Don’t look now, but it’s no longer a guarantee that the Cubs win the National League Central. Actually, it’s anything but.
Following a 3-2 victory at Wrigley last night, the Milwaukee Brewers are currently only one game back of the northsiders, still with two games to go against each other. The Brewers and Cubs will go at it today and tomorrow, with the mathematical possibility existing that Milwaukee takes control of the division in the next 48 hours.
Now, just what happened to the Cubs? Combine the MLB’s stupid decision making with a bout of bad baseball, and you see just why the Cubs are in this situation. Due to having to make up a previous rainout in Atlanta, the Cubs are supposed coming to the end of a stretch of 23 games in 23 days, with an off day on Thursday. However, Joe Torre, coupled with the weather in our nation’s capital, has made that not the case.
During a series in Washington, the Cubs and Nationals had to endure more time in delay than they did actually playing baseball. They weren’t able to play the full four-game series, with the finale getting rained out, but every previous game was played in four-hour delays or doubleheaders.
Game just postponed at 3:36… which brings us to our stat of the day:
Elapsed time of combined rain delays this weekend: 10 hours, 56 minutes.
Elapsed time of three combined games: 10 hours, 0 minutes
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) September 9, 2018
There was the game that was called after an inning and a half, leading to the Cubs burning a favorable pitching matchup. There was the game played in a downpour, just long enough for the Nationals to take the lead, then delayed and then restarted at 1:30 AM. There was the game delayed due to rain for four hours, just until the rain stopped, and then postponed. And then there was the game that was postponed quickly, but then rescheduled for Thursday. In the middle of a freaking hurricane.
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All in all, this weekend was not Joe Torre’s finest performance.
Should the Cubs lose the next two games, which seems likely given the actual baseball they have played in the past week, it’s going to be tough for them to win the division. Chicago’s schedule consists of both the Cardinals (at home) and Diamondbacks (in Arizona), on top of their one-game road-trip in the middle of a homestand. Milwaukee goes to St. Louis, but the remainder of their opponents aren’t strong at all.
Fangraphs has the Cubs’ chances of winning the division pinned at 71%, but I can safely say that number is quite a bit high. I know that the Cubs have been on cloud nine since beating St. Louis in the 2015 NLDS, but this team is no longer invincible. There is a very real scenario where the Brewers, who have been playing great baseball of late, win this division and the #1 seed in the NL.
This Brewers team is really good. They’ve made pitchers out of guys like Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin. Their additions of Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, and Curtis Granderson were veteran moves by a young general manager. Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress have been one of the best relief duos in baseball. Make no mistake about it, Milwaukee is no joke,
They’ve also succeeded in spite of what I, and many others, thought would be their Achilles heel after the trade deadline: defense. Jonathan Schoop and Travis Shaw haven’t been catastrophic defenders, and while their infield defense hasn’t been great, it hasn’t been horrible. It also helps a team when Christian Yelich does his best Barry Bonds impression, which he’s been doing for the entire second half.
Despite that, if I had to take a guess, I’d still say the Cubs win the division. Just slightly. I guess it comes with pedigree; the Cubs have been there before, but the Brewers haven’t. However, should the Brewers win the next two games, I think that probably flips. It’s going to be tough for the Cubs to overcome a deficit of any magnitude.