There are currently two active MLB series that are potential playoff previews for early October. Yesterday we talked about Yankees-A’s. Today, let’s check in on the Chicago Cubs visiting the Milwaukee Brewers.
Though, there’s still almost a month of regular season baseball to be played, the Cubs are in great shape to earn the #1 seed and home field through the NL brackets. That’s a big part of why they lead the futures board in the senior circuit. Assuming it holds, Chicago would open against the wildcard survivor. Milwaukee is currently best positioned to host that one-game play-in.
In recent action, the Cubs have surged above a crowded NL pack. But a closer look shows that much of that “surge” came on a 6-1 homestand against the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets. Non-contenders playing out the string. Yesterday’s Yankees discussion included a chart showing won-lost records vs. contenders since the All-Star break. Chicago didn’t grade out as impressively dominant in that measure.
Treading water vs. playoff caliber teams means you’re likely playoff caliber. You belong. But it doesn’t suggest any sort of head-to-head edges come October. Do the current standings paint a misleading picture of Chicago’s NL championship hopes?
Here at VSiN, we see two potential skeletons in the closet moving forward. First, there’s no way pitcher Cole Hamels is going to continue his extreme dominance. Through seven starts as a Cub…
Cole as a Cub
K/9 IP: 8.6
Regression is going to be a bear! Chicago won his first six starts, all against non-contenders. Start No. 7 was a Labor Day loss in Milwaukee.
The second involves Chicago’s offense. Though this unit is capable of putting up big numbers vs. weak pitching…it has struggled vs. quality arms. And, since the All-Star break, it hasn’t sparkled compared to other contenders in a great indicator stat called “weighted on-base average.” (source: fangraphs)
NL Weighted On-Base since ASB
St. Louis .333
LA Dodgers .329
This stat assigns the proper analytics value to each type of hit. Despite a manageable schedule, the Cubs offensive isn’t consistently impressing in the second half of the season.
Wednesday night’s series finale will provide an important test for the Cubs, who lost 11-1 Tuesday. There aren’t many left! A return bout next week vs. the Brewers at Wrigley…a mid-September series in Arizona…and what might be a lame-duck weekend finale vs. St. Louis to close out the season.
Handicappers and bettors will learn a lot more about Chicago’s championship readiness over the next week.