If you follow us on Facebook you know that page owner Anno Catuli and I have a little gentlemen’s wager going about the Cubs. Specifically, we are looking at the 2012 Cubs and how many runs they can score in the month of April. We’ve set the over/under at 70, with me taking the 70 or over and Anno taking the under. Who will triumph? We really don’t know. But let’s do a bit of quasi-analysis here.
Let’s look first at the slate of games we have in April:
- 3-game set against the Nationals
- 4 games against the Brewers
- 3 against the Cardinals
- 3 against the Marlins
- 3 against the Reds
- 3 against the Cardinals again
- 4 against the Phillies
That’s 23 games in April, so to score 70 runs, the Cubs have to average a smidge over 3 runs a game.
Now, you look at those teams and none of them are pushovers. The Reds, Cards and Brewers are going to duke it out for NL Central supremacy. The Nationals have a solid rotation and a good young core of players. The Marlins aren’t that bad. The Phillies have the rotation from hell. So this seems difficult unless Alfonso Soriano goes on a tear. But let’s take a look at what happened in previous years to put stuff in context.
As you know, Wrigley Field is a hitter’s park, and offense as a whole is a lot better than it was, say, in 1908, when the St. Louis Cardinals scored only 372 runs to set and maintain the record for offensive futility. (Boy, did they ever get the last laugh eh.) We can look at the current 40-man roster and it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. The lack of power hitting outside of Soriano doesn’t mean that the Cubs can’t score runs, but it will make it difficult to score runs in bunches. In our case, we don’t need the Cubs to score in bunches; we just need them to score 3 a game, and maybe 4 or 5 every now and then in April.
How futile can an offense be? Anno mentioned the 1997 Cubs, who went 68-94 and at one point was 0-14 before they thought, “Hmmm, maybe we should try winning for a change.” That team scored 95 runs in 25 April dates, just a smidge under 4 runs a game. In total, the Cubs scored 4.24 runs per game in 1997, which actually isn’t that impressive if you consider the era (OMG STEROIDS) and that the team that scored the least that year, the Reds, still averaged over four runs a game. So we can’t really use the 1997 Cubs as our standard, especially since Sammy Sosa was on that team (his homer numbers were impressive, but that .300 OBP was UGH).
Let’s instead look at 2011. That season, the Cubs scored 106 runs in 26 April dates for a 4.08 runs/game average. This was when Soriano, who is still on the team, went on a tear but Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena were struggling. Rami and Pena are no longer on the team, so you can put that in perspective. They’ve replaced Kosuke Fukudome with David DeJesus so OBP at the top of the order should be okay. So 4 runs a game seems possible even for an anemic Cubs offense.
To put things in relative terms, check out the rest of the league in 2011. That season, the worst offenses were those of the Mariners (3.43 runs/game), the Giants (3.52) and the Padres (3.66). All of those guys play in what would be called pitcher’s parks. The Cubs, in comparison, scored 4.04 runs/game. Our gentlemen’s bet requires them merely to score 3.04 runs/game. Do you think the 2012 Cubs are one full run worse than the 2011 Cubs? That seems quite a stretch. They’d likely be worse, but not historically bad.
We can also look at projections. If you look at the CAIRO and Marcel projections and run season record projections based on those, you get 71 and 70 wins for the Cubs, respectively (H/T Obstructed View). I’m not proficient enough on statistics to tell you exactly how they came up with the calculations, but those people are smarter than I am and I trust their judgment. Anyway, in those projections, the Cubs were expected to score 650 (4.01 runs/game) and 668 (4.12) runs, respectively. This might be a bit optimistic, but is within the realm of reason. The point is that the Cubs should be able to score somewhere between 3 and 4 runs per game, and that should be enough for Rice to beat Anno at this gentlemen’s bet in the month of April. Maybe they’ll completely suck it up and score 69, because that projection is for the season and doesn’t take into account extended slumps like the ones that plagued Rami and Pena last season, but they’d really really REALLY have to suck to score less than 70. I think I win by a comfortable margin.
Coincidentally, the projections seem to favor the Cubs ending up with 70 wins on the season. Now, I said the Cubs would score runs; I never said they could also prevent them. That would be a whole different story.