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2016 squad could be one of baseball’s all-time teams

NSR’s Kevin McCarthy takes a look at the Cubs start and puts it into a historical perspective

Perhaps you’ve heard about the success of the Chicago Cubs this season, or perhaps you’ve been living under a baseball rock. 

Much has been made of the team’s early season success. At times, I’ve wondered why Major League Baseball is letting the season go on. Shouldn’t they just fit the Cubs for their rings, award them the trophy and move on?

The all too classic Cub fan refrain, “there’s always next year,” has been replaced with a joyful, yet cautiously optimistic, “holy cow, they might actually do it.” All over the north side, Cubs fans are raising their Old Styles and Budweisers in jubilant celebration. 

The team has already drawn comparisons to the 1927 New York Yankees — remember those guys? They were good. Oh wait, none of the people raising these comparisons were alive to see them play. But, the numbers are fascinating and certainly worth taking a look at. The Cubs may just be one of the best teams ever. 

The greatest of all time?

For perspective, the 1927 Yankees lineup, better known as “Murderer’s Row,” had four Hall of Famers in it. They had a run differential of +376, which ranks second all-time to the 1939 Yanks, whose run differential was +411. 

The Cubs are on pace to have a run differential of +413. 

According to FanGraphs' [WAR], the 1927 Yankees' 66.3 total WAR is the highest mark of the modern era. The Cubs, at this pace, would shatter that record — the team is on pace to have a total WAR of 73. 

At this rate, the Cubs would win between 113 or 114 regular season games. The record, 116 wins, is held by two teams: the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Neither team won the World Series. It doesn’t seem to be the regular season record to chase after in any sport — ask the 2007 Patriots, 1995-95 Red Wings and this year’s Warriors. 

Superior Starters 

The Cubs’ team ERA is currently 2.67. No team has finished with a better mark since the 1972 Baltimore Orioles (2.53 ERA).

The Cubs starting staff has a combined ERA of 2.31. Since the 21st century began, only two teams have finished with a staff ERA below 3 (2011 Phillies, 2.86 ERA; 2015 Cardinals 2.99 ERA). The Cubs also lead the majors in opponent batting average and quality starts. 

In the National league, the Cubs have four pitchers ranked in the top 10 for ERA. They also have four of the top five NL leaders in WHIP. 

Divisional Dominance 

The 1995 Indians hold the record for the largest divisional lead of all time, winning the AL Central by 30 games in 1995. However, no other Central team finished above .500 that year. The Cubs currently hold a 11.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the division, setting them up nicely for a chance at that record. 

NL Central foes have struggled nightly against the Cubs this season—the North Siders are 21-7 in divisional games. They’ll look to improve on that this week against the Cardinals. 

No one expected the division to shape-up like this; experts thought this would be a tight, three-horse race for the crown. The Atlantis Reno sports book had the Cubs pre-season over/under at 89 wins, with the Cardinals and Pirates each at 87. 

Slow Down, Cubs fans

At the end of the day, as Cubs fans know all too well, all of these crazy statistics mean absolutely nothing. They’re like the other side of the pillow, they’re cool for a while, but after a minute or two, the feeling is gone. 

The Cubs have to get it done in October. And that’s no easy task: a hot starting rotation (like last year’s Mets), a dominant bullpen (such as the 2014 and 2015 Royals), or an individual player (Daniel Murphy in last year’s NLCS) can all bring a team’s World Series hopes to a screeching halt. 

Unfortunately, they don’t hand out the Commissioner’s trophy at the end of June. Cubs fans also know this all too well. Allow a moment for any Cub fan, 60 years of age or older, to grab a nearby tissue box at the thought of the 1969 collapse. 

October is a long way away. And, though Cubs fans may disagree, a cursed billy goat, a jinxed black cat and Steve Bartman have nothing to do with this year’s ball club. It’s time to move on, it’s time to have fun. 

Enjoy the ride.

Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com 


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