Monday, June 13, 2011
The worst Cubs team ever?Posted by Joe Distelheim
Cubs fans of long standing have come to expect two kinds of teams: Disappointing and just plain bad.
This year's team, of which little was expected and less has been delivered, fits without question in the latter category. But how bad?
This bad: At its current pace, you can make a case that the 2011 edition will be the worst Cubs team ever.
Bear with me. As of Sunday evening, the Cubs are playing .390 ball. Now, almost 100 games are left in the season. They might wind up doing better, but they might fall even further. For purposes of this exercise, though, let's assume that the last 60 percent of the Cubs' season will mirror the first 40.
Going back 110 seasons to the start of the modern era, the Cubs have finished .390 or worse six times. Here are those awful teams:
1901: (.381) Still called the Orphans, they had Frank Chance, but not yet Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers.
1956: (.390) Ernie Banks hit. The Cubs fired their manager and GM.
1960: (.390) Lou Boudreau came down from the radio booth to manage. Glen Hobbie lost 20 games.
1962: (.364) Under their "College of Coaches," they beat out the first-year Mets for ninth place.
1966: (.364) New manager Leo Durocher famously declared, "This ain't no eighth-place ballclub." The Cubs finished 10th.
1981: (.381) In a strike-shortened season, the Cubs dumped Bruce Sutter, Dave Kingman, Rick Reuschel and the Wrigley family.
Now, let's compare those teams' accomplishments with the current squad's:
Hitting: Runs scored per game (2011 through Saturday):
1. 1956 3.80 2. 1981 3.85 3. 1962 3.90 4. 1966 3.98 5. 2011 4.05 6. 1960 4.06 7. 1901 4.13
Pitching: Runs allowed per game:
1. 2011 5.13 2. 1962 5.10 3. 1960 4.97 4. 1901 4.99 4. 1966 4.99 6. 1981 4.56 7. 1956 4.51
Fielding: League rank, number of errors.
1. 2011 (16th of 16) 2. 1981 (11th of 12) 3. 1966 (eighth of 10) 4. 1901 (sixth of eight) 5. 1956 (fifth of eight) 6. 1960 (fourth of eight) 7. 1962 (fourth of 10)
(I use ranks here because it's misleading to compare fielding over eras. Also, more advanced fielding metrics are not available and/or not reliable for baseball's early years, so errors will have to do.)
Add up these "worst-to-less worse" rankings of the really bad Cubs teams over the past century-plus—one point for first worst, two for second, etc.
Your 2011 Cubs are on pace to be No. 1 in franchise history!
Joe Distelheim is chief copy editor for The Hardball Times website. He welcomes comments and suggestions via e-mail.