals on June 16. He was the winner in a 6-3 Cubs victory. He threw six innings, allowing seven hits, four walks and three runs. He also allowed a home run. Walks and home runs are both up for Kyle this year and have been a bit of an Achilles’ heel for him. Although, with the last two starts, he’s brought his walks back below last year’s walks per nine total (2.5 v 2.6). He’s allowing the most hits since his first full season in the majors at 8.2. His strike outs per nine is the lowest since his debut season. The numbers just aren’t great for Kyle so far.
Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals. He is 6-5 with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. For Carlos, his 2018 season to date is a tale of two seasons. When he went on the disabled list after his May 8 start, he had a 1.62 ERA in 50 innings over eight starts. Since coming back, he has made eight more starts and he’s had a 4.87 ERA over 40⅔ innings of work. Opponents have a line of .282/.382/.405 since he came back. Last time out, he picked up a loss against the Reds. He threw five innings and allowed six hits, two walks and three runs. The three starts before that though were all much better. Against the Indians, Diamondbacks and Giants, he threw a total of 19 innings with a 1.89 ERA. He struck out 18 batters in 19 innings. So know that the elite Carlos Martinez is still lurking and could make an appearance. Carlos squared off with Kyle Hendricks back on June 16 and didn’t factor into the decision. He threw five innings and allowed seven hits, six walks and three runs. He did strike out five.
We’ll look at the standings next after the games of July 29, which will span 12 games, eight of them against these Cardinals. Last time around we polled who would be the top performer between July 2 and the All-Star break. 44 of you said Javy Baez and were right!
Who will have the best Heroes and Goats performance 7/19 to 7/29?
This poll is closed