Baseball Prospectus released it's PECOTA projections and the news for the Cubs is good...sorta.
The good news is they have the Cubs winning 82 games. The bad news is that is one game short of a NL Wild Card spot. They have the Cubs finishing just 7 games behind the Cardinals and one game ahead of the Pirates (click to enlarge)
I don't want to write too much on individual players, since it is subscription only but a few items of note...
- Once again Anthony Rizzo is the team's best player with 3.8 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). Rizzo is projected to have .262/.343/.472 line with 26 HRs.
- Starlin Castro is next with a 2.7 WARP and a slash line of .277/.317/.397 line with 9 HRs.
- If you are wondering about Kris Bryant, he is at 2.0 WARP despite just 199 PAs. In that third of a season, they project Bryant to hit .261/.351/.515 with 12 HRs. Maybe if they had him up for at least 2/3 of the season, he'd make up the 2 extra wins needed to reach the playoffs.
- PECOTA has both Javier Baez and LaStella getting a lot of ABs with the latter's PAs coming at 3B. Baez contributes 25 HRs while LaStella pitches in with a .341 OBP, behind only Bryant, Rizzo and Dexter Fowler (.343). Baez's HR total is behind only Rizzo's and just ahead of Jorge Soler's (24).
- One odd pitching projection is Kyle Hendricks, who is slated to pitch just 68 innings in 8 starts. Considering they project him to have the best ERA (3.11) and WHIP (1.12) of any starter -- yes, even Jon Lester (3.28 and 1.15, respectively), the Cubs may want to give him a few more than 8 starts.
- Edwin Jackson, projected for the starting rotation, was well below replacement level (-0.7)
- In the bullpen, PECOTA likes Jason Motte and Pedro Strop in what looks to be a strong bullpen.
Definitely a lot of interesting stuff and a subscription to BP is always worth it, in my opinion. So check that out if you can.
82 wins with some conservative projections and unexpected small sample sizes for players expected to contribute all season makes me feel pretty good about the Cubs chances, especially given PECOTA's reputation for accuracy. A little more Bryant (and yes, we can still keep him down for 9 games) plus a swapping out of Jackson in favor of Hendricks in the rotation and the Cubs are a playoff team!
Edit: I want to add that the last line was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. A system like PECOTA has to make those decisions objectively, based on patterns and historical trends. If you want to make an objective projection, you can’t make subjective assumptions about playing time. They’ll just go with the typical amount of playing time a player with Bryant’s or Hendricks’ experience gets in the majors. And they will do that across the board with all teams. PECOTA has been pretty accurate as far as predicting team records so even if the exact particulars may differ from what we believe will happen in terms of individual PAs or innings, that across the board objectivity is what makes their projections so accurate.
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