I don’t think anyone was really missing this series, but I saw a veiled allusion to it in a recent Rundown and figured it was time to revive it now that we’re nearly two months into the season. While that means the Cubs aren’t in nearly as good a spot as they were a few weeks ago, a look back at the rolling odds shows us they were never that great even when they were playing well. Their peak came when they hit 32.4% on April 21, then there were two days in early May when they got as high as second in the division.
The only real constants in the NL Central have been the Brewers at the top and the Reds at the bottom, with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates all rising and dipping pretty wildly. The Cubs are actually far steadier than either of those other two, particularly the Cards, though this stretch of poor play in May has hampered their outlook to a great degree.
At just 18% odds to earn a postseason bid, the Cubs currently sit third in the Central and have a better shot than only two teams outside the division. The Nationals, who somehow beat the Cubs thrice in Washington, are clinging to a 0.1% chance and the Rockies are the only team outside of Oakland with no hope. Of course, things can still change dramatically over the next 113 games.
Not for the Rox, they’re playing for a lottery pick. The Cubs, however, are a half-game up on the Cards in the standings and only four-and-a-half back of the Brew Crew. The pesky Pirates are still above .500 as well, and the Cubs play them six times in June. The balanced schedule means there are fewer opportunities to gain ground with divisional matchups, so those games loom large.
The Cubs also need to tune up on the Reds this weekend because things get pretty difficult after that, starting with three against the Rays to close the month. Then it’s out to the West Coast for 10 against the Padres, Angels, and Giants before returning home to face the Pirates and Orioles. Series against the Pirates and Cards offer more chances to gain ground before hosting the Phillies and Guardians to finish up June.
It’s a little too melodramatic to say the Cubs desperately need to win this series against the worst team in the division, but dropping two ahead of the Tampa tilt would be very bad. The rotation is whole and the offense has more pop than at the start of the season, so the only thing missing is consistency.
Now that this column is back up and running, we’ll be keeping tabs on the march/slog to October each Friday.