Sorry, Gerrit Cole, But the Chicago Cubs Are Easily the Best Team in Baseball
Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole is an extremely talented individual. He stifled the Chicago Cubs Sunday, posting eight shutout innings while walking none and striking out seven. Given the way the Cubs have played this year, that should show that Cole is good at what he does.
Even the best can be wrong sometimes.
Gerrit Cole on the Cubs: "I don't really think they're the best team in baseball."
— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) May 15, 2016
Oh. Well then.
The full quote from Cole, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, was "I don't really think they're the best team in baseball, so it's just one game at a time. It doesn't really matter who you're playing. You just have to keep going at them."
Now, that seems a bit less harsh, even if he's abusing his book of cliches, but it still shows that Cole isn't a believer in the Cubbies just yet. We'll get into why he's wrong in a second, but Sports Illustrated's Jonah Keri provided just about as much explanation as we'd really need.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) May 15, 2016
Keri's response was perfect because most of you reading this don't really need to be told that the Cubs are the best team in the league. They're on an historic pace, and you've likely read plenty about their Gucciness already. Instead, let's look at how wide the gap is between them and the rest of the pack, including Cole's Pirates.
numberFire's nERD metric quantifies a team's abilities by measuring how many runs better (or worse) they are than a league-average team over the course of a game. Basically, it's an expected run differential if one team were to face a team that was exactly average in a single contest at a neutral park. And, oh baby, does nERD love it some Cubs.
This table shows you how the top five teams in nERD shake out right now. You can see all 30 teams on our team power rankings page, but it only takes the top five to show just how ign'ant the Cubs have been this year.
|Team||nERD||World Series Odds|
|Boston Red Sox||1.83||12.2%|
|St. Louis Cardinals||1.62||3.2%|
nERD has the Cubs being nearly a full run better than any team in the entire league, and they're 1.12 runs better than the National League's second-highest team. They're the best in the league, brochacho, and it isn't particularly close.
You'll notice that Cole's Pirates didn't make that list. They're down in 13th place with a 0.22 nERD, meaning the Cubs would be 2.52-run favorites at a neutral park. They also blitzed Cole for 5 earned runs over 4 2/3 innings earlier in May, so his disapproval of their superiority is a bit of a head-scratcher. You'd think he'd want to fluff up his foes to make his outing Sunday appear more impressive, but he chose a bit less flattering route.
Any time a team has 20.9% odds of winning the championship less than a quarter of the way into the season, they're doing something right. You don't luck your way into a plus-109 run differential over only 36 games. The Cubs are just that good.
We'll go easy on Cole here considering it's a division rivalry and the full quote wasn't as bad as it seemed. Still, young fella would be smart to acknowledge just how truly dominant the Cubs have been thus far. The Pirates and Cubs still have to see each other 13 more times this season, so if the Cubs are as good as they've looked, Cole will see that for himself first hand.