Since 1945, Cubs have worst home record in baseball

Since 1945, Cubs have worst home record in baseball
May 14, 2013, 6:15 pm
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As the Cubs continue on another rebuild of one of the worst organizations in professional sports -- or as baseball operations president Theo Epstein told me in a recent interview, “We are not rebuilding, we are building a championship organization" -- I decided to look at history to explain the Cubs historic struggles.

The commonly-held formula in baseball is that to be a playoff team you have to win about 50 games at home and then play roughly .500 baseball on the road. That formula adds up to approximately 90 wins, which in most years earns a team a playoff berth.

In looking at home team performance using different factors over the past 75 seasons and since the franchise's last World Series appearance in 1945, the Cubs rank dead last among teams that existed in 1937 and, only four expansion teams -- the New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres -- have performed worse at home than the Cubs.

Home winning percentage, 1945-2013 (through games of May 12, 2013), courtesy Stats, Inc. (* denotes expansion franchise)

Team Home winning percentage
New York Yankees .617
Boston Red Sox .586
Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers .580
St. Louis Cardinals .566
New York/San Francisco Giants .564
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves .558
Houston Astros* .550
Colorado Rockies* .547
Cincinnati Reds .545
Chicago White Sox .545
Detroit Tigers .541
Cleveland Indians .538
Arizona Diamondbacks* .535
Philadelphia Phillies .531
Los Angeles Angels* .531
Toronto Blue Jays* .530
Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics .528
St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles .525
Pittsburgh Pirates .525
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers* .520
Kansas City Royals* .518
Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins .518
Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers* .517
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals* .515
Miami Marlins* .515
Chicago Cubs .511
New York Mets* .510
Tampa Bay Rays* .510
Seattle Mariners* .506
San Diego Padres* .499

The best teams in baseball always are tough to beat in their ballpark, so it's no surprise that the best teams at home since 1937 are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and the New York/San Francisco Giants.

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In fact, the Cubs have one 50 or more games at home just three times since 1937. Compare that to the best team in the Cubs' division, the St. Louis Cardinals, who have turned the trick 13 times over the past 75 years. The Cincinnati Reds have done it 11 times and the New York/San Francisco Giants have hit that mark 17 times.

The New York Yankees, who are obviously the gold standard of success, have dominated at Yankee Stadium, winning 50 or more an astounding 43 times since 1937. Even the White Sox, who have won only 1 World Series over the past 90-plus year,s have won 50 or more games at home in a season njine times since 1937.

The point being that, looking at these numbers, you see that the Cubs are probably affected by day baseball with such a poor record of success at home. That fact combined with an amazingly poor draft record and an inability to develop pitching that actually pitches successfully in the big leagues is a recipe for decades of organizational futility.

From 2004 through 2013, the Cubs have spent $1.119 billion in player payroll while the Cardinals have spent $974.5 million, so a lack of financial wherewithal cannot be used as an excuse. The Cubs have spent plenty of money, yet they have very little to show for it other than two playoff appearances and not one postseason win during that time frame.

During that period, the Cardinals have 830 wins with six postseason appearances and with World Series titles while the Cubs have sputtered to just 721 wins. A look at the Cubs' financial might in the NL Central over the past decade puts them at the top of the division in spending, but the rest of the division has combined for 62 playoff wins while the Cubs have none in two appearances (2007 and 2008).

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I recently wrote about the Cubs' record of drafting and developing pitching -- which is the hardest asset to acquire either in free agency or through a trade. From the 1995 through 2009, the Cubs spent 396 draft picks on pitchers. Only 28 of those players ever threw one pitch in a Cubs uniform.

When you evaluate those 28, you can narrow it down to just eight who had a mediocre or better career in the majors. Epstein has talked on multiple occasions about the waves of pitching needed to develop to fill out a championship caliber rotation with enough quality arms. With the exception of Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs system has been devoid of top-level starting pitching for several seasons.

Let's compare the Cubs to the San Francisco Giants, who have won two of the last three World Series. Only catcher Buster Posey started the deciding game of the World Series in both championship seasons. The starting rotation, though, featured homegrown pitchers in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to anchor a staff that was the backbone of those playoff runs.

Here are the 28 pitchers the Cubs drafted from 1995-2009 who have faced at least one hitter in the big leagues in a Cubs uniform:

Kerry Wood
Brian McNichol
Phil Norton
Courtney Duncan
Scott Downs
Michael Wuertz
Will Ohman
Steve Smyth
Todd Wellemeyer
Jon Leicester
Carmen Pignatiello
Mark Prior
Sergio Mitre
Billy Petrick
Rich Hill
Rocky Cherry
Sean Marshall
Mitch Atkins
Sean Gallagher
Jeff Samardzija
James Russell
Andrew Cashner
Chris Carpenter
Casey Coleman
Jeff Beliveau
Chris Rusin
Brooks Raley

Here are the eight that I considered as having at least a decent major league career. To qualify as mediocre or better they had to earn at least 1.0 pitching WAR (Wins Above Replacement courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com).

Player Years played WAR

Kerry Wood

1998-2012

26.7

Mark Prior

2002-2006

15.7

Sean Marshall

2006-present

10.3

Michael Wuertz

2004-2011

5.2

Rich Hill

2005-present

4.7

Will Ohman

2000-2012

3.1

Jeff Samardzija

2008-present

2.8

James Russell

2010-present

1.0

Let’s go back to the draft history of the Cubs from 1995 through 2009 because players picked in 2010, 2011, and 2012 haven’t had a chance, for the most part, to reach the big leagues. The Cubs had several high picks, including five in the top five, and don't have much to show for it.

Year Pick Player Years with Cubs (* denotes no years in majors)

1995

No. 4

Kerry Wood

1998-2008; 2011-2012

1996

No. 17

Todd Noel

None*

1997

No. 10

Jon Garland

None

1998

No. 3

Corey Patterson

2000-2005

1999

No. 26

Ben Christensen

None*

2000

No. 3

Lou Montanez

2011

2001

No. 2

Mark Prior

2002-2006

2002

No. 21

Bobby Brownlie

None*

2003

No. 6

Ryan Harvey

None*

2004

N/A

No first-round pick

N/A

2005

No. 20

Mark Pawelek

None*

2006

No. 13

Tyler Colvin

2009-2011

2007

No. 3

Josh Vitters

2012

2008

No. 19

Andrew Cashner

2010-2011

2009

No. 31

Brett Jackson

2012

So let’s review the facts. The Cubs have the worst home record since World War II, with the exception of four teams who were not in existence in 1945. The Cubs have won 50 home games in a season just three times in the past 75 years.

The Cubs also have used draft picks on 396 pitchers from 1995-2009 and only eight went on to have mediocre or better careers in a Cubs uniform.

Add in the effects of not only day baseball but also the multitude of start times that a Cubs player has had to deal with -- from 1:20 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. -- while the rest of baseball plays an average of 54 games a season at night just at home. Add in all of the other factors that we have detailed above and you can see why the Cubs have had such a lengthy run of poor performance.

CSN's Chris Kamka contributed to this post.