Going 5-13 over your last 18 games and being only a game over .500 in your last 53 isn’t necessarily the best way to bolster confidence. But even as they fall back to earth, the Cubs are burning brighter than their NL Central competitors. And as long as they can avoid a total flame-out, they’ve still got a clear path to the playoffs.
According to FanGraphs, the Cubs still have 98.2 percent shot at the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus has them at 98.5 percent, down from 99.9 just a week ago. It’s a bit of a drop from what we’ve been seeing since June, but still much better than the roughly 35 and 14 percent odds given to the Cardinals and Pirates. Should the Cubs get things moving in the right direction Pittsburgh over the final weekend of the first half, one has to believe it’ll more or less sink the Jolly Roger.
At the risk of discounting the upcoming series, I think the All Star Break is incredibly important to the Cubs’ return to form in the second half. Some of that is about getting health, as they should get Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, and David Ross back. The lineup has been a bit of a patchwork affair over the last few weeks and Fowler will really solidify things upon filling that leadoff spot once again.
There’s something to be said for the emotional break and boost afforded by the Midsummer Classic too. The Cubs can take pride in sending seven players to San Diego and can perhaps find new motivation moving forward. Yeah, yeah, they’re professional athletes and shouldn’t need anything other than money and pride to drive them. Whatever. I’m betting Anthony Rizzo will be pretty stoked about returning to the place his career started, a ballpark in which he struggled before being traded to Chicago.
Guys like Fowler and Addison Russell can soak in the pomp and circumstance for the first time, while Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester get to share the experience with a bunch of teammates old and new.
And then there’s the time off, an immeasurable commodity that the Cubs appear to be in dire need of. They just seem tired and somewhat bedraggled, nothing at all like the happy-go-lucky crew we saw earlier in the season. Take a few days off, hit the reset button, get back to Wrigley and start taking care of business again.
But maybe win some games this weekend before that.