A Cubs’ Second Half Surge or Mirage?

By Paul Schmidt

Alot could be made of the Cubs’ first foray into baseball in the second half of the season. Perhaps it was just the four game sweep of the Nationals. There’s certainly some logic to that — the Nats are gawd awful. They did lose two of three to the Phillies in incredibly poor fashion — Even their 5-run victory in the series finale was in doubt throughout and far closer than the score indicated.

But a closer look reveals that maybe, MAYBE…things are looking up.  MAYBE…the Cubs have turned the corner.

There’s a lot to be said about the Nationals being horrible. In fact, a friend quoted Winston Wolff to me from Pulp Fiction, Winston’s famous line about not getting too excited before things have finished up.  If you still don’t know the quote it involves oral…stimulation.  Let’s go with that word.

The Nats are approaching historical badness, which is always fun, as they are on pace for only 48 wins.  Teams don’t win less than 50 games every season.  In fact, the last team to was the miserable Tiger team that only won 43 in 2003. So you can’t discount the fact that the Cubs were playing a miserable baseball team. 

However, there are several points that are salient in this discussion. The first and most obvious is that a win against them is worth the same as a win against, say, the Phillies.

There’s a more important issue at work, however, and it is that teams, quite obviously, win more at home than on the road in MLB.  This year, already, they are doing it to the tune of 147 games over .500. In fact, in no season of the past seven have home teams finished less than 100 games over .500. Home teams, no matter who they are, are just tougher to defeat.

Even the ridiculously poor Nats are currently 6 games better at home than on the road.

With the Phillies, you actually should count yourself as lucky when you go to the home of the defending World Champions and win one game. Taking one of three on the road at Citizens’ Bank Park?  That’s ok.

The point, I suppose, is that a 5-2 road trip, no matter who you are or who you are playing, is a good thing.

When you’re the Cubs and you are nine games below .500 on the road and then go 5-2, well, it’s even better.

Factor in a +7 run differential (not huge, but it more than tripled their differential of the entire season in 7 games), then it’s outstanding.

In the wide-open National League Central, there are currently 4 teams within 2 games of the division lead, and none that are more than 8 out. Anyone can take this division right now.

We should know where the Cubs stand on my birthday, August 11th; whether or not this is a team that can win the division or be an also-ran.

Upcoming there are seven important games against the Reds and the Astros, and then they embark on another long road trip — a 10 gamer, the longest remaining of the season, that takes them to Florida, Cincinnati and Colorado. It ends on the 10th, the day before my 31st birthday.

Will it be a happy one or one where I’m dreaming about Bears’  Training Camp in Bourbonnais?

Stay tuned.