It has been 107 years since the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. That number is the first thing most people think of when it comes to the Cubs, a tally of futility which seems unending. But this year’s Cubs are providing real hope that they could be the squad to finally end the drought.
That hope comes from the way the Cubs rule baseball this year. There is no question that this Cubs team is the most dominant team in baseball so far this season. They are running away with the NL Central. As of Tuesday morning, the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates are closer to last place in the division (9.5 games up) than they are to first place (10 games out).
Now that Chicago is 56 games into the 2016 season, it looks like the Cubs are not just World Series contenders; they could be the most dominant team in baseball history. A number of the Cubs’ statistical achievements so far have them on pace for a historic finish.
Chicago reached 40 wins in its 56th game of the season Monday night. It is the fastest team to the 40-win mark since the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who reached 40 wins in 52 games. These Cubs own a .714 winning percentage which puts them on pace to win 116 games this season. That win total would tie them for the most wins in baseball history with the 2001 Mariners and the 1906 Cubs.
The Cubs have out-scored their opponents by a 143-run margin this year, a total which is more than double that of the second-best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox, who have out-scored opponents by 69 runs. The 1939 Yankees hold the record for the highest run differential of all time (+411) and had a run differential of +164 through 56 games. Those Yankees won 106 games, 10 fewer wins than the current projection for the 2016 Cubs.
On the mound, Chicago is the only team in the majors whose rotation (2.33 ERA) and pitching staff as a whole (2.60 ERA) boast a sub-3.00 ERA. Their numbers – especially in terms of pitching — are also historic. The rotation’s ERA is the lowest by any staff since the 1920 St. Louis Cardinals, whose rotation posted a 2.40 ERA.
The actual runs totals reflect the idea that these Cubs are one of the stingiest teams in history. The Cubs have allowed just 160 runs this season and are on pace to allow just 393 runs. Opponents are batting a measly .201 against the Cubs so far this season.
The record-holders in fewest runs allowed in a 162-game season are the St. Louis Cardinals, who allowed 472 runs in 1968. Chicago is currently on pace to allow 79 fewer runs than those Cardinals, and that St. Louis staff was so dominant that the league decided to lower the mound the following season in order to help batters out. Before that, the record for fewest runs allowed in a season was 380 runs by the 1918 Boston Red Sox in a 154-game season.
It is way too early to tab the Cubs in as the best team in baseball history. There are still over 100 games left in the season, and a lengthy losing streak or a spate of injuries could quickly derail any of these trends.
There is also the question of what the Cubs will do should they clinch their division way ahead of the playoffs. As it currently stands, the Cubs could take it easy in September and still coast into the postseason. Plus, it is likely far more important to this Cubs team to rest up for the playoffs and win the World Series than it is to set regular season records.
But it’s hard to imagine a better way to end a 107-year drought than by doing it in historic fashion, and these Cubs look well set-up to rewrite the history books.