Happy Hot Stove Season

Well, we’re officially here. The Fall Classic is wrapped, and now, as the weather gets exponentially colder, we’re left with the memories of the 2022 season, and all the anticipation and hope for the 2023 season. Hot stove season is upon us.

For some, it’s time to move on to other sports. Football is mid-season. Basketball is just getting underway. The World Cup is set to kick off. And, we’re nearly halfway to the Premier League mid-season.

But, for the baseball fan, now is the time to dig in. Get out the depth charts and strategize who will be picked to round out the upcoming roster. We’re talking about payrolls, who is really worth their weight in WAR, and which players will be silly to opt-out of their contract.

For me, it’s catch-up time. During the regular season, I spend nearly all of my time watching my beloved Chicago Cubs, or following the Midwestern competition.

The teams I slept on throughout the past season were largely the Marlins, the Giants, the Rangers, and the Diamondbacks. Today’s game was the Twins/Rangers match-up from July 9th.

The Rangers put up three runs in the bottom of the 2nd. The Twins come back in the top of the 4th, with 6 hot runs driven by two dingers from Miranda and Sanchez. The Rangers add another four runs in the bottom of the 4th and it feels close until the Rangers put it away with another two runs in the bottom of the 8th.

Nathaniel Lowe picked up a Silver Slugger award with a breakout season with .302/.358/.492 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. But, it simply wasn’t enough for the Rangers. They ended the season just below the middle of the list.

Interestingly, the Rangers led the field with Stolen Bases (a whopping 128 bags). They tied the Yankees with hits (1,308). They were eighth in the league for home runs (198).

But, they were 13th in the league for runs batted in (670). They were 7th in strike-outs (1,446). Their on-base percentage (.301) was 25th in the league. Ultimately, their offensive production simply wasn’t enough. Defensively, they weren’t that great either.

Did the Rangers have the worst season in the league? Nope, but there were plenty of holes in their game.

18 Seasons Above .500

I love the Chicago Cubs, and given the team’s history, it’s probably not much of a surprise that the Cubs’ 2016 World Series Championship felt surreal. The Cubbies won the World Series in 1907 and 1908, and then not again until 2016. It was more than a drought.

But, let’s look at the past 50 years of Cubs’ performance, from 1972 to 2021. This is as good of a time as any to give a shout out to Sean Lahman and the crew working on the Baseball Archive. It’s incredible stuff. The data behind these graphs comes from the dataset, End of the Season, 2021, 1996 to 2022 by Sean Lahman.

As shown in the graph above, the Cubs hit a high in 2016, with a season win percentage of 63.6%. Certainly not too shabby, especially compared to the previous stretch from the early 1970’s on. From 2012, to 2016, the team was building. You could say the team was building from 1908, but let’s stay focused on the modern era. We’d seen this before. The 1981 season ended with a win percentage of 35.8%. By season end in 1984, the team had climbed out of the deep valley of sorrow, to a season win percentage of 59.6%. It would be the strongest season until 2008.

You might be thinking, what is the share of wins a team needs to be crowned the World Series Champs? The Chicago Cubs had the 8th highest win percentage of any World Series Champion team since 1972. Interestingly, the Cardinals and Twins won their World Series with shy of 53% wins during the regular season in 2006 and 1987, respectively. I think I may have been at one of those regular season Twins games. I remember being in the stadium and waving a Homer Hankie. I suspect Kirby was knocking them out of the park. But, I was also probably more focused on frozen ropes than the at bat ratio.

We know that the Cubbies need a lot of runs to win games. Although offense isn’t the only aspect of winning, it sure is a lot of what makes a win. 2016 wasn’t the 50-year high for runs, but it was certainly in the top tier. You’re probably staring at that weird left-most outlier. That’s 2020 data. The pandemic was not kind to getting many games in, but we did get some baseball and that’s all I could have asked for.

2008 was another good year for runs, as was 2017 and 2019. Neither of those years translated to WSC, but it had us dreaming. Even with all those runs, the competition was strong and there were holes in the defense. Regardless, it’s interesting to look at run and hit comparisons.

Before the 2022 season began, I was talking with a friend who asked where I saw the Cubs’ season win percentage landing. As of today, we’re at .406 and are sitting in third place in the NL Central. We’re in the back half of the season. The trade deadline is two days away. I’m hoping we can hit .430 for the season and keep the rebuilding happen. Besides, there have only been 18 seasons over .500 in the last 50 years.