14 things to know about the Chicago Cubs’ hot and historic start to the season

Related to all of this is the Cubs’ incredible run differential of +110. Scaled to a full season their run differential would be +509. The all-time record belongs to those ’39 Yankees, who outscored their opponents by 411 runs. Obviously, the Cubs have some room to decline/regress and still break that record. This one bears monitoring.

What’s helping that run differential is how the Cubs have fared in blowout games. This season, when the game is decided by a margin of five runs or more the Cubs are 15-2.

Are the Cubs getting lucky? No, not especially. Based on runs scored and runs allowed, their record should be 28-7. Based on the more granular, batted-ball level data available at FanGraphs, their record should be 27-8. In other words, the Cubs aren’t out-performing any of their more fundamental indicators.

For a time, the knock was the the Cubs hadn’t played a tough schedule. However, their 2016 opponents to date have an average winning percentage of .502. They’ve also gone 13-1 against the Cardinals, Pirates, and Nationals, and they’re 13-3 in road games.

Need proof that baseball’s still beautifully weird? The Cubs this season are 3-5 against the Braves, Rockies, and Padres and 24-3 against everyone else.

Of course, the Cubs’ 2016 regular season excellence is all in the service of winning the World Series for the first time since 1908. On that point, there’s some discouraging news. Since 1995, when the playoffs expanded to three rounds, the team with the best record in the regular season has gone on to win the World Series just 19 percent of the time. In the playoffs, the small sample size of games and the randomness therein tend to hold sway. Just ask those 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners and their 116 wins apiece, for instance.

The 2016 Cubs — so far, so very, very good. Of course, there’s much more to come.

Duke University held commencement exercises over the weekend, which means life is about to get demonstrably worse for any number of young people. Life, however, is not going to get worse for Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, in large part because he’s a major-league ballplayer.

Why inject Mr. Stroman into this discussion? We do so because Mr. Stroman was among those who was graduated from Duke on Sunday. Stroman was drafted out of Duke in 2012, and last year while rehabbing his knee injury he worked toward finishing his degree. As you’re about to see, that work paid off on Sunday …

Sheepskin received! And here’s Marcus demonstrating his delivery while wearing the robes of the occasion …

A few weeks back, Heath Cummings said he was ready to move Altuve into his top-three players overall. Ahead of the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Correa among others; I didn’t even have Altuve in my top five.

As Altuve continues to clobber the ball all over the field and shows no signs of slowing down, that is becoming harder to justify. Altuve is the No. 1 hitter in both Rotisserie and H2H scoring formats, and he is 21 percent ahead of the No. 2 scorer in points leagues.

Altuve almost certainly can’t keep this pace up moving forward, but it would be foolish to just write off this quick start and assume he is the same player he has been in the past. It has been 11 days since Altuve’s last homer, but he hasn’t slowed down in that span; he is still hitting .368/.468/.447 over his last 10 games.

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