A good many hands have been wrung over the Cubs’ less-than-stellar performance away from Wrigley this season, but should that really be much of a concern? I mean, yeah, it would be less stressful for everyone from the owner’s box on down for them to stop rolling over on the road. Thing is, where and how you get wins doesn’t matter as long as you keep stacking them up.
So while the Cubs’ .389 road winning percentage (21-33) is worse than everyone but the Marlins in the NL (the AL Central alone has three worse teams), their .684 mark (39-18) at home is better than all but three teams in MLB. That amounts to a .541 overall mark that is best in the NL Central and third-best in the league, putting them on pace for 88 wins and a playoff berth.
Not good enough, you say? History says otherwise, particularly if we travel back in time 32 years to a previous iteration of the team currently taking the AL Central by storm. The ’87 World Series champion Twins won the AL East by just two games over the Royals by posting an 85-77 (.525) record that featured an absolutely brutal 29-52 (.358) performance away from the Glad bag outfield of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
All the Cubs would need to do to match that Twins squad is to go 8-19 over their final 27 road games, 10 of which are coming up at the conclusion of their three-game set with the A’s. Even though their opponents aren’t all cupcakes, it stands to reason that the Cubs can at least maintain their current winning percentage. That would see them racking up 10 or 11 wins, thereby surpassing the Twins.
The game has changed quite a bit since then, including divisional realignment and the addition of two Wild Card teams, so the playoffs are a little bit more difficult these days. That’s definitely the case for the Cubs, who don’t figure to have home-field advantage in any round and would then have to overcome their poor road performance under much more duress than the regular season offers.
But that’s where their precision pitching and strengthened lineup come into play. Though they can’t be counted on to issue zero walks every single time out, the rotation has been nails over the last six starts. That will play on the road. And the addition of Nicholas Castellanos to the lineup gives the Cubs 1.21 gigawatts of extra punch, particularly against lefties.
Would it be better for them to immediately reverse the embarrassing trend of playing poorly away from Wrigley? Absolutely, but it’s not an impossible hurdle to clear come October.
Ed. note: This post was spurred by Jon Heyman comparing the Cubs to the ’87 Twins on Mully & Haugh Monday morning.