Baseball is filled with cliches. You can’t win a pennant in April but you can lose it. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.
There have been several surprising developments during the first five weeks of the 2016 season but the biggest story, by far, has been the sensational start by the longtime “loveable losers,” the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs have won 24 of their first 30 games, winning at an 80 percent pace that logically will be unable to be sustained. But, just for fun, were the Cubs to win at that pace for the duration of the season it would translate into a record of 130-32!
The Cubs actually are tied for the most regular season wins in MLB history. While most fans believe the record is held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners who went 116-46. But early in the previous century the 1906 Chicago Cubs also won 116 games. It was a shorter season and the Cubs 116-36 record is the highest winning percentage (76.3) in baseball history.
The 1906 Chicago Cubs did not win the World Series. That would have to wait another season when the ‘07 Cubs won the first of back-to-back World Series with the 1908 team the last Cubs team to win the Fall Classic.
Ironically the 1906 Cubs lost the World Series to their cross town rivals, the White Sox.
Could we see a Windy City rematch in 2016? It sounded far-fetched at the start of the season as the White Sox had a season wins total of just 82 games. But the Pale Hose have surprised the “experts” thus far and have the best record in the American League, 22-10 through Sunday.
Of course, not only does more than four fifths of the season remain to be played but in 1906 there were no playoffs. The team with the record in the AL met the team with the best record in the NL in the World Series.
In the century plus since baseball has added several additional steps in order to earn a trip to the World Series. In 1969 the leagues were split into two Divisions with the Divisional winners meeting in the League Championship series. Then the leagues were split into three Divisions with a Wild Card added which created an earlier round of Playoffs, the Divisional series. And more recently a second Wild Card was added in each league to add a one game Wild Card Play In Game.
So the road to a Cubs-White Sox “rematch” of the 1906 World Series is a long one still to be traveled. But, especially for Second City citizens, it’s one to dream about that right now has more than an insignificant chance to materialize.
But let’s get back to the Cubs. There are several remarkable things to consider about their 24-6 start.
Through Sunday the Cubs had a runs differential of plus 102, having scored 194 runs while allowing just 82. Consider that the next highest differential is the Mets’ plus 44, a gap of 58 runs (or nearly 2 per game)!
Sports Books have been taking a beating at the expense of Cubs bettors. The high price you must lay with the Cubs is not yet high enough. Whether the Cubs are played straight, in a parlay or on the run line has caused many a headache for sportsbook managers.
The Cubs’ run line performance has been extraordinary. Of their 24 wins to date, 21 of them have been by 2 runs or more. That’s a success rate of 87.5 percent. Even when highly priced to win the game straight the Run Line price has been modest in comparison.
For example, as we go to press on Monday the Cubs are -250 favorites to defeat San Diego in a matchup of Jon Lester versus Cesar Vargas. At -1.5 runs the Cubs are laying -120. Run line wagering shall be discussed within the next few weeks in more detail.
While conventional wisdom suggests the Cubs will show some regression over the next month or so there is nothing that says this is a certainty. It could just be that the 2016 Cubs are an anomaly, an outlier.
We’ve already seen the Golden State Warriors set the record for most wins in an NBA season with their 73-9 record.A prop has been posted as to whether the Cubs will win 100 games.
If not already posted we might well see one similar to the Warriors’ prop that dealt with Golden State setting the NBA record. For a while the YES was the favorite but there was a period when the NO was favored. Down the stretch it became likely that the record would indeed be set but it took wins in their final four games to win that 73rd game.
So we might see a prop that asks whether the Cubs will break the record of 116 regular season wins held by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners.
The NO would normally open a sizeable favorite. But with so many Cubs fans in the Vegas valley the books might have to adjust the price for the “emotional” bets on the YES made by Cubs fans. So there might actually be value in betting the NO.
Oh, and should the Cubs fail to set the record it might not be such a bad thing as in addition to the 1906 record setting Cubs fail to win the World Series, neither did the 2001 Mariners.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Pirates at Cubs
There may be some value in looking to back the Bucs and buck the Cubs and that might be when Jake Arrieta starts for Chicago. Although he has been brilliant since the middle of last season Arrieta has had some control issues, walking 4 batters in 3 of his 7 starts including 2 of 3 at home. The Pirates will be attractively priced underdogs against Arrieta and should have their ace, Gerrit Cole, opposing Arrieta. In the games not started by Arrieta the “safe” play may be to lay the run and a half with the Cubs.
Blue Jays at Rangers
After dropping the opener, Toronto took the next 3 games of their 4 game home series against Texas last week. Both teams have starting pitchers who have pitched well thus far. For Toronto, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada each have ERAs below 3.00 and WHIPs UNDER 1.20.
Texas’ Cole Hamels and A J Griffin also have sub-3.00 ERAs. Any of those 5 pitchers may be played as an underdog even when facing another member of the quintet. OVER Totals of 9 or lower can also be considered except when Estrada starts for the Blue Jays. All 6 of his starts this season have stayed UNDER.
Braves at Royals
Atlanta’s farm system is stocked so the future appears bright. The Braves are the lowest scoring team in the majors, having scored just 90 runs through 30 games in going 7-23. It’s not surprise their runs differential of -63 ranks last. Ian Kennedy has been Kansas City’s best starter, leading the rotation in ERA (2.13), WHIP (1.08) and Innings per Start (6.3).
Potential plays have Atlanta worth backing as underdogs not facing Kennedy, preferably with Julio Teheran or Matt Wisler making the start for the Braves. The Royals may be backed in a start by Kennedy at a price up to -140. Against other than Kennedy, Atlanta may be backed in starts by Teheran or Wisler as +120 or more underdogs or at +150 or more with other starters, except against Kennedy. The UNDER is the preferred totals play throughout the series but only at lines of 7.5 or higher and preferably at a total of at least 8.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]