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It’s going to be a wild ride through the Cubs September schedule

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Here are three observations on what the Cubs have in store next month.

Wrigley Field in early August
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

I was out of town for most of the weekend at a campsite in Iowa for a retreat. As a result I missed the vast majority of the Cubs baseball this weekend. I basically got home in time to see the Cubs mount a late comeback to tie the game Sunday before ultimately succumbing in extra innings to be swept by a red hot Nationals team at home.

That’s pretty much all that I have to say about that series.

The Cubs now find themselves 2½ games behind a red hot Cardinals team and clinging to the second wild card spot. If the playoffs started today they would face that same Nationals team in a one-game playoff in Washington, D.C.

The thing is, the playoffs don’t start today. We have a lot of baseball left, 31 to 33 games, depending on your team. So today I took a closer look at the Cubs schedule as August winds down and we head into September. Here are three things that stand out:

Projected records

I’ve written about the Cubs absurd home/road splits before. They haven’t changed all that much. The Cubs are still basically winning two out of every three games at home and barely more than one out of every three games on the road. The Cardinals, however, have improved. Below is an updated chart of the N.L. Central with home/road win percentages and a projection of each team’s final record based on the number of games they have remaining in their home parks:

NL Central projected standings

Team Home Win Pct Away Win Pct Home GR Away GR Exp Home Wins Exp Away Wins Proj W Proj L
Team Home Win Pct Away Win Pct Home GR Away GR Exp Home Wins Exp Away Wins Proj W Proj L
Cardinals .625 .477 17 16 11 8 90 72
Cubs .667 .391 15 17 10 7 86 76
Brewers .585 .446 16 16 9 7 83 79
Reds .544 .377 13 20 7 8 75 87
Pirates .439 .406 15 17 7 7 69 93
Projections based on W/L pct and remaining games as of August 26 Baseball Reference compiled by Sara Sanchez

If all of the N.L. Central continues to play the way they have at home and on the road for their final 32 games the Cubs will finish with an 86-76 record, four games behind the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. That might or might not be a good enough record for the second wild card spot depending on how hot the Phillies get, but I thin we can all agree that finishing the season 17-15 would be a sign of the Cubs limping into the playoffs. I’m not sure how far they would get with that type of finish.

Games left within the division

I think we can all agree that we’d rather the Cubs avoid both the wild card game and the Nationals for a while. So I looked at the remaining division schedule to get an idea of games left within the division, and which teams play each other the most. Take a look at the games remaining below:

NL Central remaining head to head

Games vs CHC STL MIL CIN PIT
Games vs CHC STL MIL CIN PIT
CHC X 7 7 3 6
STL 7 X 6 4 3
MIL 7 6 X 3 3
CIN 3 4 3 X 3
PIT 6 3 3 3 X
Total 23 20 19 13 15
MLB compiled by Sara Sanchez

Here’s the good news: the Cubs control their own destiny in the NL Central. They have the most games remaining inside the division with 23 of 32 remaining games against N.L. Central teams. They also have the most games remaining against their two closest division competitors with seven games against each with the Brewers and the Cardinals. If they can do some serious damage during those remaining games against those two teams the Cubs control this division. Alternatively, if the Brewers or Cardinals go on a tear against the Cubs things could wind up much worse for this team.

Off days and rest

Last year the Cubs found themselves in a bit of a situation regarding off days and rest down the stretch due to untimely rain delays and a lack of off days in the schedule. This year each team in the division has three off days remaining, however those could vanish quickly if it’s a wet September. The Cubs off days are today, Sept. 4 and Sept. 23.

As cooliogirl would say in a game thread, buckle up Cubs fans (well, she might use game thread words if I’m being honest). September has the makings of an epic division race and the Cubs currently have some catching up to do if they want to avoid the wild card game and win the division.