Last season, I began a series I called Quantifying Hope, the purpose of which was to look at the Cubs’ playoff odds and various other statistical projections that illustrated the team’s potential for success. We obviously don’t have that information available yet, but I did receive a request to do a preview/breakdown of the 2016 schedule. It took me a while to determine exactly how to go about doing that, but I think you’ll be pleased with my final product.
I used projections from FanGraphs to determine opponents’ strength and then pulled the rest of the information from the schedule itself. Below you will find the season broken down by month in terms of strength of schedule (SoS), day/night and home/road splits, broadcast partner (click here to see whether you have a local provider picking up the ABC-7 and WGN games), and my personal win-loss projections. I then compiled all of that information into a full-season snapshot before providing a look at some of the various streaks and stretches apparent in the schedule. Enjoy.
April (24 games)
Broadcasts: CSN (11); WGN (7); CSN+ (3); ABC-7 (2); ESPN2* and WPWR (1 each)
Evan’s record: 16-8
May (28 games)
Broadcasts: CSN (12); WGN (8); ABC-7 (4); CSN+, ESPN, FOX, and WPWR (1 each)
Evan’s record: 18-10
June (28 games)
Day/Night: 12/14 (2 TBD)
Broadcasts: CSN (15); WGN (7); ABC-7 (5); FOX (1)
Evan’s record: 18-10
July (25 games)
Broadcasts: CSN (10); WGN (6); ABC-7 (5); FOX (2); CSN+ and WPWR (1 each)
Evan’s record: 15-10
August (27 games)
Day/Night: 10/16 (1 TBD)
Broadcasts: CSN (13); WGN (6); ABC-7 (4); CSN+ (3); FS1* and WPWR (1 each)
Evan’s record: 16-11
September/October (30 games)
Day/Night: 13/15 (2 TBD)
Broadcasts: CSN (15); WGN (6); ABC-7 (5); CSN+ (2); FOX and WPWR (1 each)
Evan’s record: 17-13
Overall (162 games)
Day/Night: 73/84 (5 TBD)
Broadcasts: CSN (76); WGN (40); ABC-7 (25); CSN+ (11); WPWR (5); FOX (4); ESPN, ESPN2*, and FS1* (1 each)
Projected record: 94-68 (FanGraphs); 100-62 (Evan)
Easiest month: April
Not only is it the easiest period in terms of opponents’ projected strength, but the Cubs are coming fresh off of Spring Training and get to start out West. What’s more, they close the month what is — on paper at least — their easiest 10-game stretch of the season.
Hardest month: June
Three months are expected to have more difficult opponents, but it’s hard to judge things based on those projections. What is absolutely certain, however, is that June is the most road-heavy month of the schedule. The Cubs also have only two days off in the month, which plays into their busiest stretches (more on that to come).
Easiest stretch: 4/21 – 4/30
The Cubs close April with 10 games against the Reds, Brewers, and Braves, teams expected to finish among the bottom four in baseball in terms of overall record. The last six of these games are at Wrigley too, so the Cubs should really be able to put together a nice little streak at this point. Early June and mid August offer some periods of mild resistance as well.
Hardest stretch: 8/26 – 9/4
The Cubs will finish off a nine-game West Coast swing with three games against the Dodgers before heading straight back home for a three-game set with the Pirates and four more against the Giants. They get a bit of a break by playing the Brewers in 7 of the next 13 games, but sandwiched in between are three roadies apiece in Houston and St. Louis. There’s also a nine-game stretch starting on June 13th in which the Cubs face the Nats, Pirates, and Cards, though the final six are at home.
Longest homestand: 10 games (3 times)
The Cubs will have three separate 10-game homestands: May 5th – 15th; May 27th – June 5th; September 15th -25th. All will be important, but that final set features their last home games of the season, all of which come against divisional opponents. The last three games at Wrigley will be against the Redbirds.
Longest road trip: 11 games
From June 23rd – July 3rd, the Cubs will hit the road to face the Marlins, Reds, and Mets. The first seven tilts shouldn’t tell us much, but the four in Queens could really be telling. Depending on how the rotations set up, it could be almost a replay of the NLCS…or maybe of preview of things to come.
Most consecutive games: 20
From June 17th to July 6th, the Cubs will be playing without a day off. This stretch includes the road trip mentioned above, plus nine home games against the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds. This will not be an easy three weeks and will be made a bit more difficult by the fact that they’ll have just been coming off of a run of 19 games in 21 days. So, yeah, that’s 39 games in 41 days. Then they get another day off before heading to Pittsburgh for three more to close out the first half. 42 games in 45 days? That All-Star break would be a welcome reprieve, but for the fact that several Cubs will probably be participating in the Midsummer Classic. This will be where the team’s depth and flexibility will really be tested.
Other notable quirks:
- The Cubs open (6 games) and close (7 games) on the road
- 26 of the final 33 games are against divisional opponents
- Longest stretch w/out divisional opponent is 19 games (5/27 – 6/15)
- Only 7 nationally televised games (barring any flexing)
- Up to 78 day games or 89 night games
- Two 11:35am starts, at Pittsburgh (5/4) and Cincy (6/29)
- Seven post-9pm starts, including first two games of season
- None of first 4 games start earlier than 8:40pm (RIP your sleep, EST folks)
On paper, things appear to stack up relatively favorably for the Cubs in the coming season. The Cardinals should be down from last season, the Pirates don’t appear to have done much in terms of big improvements, and the Brewers and Reds should serve as tomato cans to help break up some of the heavyweight bouts along the way. Of course, the games are played on paper. But if nothing else, I hope this breakdown serves as a quick primer for what’s in store for the Cubs in 2016.
*Simulcast with ABC-7 (so you’ll see 164 games if you add up the numbers in the total broadcast schedule)