Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is a 100 loss season possible?

The Cubs are currently on a horrible trend (interrupted last night by their inexplicable pummeling of Tim Lincecum).

Their record, 48-65, is quite bad, but it is far from being the worst record in baseball which is currently owned by the Pirates at 39-73.

The real depressing thing is that in 2½ weeks’ time, the Cubs have gone from 8 games under .500 to 18 games under .500 (well, now 17 after last night)…

So what record are the Cubs likely to finish the season with?

Taking the season as a whole, spreading their current winning percentage out over 162 games, the Cubs would end up with a 69-93 record. Not good…but not the worst.

Unfortunately, the current trend is that the Cubs aren’t playing as well as they did earlier in the season. Should we expect them to play as bad as they have in the last 2 weeks? No…but if we push out this a couple more week (to the All-Star break) we see that their record is 8-15. We might be able to figure out, possibly a little more accurately, how they might finish. If the 8-15 record trend continues for the remaining 49 games, that would be 32 more losses.

Now you are looking at a 65-97 record. That begins to approach the icky 100 loss barrier.

For 100 loses, the Cubs would need 35 losses in 49 games…14-35? That’s really bad but doesn’t appear to be much worse than 17-32.

The Cubs have only achieved (if you can call it and achievement) 100 loses in a season on two occasions, 1962 and 1966. The ’62 season was in the middle of the infamous “College of Coaches” experiment that failed miserably. And 1966 was the first year after that experiment ended (technically a rebuilding year). But 100 losses is an arbitrary number. If the trend continues and the Cubs reach 97 losses, that would mark the worst record the Cubs have had since 1980. In fact, ’62, ’66 and ’80 are the only seasons where the Cubs have had more than 97 losses in their entire history.

With that said, I'll put this into historical perspective a bit. With all the suffering and poor teams the Cubs have had over their long history, the Cubs haven't had a large number of "horrible" seasons. Look at the Orioles…in their history they have had 10 seasons with 100 losses. The Royals have topped the 100 loss mark 4 times, and they’ve only been around since 1969.

Now, I'm saying that 97 wins is very possible…but what factors might alter the current trend? Well, first off, the players who have played a majority of the time so far this season will not necessarily be playing for the rest of the season. We know that the rotation is now minus Ted Lilly and Carlos Silva. The outfield now has Tyler Colvin permanently fixed in right field. It is possible that Xavier Nady receives much more playing time over at first base. Blake DeWitt has replaced Theriot. And the bullpen is a continuous revolving door right now except for the M&M brothers (Marmol and Marshall). When you have that many changes, a team could easily veer off its current trend line. And in fact, with a roster in this sort of state of flux with this amount of unproven talent, you often see a team become very streaky.

Another factor? The veterans that have been playing far below their career averages may actually start playing well again. Ramirez, Lee, Zambrano…they all will likely start moving their stats closer to their career averages (which I have been saying all season, but has yet to happen).

In the end, 100 losses isn’t likely to happen this year, and it is unlikely that the Cubs will be able to catch the Pirates and the Orioles for the worst record in baseball, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for them to achieve this sad milestone. The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that the Cubs are teetering on the edge of a historically bad season.