The 2023 All-Star Game is in the books and tonight, the Cubs will resume the season at Wrigley Field, hosting the Boston Red Sox.
This year’s trade deadline comes up in 18 days, Tuesday, August 1, and what the Cubs do on the field between now and then will likely determine whether they buy, sell or stand pat at the deadline. I’m guessing Jed Hoyer & Co. are prepared for all three possibilities and haven’t committed to one particular course of action as of today.
One thing to remember is this: A year ago, as the 2022 season was set to resume, the Cubs stood at 35-57, 22 games under .500, in fourth place in the N.L. Central, 14½ games out of first place. They had won their final game before the break — but that was after losing nine in a row. There was no question a second straight selloff was going to happen.
And happen it did, as the Cubs traded four pitchers who had been part of a pretty good bullpen in the first half: Scott Effross, Mychal Givens, Chris Martin and David Robertson. In return they received Zach McKinstry, Hayden Wesneski and two guys who are still in the Cubs minor leagues, Ben Brown and Saùl Gonzalez. McKinstry’s gone. Wesneski has had his moments and could still become a good MLB pitcher, as could Gonzalez and Brown.
Funny thing was, the Cubs then won their first five games out of the break, sweeping a good Phillies team on the road and taking a pair from the Pirates at home. As you know, they went on to have a 39-31 second half, the fifth-best record in the National League after the break. The four teams who were better (Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Mets) all made the postseason.
This Cubs team is clearly more talented than the bunch that went 39-31 after the break last year. Could they outdo that in the 73 games remaining? They’d probably have to win about 44 or 45 of them to win the N.L. Central, and that’s a lot.
The Cubs have played 21 different teams so far. Only seven of those teams are currently under .500 (and two of them, the Twins and Angels, just a game under). The collective W/L percentage of those 21 teams is .509 as of today.
That leaves eight teams the Cubs haven’t played up to now — Blue Jays, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Braves, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Those teams have a combined winning percentage of .479 — and that’s even counting the Braves, who have MLB’s best record. Take Atlanta’s mark out of that group and the combined winning percentage of the other seven is .451. The Cubs also have games remaining against the following teams with losing records: Cardinals, Nationals, Pirates and Mets.
All told, of the Cubs’ 73 remaining games, 37 will be against teams currently under .500. Seven of those are against the Pirates, and the Cubs are 6-0 against Pittsburgh so far this year. Six more will be against the N.L. West last place team, the Rockies, and seven more against the White Sox and Royals, who have a combined winning percentage of .350.
Sure, that means the other half of the remaining games are against better ballclubs, but if the Cubs can play about .500 ball in those games and win two-thirds of the rest, they’d be looking at going about 43-30 or maybe even 44-29 the rest of the way.
That’d be 85 or 86 wins and that just might be enough to win the N.L. Central.
Of course, you have to play, and win, the games. But an inferior Cubs team last year nearly knocked the Phillies out of the postseason, and swept the Mets out of first place in the N.L. East, forcing them to play a wild-card series against the Padres, which they lost.
All I’m saying is this: I think this team is more talented than their record. They have a somewhat “easier” schedule going forward. It’s time to show off that talent. Go Cubs.