Sharma: What the Cubs’ wonderful April means

From SABR member Sahadev Sharma at Baseball Prospectus on May 6, 2015:

Joe Maddon and the Cubs have preached the importance of getting off to a good start since January’s Cubs Convention. This is hardly a new mantra—for the Cubs or around the league or, really, around all sports leagues. I distinctly remember Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson stating similar goals prior to the 2013 and 2014 seasons, respectively. The difference between this year and the past few is that not only were the Cubs expected to be better, but they actually delivered on that strong start. At 12-8, the Cubs had their first winning April since 2008.

Chicago fans will remember 2008 quite well. The Cubs had the best record in the NL by a sizable margin and their 97 wins were the most they’d accumulated in a season since 1945, which also happens to be the year of their last World Series appearance. Of course, we all know how that 2008 season ended, with an unexpected (to the extent that bad results are ever unexpected for Cubs fans) sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They haven’t sniffed the playoffs since.

This present club has some similarities to that ’08 squad—a great team OBP, a middle of the lineup that features some impressive power potential, a strong top of the rotation—but one huge difference. The 2008 club had an average age of 30.2; this year’s team is more than three years younger on average, at 26.8. The difference is stark, and it’s seen primarily in the offense.

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Originally published: May 6, 2015. Last Updated: May 6, 2015.