This is Part 2 of a six-part series looking at the three worst and three best teams in baseball to date, and figuring out why they've done what they've done and whether they'll keep on doing it. Having discussed the third-worst team in the majors, the Houston Astros, we now move on to the Chicago Cubs.
How Bad Have They Been? The Cubs are 8-16, a .333 winning percentage. Over a 162-game season, that's equivalent to going 54-108.
How Much of a Surprise is This? Like the Astros, nobody expected Chicago, 66-96 last year, to be very good. But, like the Astros, people expected an improvement. Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, and ESPN projected 68-75 wins. They were supposed to be bad, but not this bad.
What's Been Wrong? They offense is pretty bad. The Cubs are third-to-last in league with 3.67 runs per game, and an argument could be made that, adjusted for their home park, they're the worst hitting team in the NL. The pitchers have the fourth-worst ERA in the league. The bullpen has logged only two saves in six opportunities, giving the Cubs the fewest saves, the fewest save opportunities, and the lowest percentage of games saved in the league.
Has Luck Been Involved? Please refer here for a discussion of the terms used below, and why I chose them.
I think the Cubs have been a little unlucky. They're 1-4 in one-run games. That sort of thing is unlikely to persist. On all other measures of luck, they're pretty neutral. Their batting average on balls in play, both on offense and on defense, is average, and while they're batting just .205 with runners in scoring position--suggestive of bad timing--the team's hitting just .231 overall. Their hitters have been a touch worse than average at getting fly balls to leave the park, but their pitchers have been a touch better than at average at keeping fly balls in the park as well, evening things out.
What's The Outlook? The Cubs' hitters and pitchers aren't good, but they haven't been that bad. Expect some improvement, if not necessarily a lot.