A funny thing is happening on the Chicago Cubs’ inevitable march to a third consecutive NL Central crown. They aren’t leading the division (Milwaukee). They aren’t in second place (St. Louis). And they aren’t in sole possession of third either (tied with Pittsburgh). Making up three whole games over the last 117 should be a piece of cake. Human nature being what is, though, some are concerned that the Cubs will be the same team all year as they’ve been over the first quarter-plus of the season.
That would be great. For the Cubs.
Joe Maddon’s team sits at 25-20. It is a very misleading 25-20. The Cubs have the second-best run differential (+63) in the National League and an expected win-loss record of 29-16, even after last night’s 10-1 loss against the Cleveland Indians.
The three other teams in the Central have performed at or above their expected win-loss rate with a lesser run differential. The Brewers, for instance, are 30-19 with a +18 run differential and a 12-5 record in one-run games. By comparison, the Cubs are a lackluster 5-7 in tight affairs, and only 1-4 in games that have gone to extra innings.
Chicago is playing the best baseball in the division. But baseball is a funny game, one decided, as the cliché goes, by inches. Those inches haven’t been on the Cubs’ side thus far.
The MLB season is a marathon and the cream usually rises to the top. Sometimes it takes some time to get there.
All this to say that the sky is not falling or even showing cracks above the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. There will be a time, not so long from now, when this unlucky and unfortunate stretch of play will be a distant memory.