I am running a great risk by even posting this article, because I know there are some of you who are adamant that the Cubs difference between winning at Wrigley Field and on the road in 2019 doesn’t matter.
It does matter. Please, at least hear me out.
First, here are the Cubs’ home and road records for the last five seasons:
Cubs home/road records 2015-19
You see the outlier there, I’m sure. The home records were fairly consistent over the last five contending seasons, averaging 51 wins at Wrigley per season. The away record was also consistent — for four of those five seasons. From 2015-18 the Cubs averaged 45.5 wins per season on the road.
Why did this happen? I don’t know, and neither do you, and the point of this article isn’t to try to figure out why it happened. What I do know is if the Cubs had won 45 games on the road in 2019, they would have had 96 victories and won the N.L. Central by five games.
(FWIW, MLB as a whole had road winning percentages of .459 in 2015, .470 in 2016, .460 in 2017, .472 in 2018 and .471 in 2019. Overall for the five years, that’s a road winning percentage of .466, or the equivalent of about 38 road wins in a typical 81-game road season. In general, you’d expect contending teams to do better than that, non-contending teams to do worse.)
The point isn’t whether I think it matters, even though I do. The point is that Cubs players think it matters, and they have come up with something they think might help them:
Kyle Hendricks has thought about it and he believes he and his teammates have come up with an answer.
In case you’ve forgotten, Hendricks went 6-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 14 starts at Wrigley Field but couldn’t find a way to take that dominance with him on the road, where he finished 5-8 with a 5.02 ERA.
“We had a little bit of that (issue) team-wide, and we addressed it as a staff,” Hendricks said Saturday after four sharp innings in an 8-5 win over the Indians at Goodyear Park.
“I can only speak for myself, but at Wrigley I’m so comfortable in the setting and the environment, the look of home plate, the look of the backdrop and all the stuff.
“So going on the road, we’ve talked about going out on the game mound when we get there and just getting a look, getting comfortable with that at first. Because sometimes that’s what gets you. You do your warmups (in the bullpen) and then get out to the game, and it looks a little different than what you’re used to.”
Just standing on it? Is that doable?
“Possibly, yeah,” he said. “The grounds crew doesn’t love it. When we first get there to start the series, show up day one, and a couple pitchers mosey out and just kind of take it in, see what it looks like.
”That’s going to help me, but it was really more of a mindset. Just got to be more aggressive and come out attacking more on the road. I did a better job of that at home because of the comfortability.”
Will that work for Kyle? Will it work for his teammates? I don’t know, and neither do you. But I do think it’s good that Hendricks has put some thought into it, and even that might create the right mindset to going back to having a winning season away from Wrigley Field.