A 60-game season, if MLB can pull it off, is going to put together some odd results. This is because it’s only 37 percent of a “normal” season, and lots of teams can put together hot — or cold — streaks over 60 games. The most significant recent example of something along these lines is the 2019 World Series champion Nationals. Famously, they were 19-31 after 50 games, but after 60 weren’t much better — 27-33. Yet from that 60-game start they went 66-36, winning 93 games and eventually the WS.
Here’s a look at a number of Cubs 60-game streaks. I limited this search to 1904 or later, since that’s when the 154-game season began. Also, some of these seasons had multiple streaks equalling the ones listed.
Best 5 Cubs 60-game stretches at any time during a season
1929: 45-14 (one tie)
This is what you’d expect — pennant-winning teams, all five of them. That 52-8 streak… wow. The best 60-game streak by the 2016 Cubs was 42-17 (again, that includes a rain-shortened tie game in September). The best 60-game streak by any Cubs team since 1945 at any time during a season was 43-17, from late April-late June, 1977.
Best 5 Cubs 60-game stretches to start a season
1969: 40-19 (one tie)
Four more pennant winners and the star-crossed 1969 team, which got off to a great start and then… well, you know.
Best 5 Cubs 60-game stretches to end a season
1906: 50-8 (two ties)
I included this one because many managers — possibly including David Ross — are going to try to get players to look at this 60-game season like it’s an August/September sprint to the finish after already playing 102 games. Might work as a motivational tool.
Here we have the great finish of the 2015 team, which roared from near .500 in late July to a 97-win season. That’s just the sort of thing Ross could inspire this year’s Cubs to do — especially since he was part of that team.
The 100-win 1935 Cubs, who won 21 straight in September, also appear here.
Now let’s look at the bad stuff.
Worst Cubs 60-game stretches at any time during a season
1950: 17-42 (one tie)
All of those were really, really bad Cubs teams. All of them lost at least 95 games, except for the 1950 club which went 64-89 in a 154-game season. That team’s bad stretch was from late July to nearly the end of the season. The 1950 Cubs were only two games under .500 (39-41) when it started, which shows you that almost any team’s season can come off the rails. The same thing happened in 1999, a team that was two games under .500 beginning that 16-44 stretch. And that team was actually just a game out of first place in early June at 32-23. Their 35-72 finish… wow, was that bad.
The best Cubs teams I found who had sub-.500 stretches of 60 games at any time during a season: 1932 (90 wins), 2001 (89 wins) and 2017 (92 wins), all of whom had 60-game stretches of 27-33.
Worst Cubs 60-game stretches to start a season
1981: 17-41 (two ties)
1953: 20-39 (one tie)
The 1981 stretch, as does pretty much anything from 1981, gets an asterisk. The Cubs were 15-37 when the strike stopped play, and went 2-4 in their first six games after the season resumed.
But unlike the 2019 Nationals, a good team that got off to a bad start, these five teams were among the worst in franchise history. The 2012 team appears in both this list and the one above.
If you eliminate the 1981 team, the next Cubs club on this list would be 1982 (21-39), yet another bad Cubs team.
The best Cubs team I could find on the list of “worst 60-game starts” is the 2007 team, which was 27-33 after 60 games. They finished 85-77 and won the N.L. Central.
Worst Cubs 60-game stretches to end a season
1956: 19-40 (one tie)
Again, a selection of really bad Cubs teams. The 1956 team, in fact, set the franchise record for losses with 94, though that mark stood for only six years until the 1962 squad broke it.
Congratulations, or the negative version of that, to the 2012 team for appearing on all three of the “worst” lists.
The best Cubs team on this list is the 2001 team, which finished the season 28-32 over its last 60 games.
The conclusion, at least from a Cubs standpoint: If the 2020 Cubs are any good, they’ll likely put together a 60-game season that is a contending year, and if they’re not, they won’t. There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground if franchise history is a guide. Mostly, though, this is simply an interesting look back at history — “past performance does not guarantee current results.”
I expect this year’s Cubs to be a good team and contend for the N.L. Central title. If, that is, a 60-game season can be played to its conclusion.