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Northside Archives: Post Break Cubs

Written by , Posted in General

As the first half closed Cubs starter Matt Garza, fresh off a beat down from the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, offered this analysis; “we know we can compete with everybody in our division…we’re right where we need to be right now.”  Curiously, the Cubs sit 5th in the NL Central, boasting the second-worst record in baseball, and a horri-awful 12-24 record in divisional games.  Yes, Matt – that’s what the Ricketts’ wanted with their $135 million payroll.

If instead the Ricketts’ had put $135 million in a dumpster, soaked the money in Ronsonol, and spun the wheel on a Zippo things would’ve been more memorable (with the right advertising they could get the attendance to make that a better business decision than the 2011 Cubs have proven to be).

But is Garza’s hope warranted?  Do the Cubs still have even a snowball’s chance in 2011?

Success in the second half

Since the inception of the All-Star break in 1933, the Cubs have posted a better record in the second half during 38 of 77 seasons; almost exactly half the time.  In 22 of those 38 seasons, the record has significantly improved, with the best turnaround being in 1935.

To quantify it, 22 times the Cubs have posted a second half winning percentage that was at least .050 better than the first half.  That’s a significant improvement, a .500 team playing .550 ball after the break.

Those 22 seasons can be a bit misleading though – often times those were solid teams turning the corner and becoming great.  1984, 1989, 2003, and the NL Champion 1935 and 1945 teams all posted significant second half improvements en route to the playoffs.  In 1933, 1939, and 1972 the Cubs were better than .500 before the All-Star Game and still managed to significantly improve post-break.

That leaves us with 14 dismal seasons which only brightened after the All-Star break.  Not surprisingly, the most recent occurrence was last year’s team which started .438 and finished .493 for a total winning percentage of .463 on the year.  Sometimes the Cubs were so abysmal to start it would’ve been difficult to repeat their horrid first half (1953, 1954, 1957, 1966, 1981 just to name a few).  There is one season that rises above the rest for its comparability to our current squad – 1982.

1982

The 1982 Cubs had a mix of the old (Larry Bowa, Bill Buckner, and Fergie Jenkins), young (Lee Smith, Jody Davis, and Leon Durham), and largely forgettable names managed by Lee Elia.  On May 30th they started a 13 game losing streak, their longest of the season.  The first half was not pretty.

At the break, the 1982 Cubs were 36-53 (.404) having been outscored by their opponents 364 to 407.

For comparison, the 2011 Cubs are 37-55 (.402) having been outscored by their opponents 375 to 459.

The 1982 Cubs would initially struggle after the break, dropping 12 of their first 16 before things started to click on August 1st.  From that point forward they won 33 of their final 57 games, good for a second half record of 37-36 (.507) – finishing the season at 73-89 (.451).

2011

Would .500 in the second half be a success?  It wouldn’t get us to the playoffs.  But would it again provide false hope that we’d “done something right” in the second half, just as it did last year?  The biggest lie in baseball might be that team momentum gained at the end of one season will carry over to Spring Training the following year.

The 2011 Cubs DO have a reason to watch every day – a shortstop named Starlin Castro.  Castro – or El Yearling, as handicapper Quade has named him – can do anything and everything during the course of a game.  It’s his growth in the second half that will be my greatest interest.

Those 1982 Cubs had something else in common with this year’s team – a young third baseman! named Ryne Sandberg.  Though Ryno hadn’t yet achieved legendary status, and though in his rookie year he wouldn’t put up gaudy numbers like Castro did last year; Sandberg was laying the foundation for his Hall of Fame career during that horrible season.

Though the postseason is no longer a viable possibility, there is hope for improvement and reason to watch.  Take specific note of our young talent, Castro, Soto, Barney, etc. – it’s during these times when there is nothing to play for that individual attention to one’s craft is apparent.

  • Buddy

    With all due respect to Mr. Garza, the Cubs season is over.

  • Doug S.

    It’s amazing what 3 days off can do.
    My Cubs cynical and sarcastic side has chilled a bit in that time.

    Consider this.
    What takes longer, digging a hole or filling it up?
    Cubs dug an 18 game hole pre ASB.
    Why can’t they fill it up post ASB and finish around .500?

    Drinking the Cubbie kool-aid right now.
    Bring on the Fish.
    Let’s keep my cyn and sar chilled.

  • Aaron

    Doug S, +1.

    I will make a bold prediction and say that the cubs will finish 83-79.

  • Jedi

    Aaron – your optimism is inspiring. That would require the Cubs to compile a 46-24 post-break record (.657), only the 1935 & 1945 Cubs were able to post such an ambitious record after the All-Star game.

    What’s more, that potential 2011 turnaround of .255 from the first half would make this the biggest Jekyll & Hyde team in franchise history. The greatest turnaround after the break was posted in 1935, when the Cubs went from a .556 team to a ridiculous .732 for a turnaround of .176 – it’s just not going to happen this year.

  • As much as I would love to jump on the delusional bandwagon with Aaron, I can’t go quite that far. I will predict much better baseball as we pull away from the ‘stos into the middle of the pack. You know we will play good cop bad cop and mess around with both the Central and WC standings…which is becoming our role in late August. I hope you are right though; that would be great.

  • Jason

    “Do the Cubs still have even a snowball’s chance in 2011?”……my answer: no.

  • cap’n obvious

    Sorry kids. It’s college football season in a month or so. Not too long after that is hockey. Baseball season is over if you’re a Cub fan.

  • Doc Raker

    Jedi- Why would you even write a section called “success in the second half”? The only success this team will have in the second half is finding pieces to roster aftering making jetsam out of all those players previously talked about trading ad nauseam.

  • Jedi

    Doc – you’ll notice that the particular section you’re talking about makes no mention of 2011, that’s not a coincidence.

  • PackerCubBull

    Well looks like the 2nd half is off to a lovely start.
    Was that 2003 all over again?

  • cap’n obvious

    Let me be the first to ask how the hell you don’t back up home after walking the bases full and THEN giving up a 2 run double to tie the game….errrrrr…lose it ON THE OVERTHROW. I learned in JV high school ball at age 13 YOU BACK UP THE PLATE. Hate to say it, but that an organizational flaw…something that Rothschild would have tolerated and Riggins obviously nurtured through the entire Cub system. Anybodt think a Ranger or Giant pitcher would pull that crap?

    On a positive note, San Antonio beat Seattle 69-66 in the WNBA game tonight. And the USA women play for the world cup on Sunday…so I’ve got that going for me. Danielle Adams is a heckuva hoops player, and let’s face it, Hope Solo is pretty friggin’ hot.