Out of all the National League divisions, there’s only one where the race is close between the leader, second place and third place. That’s the NL Central. However, in a plot of twists and turns, we’ve seen the 2016 World Series Winners, the Chicago Cubs, go from leading, to three games back.
After having a dominant couple of years, consecutively making the postseason from 2015 up until last season, it’s looking extremely likely that the Cubs will miss out on any extra baseball this year. Their last 30 games have seen a .500 record but in the competitive National League, that may not be good enough and there’s additional evidence that they could do worse than that. So here is why you should not put any of your hard-earned cash on them winning the title this season.
Their Away Form
The elephant in the room. Chicago have been terrible on the road; 26 wins to 39 losses, a travelling record that puts them among the bottom of the table with Cincinnati, Miami and Colorado. A month so ago, they were only bettering Miami’s away form.
After looking at their pitching stats, three out of their starting rotation have a better ERA on the road than at pitcher friendly Wrigley Field, but this still ranges from 3.75-5.16. There’s a combination of not having strong enough pitching on the mound across the rotation but also, they lack the run support away to help out.
When you take in account the players with the most At Bats this season, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber; they average a BA of .290 compared at home to .246 away. Luckily for them signing Nick Castellanos from Detroit has hugely helped as he’s .415 compared to .326.
But for the rest of them, there’s no way to go about it; they’re average. And batting .246 isn’t going to help your Lester’s or your Quintana’s who are struggling to keep scoring low.
Difficulties on the Mound
As I’ve just mentioned, Chicago’s pitching rotation isn’t setting the world alight this season. Jon Lester (4.49 ERA) is 35 and you can see that the ageing process is slowly nipping away at his left arm. This season he’s turned away from his fastball- a pitch for most of his 13 seasons in the big leagues he’s used around half the time- and is using it 12% less and using his cutter instead. He’s getting hit off it.
Yu Darvish (4.25) only started eight games last season due to injury, and at 33 it’s unknown if he can get back to the form he once had at Texas. It’s a similar story to Lester’s when you look at his pitch types, he’s not using his fastball anywhere near as was and his upped the amount he’s using his cutter by almost 20%. That being said, he posted a quality start in his last outing against the Mets.
Wrigley Field is pitcher friendly, yet only Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels are the ones with an under 3.00 ERA at home (at 1.79 and 2.63 respectively), which means their run support is helping their higher ERA pitchers but can’t do the same on the road. Unless their rotation starts bucking up their ideas or their hitters turn into the Yankees, don’t bother putting money on the +3000 about them to win the World Series.
Away - New York Mets x2 - .515
Home - Milwaukee Brewers x2 - .511
Home – Seattle Mariners x2 -
Away - Milwaukee Brewers x4 - .511
Away - San Diego Padres x4 - .469
Home – Pittsburgh Pirates x3 - .420
Home – Cincinnati Reds x3 -
Home – St Louis Cardinals x4 – .554
Away - Pittsburgh Pirates x3 - .420
Away - St Louis Cardinals x3 – .554
The Cubs also have a tough schedule for the last month. They’re struggling away and have 16 of those left compared to 14 home games, 15 out of the 30 remaining games are against teams that are over .500, and seven of those are against the Cardinals!
If you’re a neutral hoping for the possibility it’ll come down to the last series against St Louis, I’m going to stop your thought-train there. As they face them beforehand for a four-game showdown as well as an earlier stop away to Milwaukee (who are still fighting for a wild card spot themselves), I’m expecting it to be not so tight as we come into the end of September.
Chicago are in dire need of some changes to their roster when they come into the offseason, and it’s no wonder there are rumours about them pursuing Houston Astros’ Gerrit Cole, who is a free-agent in the winter. My advice is stay well away from the 2016 Champions for a while.
By Jasmine Baba