Cubs’ Pythagorean Record Offers Faint Hope Amid Disappointment
The 2019 Chicago Cubs will be remembered for a September swoon that dropped them from contention and sealed Joe Maddon’s fate. It was a weird season that feels even weirder by putting “former Cubs manager” ahead of Maddon’s name. It’s possible no measure of success would have changed things in that regard, but the Pythagorean theorem says the Cubs should have been better.
The Cubs’ Pythagorean record of 91-71 — based on a +106 run differential — was almost good enough for first place in the division. Going into the last game of the season, the Cubs actually had a better expected record than the St. Louis Cardinals.
There are several ways to interpret that expected record, the first of which is that it shows how good they could have been. Several season-ending injuries and many more nagging issues throughout the year hindered their performance, but a healthy squad with depth has to give fans hope going forward into 2020.
On the other side, under-performing Pythag by seven wins seems preventable had the bullpen and bench depth been sufficiently addressed last offseason. These team deficiencies were highlighted by an MLB-leading number of errors and outs on the bases. Then there was Daniel Descalso’s -0.7 WAR and Albert Almora Jr.’s -0.5 WAR, leading to more than one loss over their nearly 600 combined plate appearances.
The 2020 Cubs will undoubtedly look drastically different. Jason McLeod has already been moved out of his amateur head scouting role, Maddon will not return, and many players will be turned over by various means. But had there just been a few small tweaks to the 2019 squad, we might’ve been celebrating another division championship instead of mourning the end of a Cubs era.