It’s easy to forget that the Cubs have won three division titles in the last five years, particularly as we put a bow on the end of the Cubs run under Theo Epstein and look ahead to the Jed Hoyer era. But they have, and we should be grateful for this time where the Cubs have basically owned their division.
The 60-game season created a lot of quirky stats and one of them meant that all it took for the Cubs to win their division by three games was a quick start under new manager David Ross. They rode a 13-3 start to another flag, and while it got a lot closer towards the end of the season (they were just 21-23 over their last 44 games) it was enough, complete with socially distanced walk-off celebrations [VIDEO].
Streakiness has been a characteristic of this team all the way back to the Joe Maddon days. Part of it has to do with the boom and bust offense we’ve been talking about since 2018, part of it has to do with bullpen inconsistency that seems to date back to approximately the same time period. But with parity being the key feature of the NL Central dating back to checks notes, also 2018, it was possible for the Cubs to take advantage of that streakiness to win the division in a short season.
David Ross will have a much different task entering his sophomore year as a manager as he loses the team’s ace in Yu Darvish and a high quality backup catcher in Victor Caratini. However, as I noted in yesterday’s post, the 2021 NL Central is shaping up to be a remarkably weak division. It’s still unclear how many players the Cubs will deal this offseason.
Projected fWAR of each division— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) December 29, 2020
AL East: 164.1
AL Central: 160.3
AL West: 155.6
NL West: 153.6
NL East: 148.5
NL Central: 126.2
Jed Hoyer’s press conference earlier today didn’t do a lot to clarify the situation. He spoke about this as a small reset, rather than a long rebuild, told us the Darvish trade wasn’t financially motivated, while conceding the team has failed to extend most of its core talent, and seems to believe the Cubs will be competitive in 2021, although that seems like it has more to do with the state of the division than any actual moves that will help this team get better in the short-term this offseason.
It reminded me of shaking a Magic 8 Ball and getting this back:
The future may be unclear, but titles are forever. On the third day of Cubsmas I’m celebrating that It is certain the Cubs were NL Central Champions in 2020 by three games.
On the third Day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me: a three game lead to win the division in 2020, two first round draft picks non-tendered and One World Series ring in the Theo Epstein Era.