With each new win, another franchise or league record seems to come into jeopardy of falling to the 2016 Chicago Cubs. The hype is real with this team, and deservedly so given the results thus far, but the old cliches still apply: “the best team in the regular season isn’t guaranteed anything”; “the playoffs are a crapshoot”; “it just matters who gets hot at the right time.” None of these statements are wrong per se, especially since 2000 where the team with the best record in baseball each season has only won one World Series (the 2009 Yankees).
Still, that shouldn’t take away from our enjoyment of what’s happening, which is this: the Cubs are in the middle of one of the hottest starts in modern MLB history. First, let’s take a look at the list of teams that have had a start similar to what the Cubs have done thus far.
|Year||Team||Hot Start||Final Record||Finish|
|1955||Brooklyn Dodgers||22-2||98-55||Won World Series|
|1984||Detroit Tigers||35-5||104-58||Won World Series|
|1939||New York Yankees||29-7||106-45||Won World Series|
|2001||Seattle Mariners||20-4||116-46||Lost ALCS|
|1998||New York Yankees||23-6||114-48||Won World Series|
|1970||Cincinnati Reds||22-6||102-60||Lost World Series|
|1969||Baltimore Orioles||20-8||109-53||Lost World Series|
|1956||New York Yankees||25-11||97-57||Won World Series|
|1927||New York Yankees||21-9||110-44||Won World Series|
Every one of these teams except the 2001 Mariners made it to the World Series, and only the Big Red Machine of 1970 and the Orioles of the year prior failed to win it. This list bodes wells for the Cubs’ start since they are outpacing the majority of list already. The Cubs are currently on pace for a ridiculous 130-wins which is a .800-win percentage. There’s a lot of baseball to be played, so predicting the Cubs to win a historic number of games in early May is a fool’s errand. But given the previous list of hot starts, you can see these teams usually do threaten or make history. So it’s a fair assumption the 2016 Cubs will be in the neighborhood of these teams come October, barring catastrophic injury. Let’s look next at the results of the teams with the highest win percentage in any season.
|1906||Chicago Cubs||NL||116||36||0.763||Lost World Series|
|2001||Seattle Mariners||AL||116||46||0.716||Lost ALCS|
|1998||New York Yankees||AL||114||48||0.704||Won World Series|
|1954||Cleveland Indians||AL||111||43||0.721||Lost World Series|
|1909||Pittsburgh Pirates||NL||110||42||0.724||Won World Series|
|1927||New York Yankees||AL||110||44||0.714||Won World Series|
|1907||Chicago Cubs||NL||107||45||0.704||Won World Series|
|1931||Philadelphia Athletics||AL||107||45||0.704||Lost World Series|
|1939||New York Yankees||AL||106||45||0.702||Won World Series|
Out of the eight teams with a .700-plus winning percentage that reached the World Series, five of them won it. At this level of performance, you’d feel pretty good about the chances for the Cubs entering the postseason if they can dominate enough to make this list, and the Cubs are far exceeding this pace right now.
The last stat worth looking at right now is run differential. The Cubs currently sit plus-102 in run differential, leading the league in both runs scored and allowing the fewest. To put that in some perspective, the second best team, the Mets, sit well behind the Cubs at +44. That difference between the Cubs and the Mets (58) is 14 more than the Mets have outscored their opponents so far this season. Furthermore, that’s more than the difference between the second-ranked Mets and the 19th ranked Kansas City Royals (-13). The Cubs are light years ahead of the competition right now in terms of run differential and that’s a great spot to be in.
|Season||Team||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||Run Differential||Finish|
|1939||New York Yankees||6.4||3.68||2.72||Won World Series|
|1927||New York Yankees||6.33||3.89||2.44||Won World Series|
|1936||New York Yankees||6.96||4.78||2.18||Won World Series|
|1937||New York Yankees||6.36||4.36||2.00||Won World Series|
|1931||New York Yankees||6.93||4.94||1.99||Finished 2nd in AL|
|1942||New York Yankees||5.2||3.29||1.91||Lost World Series|
|1998||New York Yankees||5.96||4.05||1.91||Won World Series|
|1929||Philadelphia Athletics||6.01||4.1||1.91||Won World Series|
|2001||Seattle Mariners||5.72||3.87||1.85||Lost ALCS|
What jumps out immediately on this list is just how dominant those Yankees teams were. The next thing is this: What happened in 1931? The 1931 Yankee team holds the record for most runs scored in a season during the modern era at 1,067, but they only finished second in their division, 13.5 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics. Back then, the top-2 teams from each league automatically made the World Series, so despite their stellar run differential, the 107-win Philadelphia Athletics blew them away.
Looking at what we’re here for though, the Cubs are outpacing the entire list again. Six of the top nine teams in run differential won the World Series, only one team lost it, while two failed to reach it. Demonstrating once again that historically great teams are highly likely to reach somewhere the Cubs haven’t been since 1945 and 1908 respectively.
Comparing the Cubs’ start to the best teams to ever play the game shows exactly how dominant this Chicago Cubs team is, if that last week of games wasn’t proof enough. While the era of parity in baseball is thriving, this Cubs team is so far beyond their contemporaries that the standard rules of parity do not really apply. There’s definitely a few caveats raised, like the 2001 Mariners and 1931 Yankees for example. Nonetheless, it’s more telling that these lists are littered with World Series participants, and (perhaps more importantly, as only good teams made the World Series for years), World Series champions. This team was a little off offensively in April, but in May the big bats started to click and we’ve seen the results this past week. It’s been fun.
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports.