The Cubs' Hot Start in Perspective
Records after just 20 games should be taken with a grain of salt. The standard small sample size caveats apply, and particular matchups or hot/cold streaks can skew a team's win-loss record considerably. Still, it's better to be off to a good start than a bad one, and good teams tend to play at least decently across most 20-game stretches throughout the season. The Cubs are off to a hot 12-8 start that places them 4th in the NL and 7th in the majors by winning percentage. How does this compare to recent Cub teams? The table below shows the record for the first 20 games for all Cubs teams since 1980 and their corresponding final season records. As you can see, prior to this year, the Cubs have only been above .500 through their first 20 games in 10 of the past 35 seasons. Doing so is no guarantee of end-of-season success, but the team finished above .500 in 7 of those 10 seasons, making the playoffs in 4 of them. The other three seasons can seemingly be explained away. The 1985 Cubs were very much the same team that won the division title in 1984, but injuries to the pitching staff (Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson, and Dennis Eckersley all spent time on the DL) hamstrung the squad. Similarly, the 2006 team started off well, but a Derrek Lee injury in late April started the team on a slide it couldn’t recover from, especially with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior out for most of the year. I can’t explain away 1980 as well, but the 11-9 start was probably a function of going 5-2 against the lowly Mets, who would finish 67-95 on the year. So, while there are no guarantees, there is a lot to like about the Cubs’ early season success in 2015 and a hot start certainly bodes well for the season as a whole.
|Year||First 20 Games||Winning %||Final Record||Winning %|