The Cubs Should be Better, Right?

The Cubs Should be Better, Right?

While lounging around and brewing beer on Memorial Day, I received the good news that I had just come into quite a windfall. I knew that it was totally legit because, despite the questionable capitalization, the guy used "Esq." as a title. I mean, that carries a lot of weight with me. Plus, his client shared my last name, so there's no way this could be some sort of lame scam.

Greetings!

I am Olivier Lokossou, a solicitor and an Advocate of the supreme court of Lome Togo; I worked as a personal Attorney to late Mr.A.Altman, who passed away in a car accident in Togo alongside his family members in April 21st, 2010. He left behind an investment bond of USD 10.5 Million with a bank here in my country, before his death.

I have in my possession legal documents that could give you the legal rights for the claim. Send me your sincere thoughts about this mail so that we can get started with the process.

Sincerely,
Olivier Lokossou Esq.

Now, I'm not ready to lump Tom Ricketts & Fam with Mr. Lokossou, but there is a growing sense of unease, even among the most staunch supporters of the current process, that we might have been duped just a little. Listen, no matter which side of the argument you want to take, it's pretty easy to see that not everything has gone according to plan.

I, for one, have taken Ricketts to task for not being more transparent in addressing the situation(s). In fact, I have gone so far as to refer to him, both in print and on the air, as a duplicitous turd polisher who lacks sac. With all due respect, I've had enough of the "well, what's he supposed to say?" talk. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I'd like to see an owner who doesn't sound like he's reading from a teleprompter.

The repeated failings of the business side of the organization haven't exactly been uplifting in the face of the poor on-field performance, yet Tom seems content to slap on that pleasant face and tell us that all is well. Of course, they've said all along that the biz and baseball sides of the organization were going to dovetail. I guess I just figured they meant that in a good way.

But the Cubs' marketing flubs are a dead horse, so I want to talk about the on-field product for a while. Okay, that's more like a tub of glue at this point, but I'm going to put a stick in it anyway. With a .388 winning %, the Cubs (19-30) lead the Houston Astros (20-32) by only three thousandths of a point for the 29th-best record in baseball.

But are they really that bad? If you watched a game in which Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz started (with the exception of Memorial Day) and Jose Veras closed, you might be inclined to think so. But their run differential (-2) is better than 16 other teams, leading one to believe that perhaps they're just unlucky.

From my old high school math days, I remember that the Pythagorean theorem states that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. In other words, a² + b² = c². But where the Cubs are concerned, it looks more like a² + b² = wtf².

Stats guru Bill James developed his Pythagorean expectation formula to determine how many games a baseball team should win based on the number of runs they've scored vs. the number they've allowed. You can find different variations of expected W% on Baseball Prospectus, but I'm going to save you the effort here below.

By the first order, which uses only actual runs scored vs. runs allowed, the Cubs should be 3rd in the NL Central at about 24.3-24.7. By the second order, which substitutes expected runs scored vs. runs allowed, the Cubs are 2 games over .500, and still 3rd, at 25.6-23.4. Finally, by the third order, the Cubs sit at 25.3 - 23.7 and still in 4th place.

Okay, great, so what does that all mean? Well, it means that, statistically, this is a .500 ballclub, maybe a little better. It also means that they're incredibly inconsistent. They'll combine for 5 runs in 3 games vs. the White Sox, then blow up for 12 in the 4th game. They'll drop 17 on St. Louis in one game while combining for 13 in the 3 games before and 3 after.

What's more, these Pythagorean expectations show that the Cubs really are pretty darn unlucky. Just ask Jeff Samardzija, the latest poster boy for the uselessness of W-L records for pitchers, about his team's maddeningly sporadic run scoring. But hey, he did get his first win on Monday; despite allowing 3 runs and raising his ERA to a stratospheric 1.68, his team plated 8 runners to support him.

Oh, the Cubs are also 3-10 in 1-run games, the worst mark in baseball. So that's, um, not good.

If you've ever gotten a personal email from me, it was probably the result of a hack job. But if I had sent one of my own volition, you would probably see that the signature contains a quote often attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

The Cubs have spent the last few years preparing and it's starting to look like opportunity might be joining the party before too long. After Tommy Cook's prescient piece about not getting anxious about Javier Baez's struggles, the free-swinging phenom has gotten back on track and started mashing. In related news, EMTs saw a sharp increase in reported swoonings among male Cubs fans.

But when it comes to swooning, Kris Bryant may have cornered the market. All he's done since arriving at AA Tennessee is lead the team and league in nearly every positive offensive category (slashing .337/.431/.641 with 14 HRs and 43 RBI). Combine that with those blue eyes and that gleaming smile and...

Oh, sorry, I think I lost you there for a bit. Anywho, I guess the moral of the story is that, just like by buddy Ricketts has been saying, all really is well. Sure, the Cubs owner comes across with just as much veracity and trustworthiness as an email scam artist, but I still feel obliged to provide him with my personal information.

Maybe this will end up just like the time I got the message from my not-quite-friend about being robbed in London and needing cash, or the eBay buyer who could only send a $5,000 check for our jogging stroller (I was to cash it and send him the balance), or my long-lost relative's consigliere (above).

But I've got a feeling about this one. It's not necessarily because I trust the messenger though, but because I'm looking at things and thinking that the guys running the show are smart enough to get it going. Because, after all, this team should be better; statistics never lie. And things can't get worse at this point. Right?

Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman

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  • 1. The spam from Togo is fake. Real spam comes from Benin. I have also replied to the Nigerian ones that maybe they should use the money to ransom the girls.

    2. As far as "should the Cubs be better," the answer is when? According to someone, he is satisfied with 2018, but not now.

    3. As usual, Jeff had to start the rally. At least someone drove him in and kept the inning going.

    4. The only statistic that counts is .388 according to the MLB.com standings at the moment. But MLB, as a whole is .500.

  • Considering that the Cubs were never intended to contend in 2014, this is a blessing in disguise. It allows for one more (and it had damn well better be ONLY one more) top 10 draft pick and the associated pool money, as well as the right to buy one or even two of the top SP on the market without sacrificing that first round draft pick. I expect the Cubs to be buyers at next season's trade deadline, and will be very unhappy if they aren't a playoff favorite by 2016.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Darth Stout:

    I see this as further evidence to back Jesse Rogers' repeated claim that this team could easily go from 90+ losses to 90+ wins from one season to the next. Is that perhaps too sunny a disposition? Maybe, but when you look at advanced stats, the argument can certainly be made that they're not actually as far from contention as it seems.

    Sometimes stats lie, so you have to take that with a grain of salt; as jack points out, the only stats that matter are the actual ones in the standings. But I like that this points to them getting closer to the confluence of preparation and opportunity. If we just take the 3 under-performing players I mention in this article and replace them next year with the Bryant, Baez, and Arodys Vizcaino, it's very reasonable to imagine a few more victories.

    The 3-10 record in 1-runs games is, to me at least, indicative of a lack of confidence and mental toughness. I believe that with the swagger and ability the kids will bring, that can be turned around too. You can't measure mental impact, so that's just total conjecture on my part.

    It's FAR from a guarantee, but this thing is looking to me less like a total disaster and more like a team with a couple of broken parts that simply need to be replaced.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    The F.O. could get a headstart on this offseason by sending Veras off to the glue factory.

  • In reply to Darth Stout:

    They could do that now, but as some commentator pointed out this morning, clubs are too dependent on the bullpen and there aren't enough bullpen arms to go around, especially if the starters are only going 5 or 6.

  • In reply to jack:

    Good point. Maybe Veras shows something down the line here.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Darth Stout:

    I recently made the analogy between Veras and a crappy lemon of a car. If I have such a car that I'm trying to sell and it loses pieces and gets worse every time I drive it, I'm eventually going to need to stop driving it. Or just cut bait and take it to the junkyard.

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