In Monday’s “Three up, three down” article I noted that since the July 2021 trade deadline, the Cubs have been a much better team away from Wrigley Field:
Since the July selloff last year, the Cubs are 30-55, a .353 winning percentage that would be equivalent to a 57-105 regular season. The 30-55 mark breaks down this way: 12-32 at home, 17-23 on the road.
After Monday’s win in San Diego, that’s now 18-23 on the road, and this year the Cubs are 4-11 at Wrigley Field, 6-7 in road games.
That’s a small sample size, but it got me wondering. In general, in recent years even bad Cubs teams have generally played well at Wrigley Field. Not this year’s bunch, at least not so far.
The Cubs are in their 107th season of play at Wrigley Field. In the previous 106 years, they’ve had a better record on the road just 11 times.
Here are those 11 seasons, in chronological order.
1917: 39-38 road, 35-42 home, overall 74-80
1922: 41-37 road, 39-37 home, overall 80-74
1938: 45-30 road, 44-33 home, overall 89-63
1944: 40-37 road, 35-42 home, overall 75-79
1958: 37-40 road, 35-42 home, overall 72-82
1974: 34-47 road, 32-49 home, overall 66-96
1994: 29-25 road, 20-39 home, overall 49-64
1995: 39-33 road, 34-38 home, overall 73-71
2005: 41-40 road, 38-43 home, overall 79-83
2010: 40-41 road, 35-46 home, overall 75-87
2013: 35-46 road, 31-50 home, overall 66-96
First, I’m going to throw out the first two seasons because they’re part of the Deadball Era (even in 1922, after home runs were starting to become a thing in baseball, the Cubs hit only 42 of them, which ranked seventh in the National League). Also, at that time Wrigley Field was a far different place than it is now. It had no upper deck and the current permanet bleachers hadn’t yet been built.
Among the other nine seasons, there were just two with winning records: The 1938 NL pennant winners, and the 1995 Cubs, a product of a shortened 144-game season. I’d normally have left 1994 out of this discussion, as it was a strike-shortened season, but the fact that team had a .537 winning percentage away from Wrigley and just .339 at home is a real puzzler.
The rest of these ballclubs were mediocre-to-bad teams. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers. Was it a lack of power? Here are the league rankings for those seven teams in home runs:
1944: fourth of eight
1958: first of eight
1974: fifth of 12
1994: eighth of 14
2005: second of 16
2010: ninth of 16
2013: second of 15
So... no, that’s not it, these rankings are all over the place, and in fact the 1958 Cubs, who led the NL with 182 homers and set a franchise record that stood until 1987, hit better ta home.
Was it bad pitching? Here are the team runs-allowed rankings for those seven Cubs squads (a “first” ranking here is the fewest runs allowed):
1944: fifth of eight
1958: sixth of eight
1974: 11th of 12
1994: 10th of 14
2005: seventh of 16
2010: 12th of 16
2013: 10th of 15
Diving into some of these numbers, we find diverging reasons. Going back to that ‘58 team, they were slightly better in road ERA than home ERA, but the rest of their pitching numbers were more or less equal. And, the difference between home and road wins was only two, unlike, for example, in 1994. In that season the Cubs scored 5.25 runs per game on the road, but averaged just 3.66 per game at home, while they allowed 4.86 runs per game at home and 4.85 away from home. A different split happened in 2010: 4.35 runs scored per game at home, 4.11 per game on the road, but 5.32 per game allowed at home, 4.15 allowed away from Wrigley.
So far in 2022, that split is pretty weird, skewed a lot by the 21-0 win at home and two blowout losses (11-1 and 9-1) in Milwaukee. The Cubs have posted a 4-11 record at Wrigley despite being outscored only 65-64 there, and are 6-7 on the road even though they’ve been outscored 59-44 away from Wrigley. Much of that is from throwing two shutouts on the road. Small sample size caveats apply, of course.
After looking through all these numbers, I honestly can’t find a reason why this Cubs team has been so bad at Wrigley in 2022. They’ve evenly split their home runs — 10 at home, 10 on the road. The team ERA is 3.89 at home, 4.54 on the road, and they’ve allowed a .764 OPS in road games, .695 in home games. There doesn’t seem to be any discernible pattern.
Anyway, I thought I’d present all these numbers to you and see if you can draw any conclusions after 15 home games and 13 road games in 2022. Have at it.