How much have the Cubs improved? Part 2: Offense

I didn’t take the time to do this in my first post here, but I should start by saying how excited I am to be a part of Cubs Den. My primary role here will be to post game recaps and previews along with Myles and Dabynsky, but in the meantime, I hope to share a few Cubs thoughts over the course of the next few months, and John is kind enough to allow me some space to do that. With that said, I really look forward to previewing and recapping games when April finally arrives, but for now I want to take a look at how our offense has improved from what was a very strong 2015 season.

In my last post, I focused on the pitching, where the upgrades were much more subtle, and where I expect the differences to be perhaps less obviously visible to most fans, but I expect the offense to be a different story, and that is where I’ll focus in this post.

As a whole, the offense of the 2015 Cubs scored 689 runs, which put them 6th in the National League, but well above the league average (just for fun, the 2008 team scored 855 runs while the 1994 team scored only 500). They made some notable improvements going ahead to 2016, and while the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are the obvious improvements, I think there are a couple of other spots in the lineup worth some attention as well. Let’s take a look at those first.

Kyle Schwarber

Prior to Schwarber’s arrival and then eventual return to the Cubs lineup last season, left field had primarily been manned by Chris Coghlan, who spent 99 games there in 2015. While the difference between Coghlan and Schwarber defensively is hard to measure definitively because of lack of sample size for Schwarber, it should be noted that Schwarber is not on the field for his glove and he spent most of 2015 playing at a position other than what had been expected. The gain though comes at the plate, of course. Beginning with wRC+, Schwarber is well above Coghlan at 131 to Coghlan’s 113. The projections for next year call for that gap to widen further, presumably as Schwarber sees an increase in plate appearances.

When it comes to even some of the simpler statistics between these two, there’s still a significant difference. Schwarber’s OBP in 2015 was 14 points higher and he had a higher BB%. Coghlan strikes out less often, but Schwarber is the stronger hitter in nearly every other way.

I should note, of course, that much of this is based on 273 plate appearances from Schwarber in 2015 to Coghlan’s 503, but I think it can be agreed upon pretty safely that Schwarber’s offense is a significant value added. The hope is that he can improve enough on his defense in left field to make putting him out there with regularity beneficial as a whole. Though he will also spend time behind the plate, he will be limited there because of the two other catchers on the 25 man roster, so it seems likely right now that he will spend a lot of time in left field in order to keep his bat in the lineup.

Ben Zobrist

After taking the time to look closely at his numbers, I was a little surprised to see how much of a difference Zobrist might make. At least, it’s more significant than I would have guessed. If we treat him like a simple replacement for Starlin Castro and just compare the numbers between those two, this is probably a pretty large offensive upgrade. The difference defensively might work in the other direction somewhat, but Castro wasn’t exactly known for his glove anyway.

Using the 2015 numbers and beginning as simply as possible, it’s an overall difference of 1.3 fWAR. On offense, it’s a much, much wider gap. Even with Castro’s monster September, he had a -11.4 wRAA, and Zobrist was 15.5 in 2015. Granted, this past season was certainly not Castro at his best, and in fact, it was probably his worst overall season aside from perhaps 2013, but even in his best years, the gap between Castro and Zobrist can be particularly wide. In arguably his best year at the plate, 2014, Castro had a wRAA of 13.5, and in Zobrist’s best at the plate, 2009, he was at 38.8 (and this is in a season where he played at 7 different positions – not including time as a DH – at various times). I should note that this is coming from someone who has been a longtime Castro apologist. I am still very much a fan of his, but this was perspective that I didn’t expect.

Moving on from WAR, the next place I usually look is wRC+, and I should first say that this is probably not a perfect comparison because Castro spent this past season in the National League, and Zobrist was in the American League, and on two different teams. But, there’s a sizable difference here too. Castro was at 80 wRC+, and Zobrist at 123. In terms of K%, it’s a difference of 5 percentage points between the two, with Zobrist being lower. His low strikeout rate (10.5% in 2015) will be much needed on an offense with some high strikeout totals otherwise.

Jason Heyward

Best for last, right? As of now, it appears as though Heyward will spend his time in center field in place of Dexter Fowler, so we’ll look at the difference here in the same way. Defensively, so much of Heyward’s time has been spent at right field, so it’s hard to draw a direct comparison, but using a simple total UZR, Fowler has accumulated a -64.1 total UZR in 8 seasons, compared to Heyward’s total UZR of 96.2 in 6 seasons. It should be noted that defensive statistics can be tricky (to put it lightly) to draw much from, and Heyward’s numbers so far in center are quite a bit different than they are in right, but the upgrade on defense here is worth mentioning.

But that says nothing for what Heyward is likely to bring at the plate. Overall, Fowler had an fWAR of 3.2 in 2015, and Heyward was at 6. Offensively, the difference in wRAA is from a 10.8 with Fowler to 15.8 with Heyward. The wRC+ difference is 110 with Fowler (still above average, to his credit) to 121 for Heyward. Something else that is refreshing to see is a drop in K% from Fowler to Heyward (22.3% to 14.8%), but I think we will miss the BB% that Fowler brought to the table in 2015, at 12.2% (Heyward’s was 9.2% last season).

Another move this offseason seems less and less likely, and given what has been said lately regarding a trade involving Jorge Soler, it looks like we know our outfield, and there’s a lot to be happy about. In general, the 2016 Cubs are shaping up to be a very, very fun team to watch. Given the major changes on offense that this offseason has brought, along with a more permanent position for Schwarber, we are looking at an overall fWAR difference of about 3. And if we look strictly at wRAA, it’s much, much higher than that. The 2015 team brought a lot of pleasant surprises, and the offense showed a strength as a whole that we had not seen for a while, scoring the most total runs since 2009, but in general, the 2015 Cubs showed a balance that they have not had in quite some time. Expectations for 2016 are high, but it appears that the right moves have been made to maybe, just maybe, reach those expectations.

 

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  • Here is another interesting fact I had heard earlier.

    In 2015, there were 25 players in MLB who had an OBP of .350 or more.

    The Cubs have 5 of those players on their roster for next season: Heyward, Zobrist, Rizzo, Bryant and Schwarber. Add in the patience of Montero, Soler's ability to see pitches and the hopeful development of Russell, this team should be seeing a lot of pitches from the opponents bullpen this season.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Not sure where you heard that but it's incorrect. 46 MLB players had an OBP of .350 or more last year. And the Cubs will have 4 of them in 2016 (Heyward, Zobrist, Rizzo, Bryant). Schwarber would've been the 5th but he didn't have enough PA's to qualify so he's not among the 46 (though he's a good bet to be on next year's list for sure).

    Still, having 4 of those guys among the top 46 does show the emphasis the Cubs place on OBP. And rightly so.

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I read something like that somewhere as well, and I think it might've been 25 NL players, and the Cubs project to have 5 next year (including Schwarber).

    I'm too tired to look it up, but that might be what he's referring to.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

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    Good points here, but you're going to probably confuse some people with the way you interchanged WAR -- wins above replacement -- with RAA -- runs above average.

  • In reply to Nathan King:

    If I did that, it's probably where I'm referring to offensive WAR, but that's not the same as RAA, at least not as I look at Fangraphs, so I'm not sure I see what you mean. Just trying to clarify if I did make an error here. I appreciate it either way.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Thank you for the article, Jared. I enjoyed the read.

    "Offensive WAR" is actually pretty misleading. For example, obviously Castro's performance in 2015 (as bad as it was) did not cost the Cubs 15.9 wins relative to the performance of a replacement level player. Even I wouldn't cost the Cubs 16 wins, and I'm in the midst of a 15 year slump.

    The "offense" statistic that you quoted actually refers to RAA - as suggested by some of the commenters. The reason why Castro's "offense" figure (15.9) is not the same as the RAA figure (11.4) is because "offense" combines both batting RAA and baserunning RAA.

    So, a better way to interpret Castro's 2015 offensive output is that it cost the Cubs around 16 runs relative to an average (not replacement) player at the position in a neutral ballpark.

  • In reply to HotSpinachDip:

    Yea, after taking another look at it, I've edited those parts so that there's better clarity. Thanks!

  • As I sit here and watch the Bears losing already, I am getting stoked for the upcoming baseball season. This team will see a lot of pitches and should score a lot of runs. Count me as one of those who are happy that Soler is still on the team. That is one potent outfield and should be for years to come. I can't wait.

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    In reply to Senator Blutarski:

    Long as the bears keep running the ball, they will ruin Lovie's Super Bowl this afternoon.

    Imagine if we weren't at 2nd and 3rd string at so many key positions

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    They would still be bad. Give em 1 more year to turn the roster over.

  • Jameis may be exciting, but it looks like Lovie has him on the old "receivers not on the same page" routine.

  • I wouldn't expect the 2016 improvement to be as significant as those stats you referenced. But it doesn't need to be. Fowler was significantly better in the 2nd half (.272 BA vs .232). I think Heyward will give us a full season of consistently good AB's, which should be enough to win the division vs a WC.

    But who really knows what will happen with the Fab Five (Bryant/Soler/Russel/Schwarber/Baez). They could take a step up, or two steps back... On a positive note, each seemed to make adjustments when necessary and overcome any adversity that came their way.

    For me, our season will be as good as our pitching. we will need Jake at cy young level again and the rotation to remain pretty much injury free to improve at all.

    I'm glad we kept (so far) Soler & Baez. I'm excited to see the potential impact they could have in 2016.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I figure that the Cubs need to win 3 more games (or 1 more than the Cards and Pirates separately) to win the division, and the only question then is if they have enough to get through the NLCS.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think the big thing that isn't being taken into account is that Heyward will be a significant upgrade over Fowler versus right handed pitchers. Fowler was a switch hitter, but he was not particularly effective against righties, and struck out a lot when hitting from that side.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He'll be a big step back against lefties, though. But I can live with that since the rest of the lineup will eat lefties alive.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Schwarber can sit against lefties if it is a problem with either Javy or Bryant in LF to replace him. Or Schwarber can take those days and move behind the plate to give Montero a day off and treat it as if any offense he brings on those days as a bonus. Hopefully he can at least keep the OBP respectable against lefties even if he Ks a lot.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Blah. Ignore above. Thought you were talking about Schwarber. Yes, Heyward isn't great against lefties, but especially in the NL central there are not many of those around, so it is far more important to be good against righties, and if it is really a problem than they can potentially use Baez out there against a tough lefty or at least move Heward down in the order. Zobrist gives them a second leadoff candidate.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It was a well thought out and spirited defense of a a point not really being made (as you acknowledge). However, the points were good none-the-less.

  • I sure wish Alcantara would take that next step and take a bench spot, his ability to play CF / 2B , speed and switch hit would be huge addition. For some reason I see him taking a step forward this season. guys like Him that make substitutions that aren't foreseen are what makes a good team a great one over 162 + games

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    That could be Javy.

  • Yeah, the only thing Mendy has on Javy is speed, but Baez makes up a little of that ground by being a good baserunner. Baez is better at every other facet of the game. I'm still rooting for Mendy to come around and haven't given up, but this is something that I have been arguing for years with people, if there is a super sub in this organization that can have the kind of impact that say Zobrist used to have it is Javy.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Javy appears to have a better collection of gloves.

  • Mendy would be a great 25th man tho, I consider Baez more of a 10th man/ semi starter . Mendy had a down year last year but before that was trending up like a top 50 prospect, How many teams could say that a guy like Mendy wouldn't be a valuable bench guy minimum if He bounces back some with the bat. Not many .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I like Mendy and think he has value for his versatility if nothing else. If he can just have an RC+ of 90 or above and play solid, if unspectacular, defense I could live with him as the 25th man on the roster and defensive replacement.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    The skills are there. Just hope it is manifest...

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    Great analysis. Although I think you missed a key point. In 2015, the Cubs were the worst team in the entire league at getting runners home from third with less than two outs. In contrast, both Zobrist and Heyward are two of the best players in the entire league at that particular role. So not only did they find two players who fit their high OBP mold, but they also helped to fix their biggest weakness (also likely cut down on strike outs).

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    In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    You make a great point. How often did we see someone on 2nd or 3rd and stay there, not just with one player at the plate but 2 or even 3 players either SO or popped up. If they can get better at that this is really going to be a great season!

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It seemed like it happened quite a bit. Now the team's offense is built to succeed when the wind is blowing in and out. It has been fun to watch this team built. There has been a maniacal emphasis on offense, and players that control the strike zone. Zobrist and Heyward are just refinements of that approach. I love the fact they have kept Bryant at third, not made a trade for a defensive CF, plan to keep Schwarber and Soler is the lineup.

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    In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I do too. Keep Soler and Baez and just watch them grow.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    and mash. Im sure the dirty birds still have nightmares of the 3run Javy Bomb or Soler crushing Wainwright.

  • FO may make another trade / acquistion yet this offseason. For me the difference maker next year is all these potential long men / swing men. Starter blows up inning 3-5, with Wood, Cahill, Richard and Warren, you've still got a great chance to win. On average the young guys will improve offensively. Soler in particular.

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    Nice article, but you confused WAR and RAA quite a bit.

  • In reply to Sean Powell:

    Looking at fWAR as a whole and offensive WAR as listed on Fangraphs. RAA there is grouped differently, so I'm not sure I am seeing what you mean. Just trying to clarify if I did make an error though. Appreciate it either way.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    I tried to clarify this point above.

  • In reply to HotSpinachDip:

    Yea, I spent some time looking at it today and I see the problem. I've edited those parts so that it (hopefully) eliminates the confusion. Thank you!

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    No problem!

  • Kyle hit 21 HRs in only 259 ABs.
    That's a Stanton-like frequency right there,

    I'll actually be disappointed if the Cubs don't have three 30 HR guys next year. A 40 HR guy would not surprise me at all.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I think Schwarber will level out power wise and become a better overall hitter. I see a High .300 maybe clise to .400 OBP with 30 plus HR. We are talking about a Votto type hitter. At least that how I presented him in 2014 when I was scouting him. If Maddon does what think the first 6 hitters will look something like this as things stand now.

    Heyward
    Zobrist
    Schwarber
    Bryant
    Rizzo
    Soler

  • In reply to KGallo:

    If Schwarber = Votto, I will be ecstatic.

    Reds Fan cries about Votto taking too many walks, but I'll take that guy in my lineup anytime. Plus, walking guys in the middle of Murderer's Row is just playing with fire.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    The thing is the Reds don't have a Bryant or Rizzo hitting behind Votto.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Or Soler. Come on April.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    especially since they traded Frazier.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    From what I've read, Theo did say that it is likely Heyward and Zobrist will start the season batting 1, 2. But like I mentioned above, they are very good at getting the runner home from third. So if the other players don't show improvement, Theo implied those two could slide down the order.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Schwarber needs to ditch the catching gear and spend all spring working on his hitting game against breaking pitches.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No thanks. He should get as much work behind the plate in ST as humanly possible because it will be tough to gauge how much work he will get there in season.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He's the left fielder. I wouldn't have wanted it and certainly it isn't his first choice but the Cubs need him there. And that means he should focus on that because his bat in left field is still special.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't think Schwarber will ever be the full time catcher, but the versatility and value he can provide in even a backup role or to provide insurance in case of injury to Montero or Contreras in the future means he should continue to get work at the position until he proves he can't handle it or he proves that it is distracting him from his work at the plate.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Schwarber came out of college with one of the lowest skill sets you could imagine at DI level. It has been stated that he was "under-coached" in that respect. It seems his bat precluded the need for catching skills? That said, how much time has he had THAT coaching? It seems he came up the ladder at a sprint. Isn't his pace of improvement, not who he is now, the real measure of his future?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No way. I want to see him back there full time. One of the big reasons the Giants, Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers all had long periods of making the post-season is because their catchers could hit. It's a huge advantage.

    It's not like Montero lit it up last year. Maybe he calls a great game but his throwing and hitting weren't anything special. If we are committed to playing Schwarber let's do it behind the plate so at least we are maximizing his value.

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    In reply to berber31:

    There's a ton of Montero hate on this site but he had the 4th highest OBP for catchers with at least 300 PAs.

    Maybe he's not elite. Maybe he's not the best defensive catcher, but on a team that values offense that OBP has a lot of value.

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    In reply to berber31:

    Even if I grant your premise (I don't), Contreras also fits the role of a catcher who can hit.

  • In reply to berber31:

    Contreres will have a say in the Cubs catching going forward and PS He can hit.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Couldn't agree more on Schwarber ditching the tools of ignorance. His bat is too important to chance an injury catching. Likewise his working on hitting breaking pitches,but that also applies to all the Cubs youngsters. You just know the scouting reports will be scrutinized on how best to handle the the likes of Bryant,Soler, Schwarber Baez and even Russell.

    Common spring training.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Short stroke!

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    who was it on ESPN who referred to Fast Hulk as Babe Ruth? Was it Buster Olney or Tim Kurkjain?

  • Only thing i'd have to mention in the Zobrist/Castro comp is that Zobrist was a rookie in his year 25 season. Castro is just entering his prime. Zobrist is just leaving it.

    ZiPS pegs Yankee Castro as a .274/.310/.405
    Zobrist as a .273/.356/.439 hitter in 2016

    So for 2016, we look to improve. Beyond 2016?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    You are looking too hard at avg. The difference in OBP and Slugging is going to be a great help to the Cubs specially at the top of the line up where I think Zobrist will be hitting.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Beyond 2016, Zobrist may be looking at significant internal competition.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    The Cubs are putting a lot of focus on 2016-17 considering that is the window they figure to have with their current crop of starting pitchers. Beyond that they will still have the Rizzo/Bryant/Schwarber core along with potentially Heyward/Baez/Soler and any other young players that break through. Yes, they sacrificed a little for the future for the now, but there is still plenty around for the future to not have to worry too much. There is a really good window the next two years to go for it.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    You left out Russell. He's so quiet, I forget about him at times. The Cubs should be pretty darn good up the middle on defense. I'm waiting to see how well Zobrist and Russell play together. Imagine if Willson is the real deal controlling the running game with a decent bat at the MLB level.

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    Given the authors, the recaps this year should be titled "Wrygley Fyeld Reports."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    whY?

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    In reply to Quasimodo:

    Yes, whY?

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    In reply to Quasimodo:

    You mean "Whi?"

  • Welcome.

    As I read these comments about possible improvement, I have a few thoughts:

    1--Will these 2 new hitters help us in COLD WEATHER?

    2--Will the team get off to a good start..,like last season..,and Unlike so many others recently?

    3--We aren't a fast team.., but by comparison are we a slow team??

    Comments

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    1. Who knows, and frankly it is tough to know how much it will matter anyway. Soler was not known for producing in cold weather, but the guy got locked in at the right time in the playoffs.

    2. Hopefully

    3. Not a fast team or a slow team. They lack any burners and most of the team is pretty big, but they are mostly athletic, so other than the OF corners they figure to be average or better defensively at every position. They may not have a bunch of pure basestealers, but they have a bunch of good baserunners that know how to take the extra base and when to steal the opportunistic bag.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    May not burn up the base paths, but they will dent the walls.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I know that Maddon raves about Baez baserunning and, even more so, Bryant's baserunning and he has said he rates Heyward to be one of the best baserunners in the league. I'll take that over "speed" any day.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Soler didn't seem to like the Cold and Heyward is a notorious slow starter with the bat, hits everything in the 2nd half.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Soler "not liking" the cold as you wrote coincided with arguably some of the worst ball/strike calls in all of baseball during April.

    He looked might fine in October when it was "cold". This is a non-issue.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Agreed, that's another part of it as well.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Indeed. It was like the umps telling Soler and Bryant "weve read about you and weregoing to show you whos the boss"

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Not discounting it entirely but I think sometime focusing on players in cold weather ignores the larger picture. By the time opening day rolls around pitchers are ahead of pitchers in terms of training and the actual physics of what a baseball does as it hits a bat or bounces comes into play as well. I'd be curious to actual numbers but I'd be surprised if there was much correlation in terms of hitters who get off to a slow spring start and how they perform in cooler temps in September and into the playoffs. Those two conditions are vastly different. Again I'm by no means saying that some players aren't more challenged in the cold, I'm just saying that the issue is often broader than that.

  • I'm glad I read your reply before responding, because now I can just say ditto!

  • Thank you, thank you, a genuine baseball think essay that attacked coherently and substantively my favorite esoteric pastime pursuit---Cubs! The best part was the comparable generally linear position by position/player by player analysis using a variety of Sabrmetric compares okay, fine I love various algorithms driving data to inform but more simpler ways offense is scoring runs, and defense is preventing runs. Cubs win 009 picked something up about Heyward and Zobrist, scoring the puppy runs from 3B with less than one out, MLB leaders. But let us do a 2 year compare with Zobrist & Castro and then Fowler and Heyward, (Coghlan & Schwarber is hard but giving Coghlan 2 yr line

    wRC+ and DRS is probably the best compare along with my old school of: Runs scored + RBI minus HR divided by games played. (run/gm)

    Zobrist 120 wRC+ average vs Castro 98 wRC+ average
    Zobrist -6 DRS all positions 2 yrs vs Castro -9 DRS all positions 2yrs
    Zobrist {.8927} 2 yr total run production per game vs Castro (.7684} 2 yr total run production per game.

    Essentially Cubs will net 17.5 more runs with Zobrist than Castro

    Heyward 115.5 wRC+ 2 yr average vs Fowler 117 wRC+ wRC+ 2 yr average
    Heyward +23 DRS 2 yr average vs -16 DRS 2 yr average
    Heyward {.9762} 2 yr total run production per game vs Fowler {.8529} total run production 2 yr average

    Now here is where the spread really appears, Heyward will net 72 more runs so the club is looking at 87 more run differential, or about 0.5 per game played. You added Schwarber and the projection gets dicier since there are not 2 years of data to make a nice average but let us take Coghlan at his 2 year rate and compare to Schwarber.

    Coghlan 119 wRC+ 2yr average vs Schwarber 131 wRC+ .0.5 yr
    Coghlan -7.5 DRS 2 yr average vs
    Coghlan {.6263} total run production 2 yr ave per game vs Schwarber -5 DRS .5 yr
    Schwarber {1.3768} total run production 0.5 yr average per game.

    Now this is really crazy since Schwarber's offensive production is essentially HOF numbers so the difference is 110 net runs over the season just right there. OR in total one spot or a spread of almost 200 runs just with the outfield. Cubs had a spread of 50 last year, 200 gets into WS contender territory.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    More:

    The difference in efficiency as Zobrist plates just over 50% from runners on 3B with less than 2 outs, while Heyward the last two years is 64% compare to Castro at 45% and Fowler at 41%. Furthermore Castro and Fowler had many more chances than Zobrist and Heyward, so given the more chances even if there is a regression the Cubs will score more runs.

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    To put it simply, on paper, heading into the season this appears it will be the best Cubs offense I've seen in my 47 years. The starting rotation is probably the best as well.

    The prospect for Bullpen seem iffy, while at the same time the depth and top end guys will bring potential to develop into a very good pen overall.

    Defensively we are a mix of very good and very average...and will probably be an ok defense.

    I have never been this optimistic in December. And I've always been the overly optimistic Cub fan Sox fans like to make fun of.

    if the Cubs stay healthy they will win games. lots and lots of em deep into next fall.

  • In reply to Steve Fowler:

    I think Prior Wood Zambrano pre Dustied was a pretty good top 3 8in rotation that rivals this years top 3

  • In reply to Steve Fowler:

    Going OT for a minute, since you brought it up, when does the time come that you are fully confident in the bullpen, any bullpen? Relief pitching is the most fickle area of almost any team year to year with guys often being stellar performers one year and being ordinary or worse the following. The reverse can also be the case. Outside of a few late inning guys who perform year after year, and that number is always relatively small, consistency is rarely the hallmark of a reliever. I guess I'm more confident in the bullpen than you are because of the myriad choices available in putting the thing together. I'd be far more worried if they hadn't gone a shopping spree for depth.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I've been intrigued by the Cubs construction of the bullpen. It seems to me the prevailing trend the last several years has been to load up on power arm after power arm. Often these pens' had only one (if any) swingman/multi-inning guy. We seem to be trying a new approach with a pen including Wood, Warren, and Cahill, though we do have other power options such as Ramirez, Edwards Jr., Rivero, and others at the ready. It will be interesting how this succeeds.

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    I realty think we will score more runs this year but I want us to also allow fewer runs too. This year Joe has the players to mix and max for offense and defense. Also, we remember Schwarbs belly-flopping in the playoffs but he wasn't nearly that bad during the season. With the age of the players we have I think a window if at least 5 years and although Lester and Lackey won't be here our pitchers in the minors should be up. I'm looking to see Underwood and Cease and Johnson in our rotation.

  • Isn't anyone concerned that we over paid for a guy to play right field?????? In the past 3 years his high has been 14 hrs, 60 rbi's and average of .293. Don't we have that guy better already??? Soler will do that and more plus he is younger and cheaper.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I think you need to examine if Heyward was overpaid. Salaries in MLB have gone through the roof as have revenues so the numbers we've been used to over the last few decades have, and will continue, to climb. The accepted range of the cost of 1 win (using fWAR here) is between $6 million and $9 million. Heyward has provided an interesting in value as he is going into his 26 year old season and barely entering his prime as opposed to most FA players who average about 30. As such you're less likely to be paying him for past performance as you would be an older player. The other thing is Heyward's deal is complicated with the opt outs and structure so you really need to look at it as 2 deals, 3/$78 mil or 8/$184 mil.

    Let's break those down for a second starting with the 3 years at $78 million. In his last 3 years Heyward has accumulated a total of 12.6 fWAR rising every year culminating in 2015 with a 6.0 fWAR. As he nears his prime years we can only assume he is getting better so let's up that 3 year average from 4.2 fWAR/year to 5.0/year. Given his skills you might even go higher but the fact that he's being asked to play CF in 2016 could keep that average down a bit. Given the salary range above for a win the Cubs need him accumulate between 8.6 WAR, at the $9mil/win end of the range, and 13 at the $6mil/win end. Barring injury, which the Cubs are admittedly taking on that risk, can you reasonably see a scenario where Heyward doesn't exceed that win total in his 26, 27 and 28 year old seasons? Alex Gordon, a similar player, accumulated 15.8 fWAR in that age 3 year age range. There's no reason to doubt that Heyward can do that, or better.

    Now you look at the bigger picture and the 8 year deal and that's a harder term to project. You would assume that given the numbers above that Heyward would opt out, but say he doesn't. Now you have to figure how many wins you will need from him to earn that $184. Using the same range as above you'll need 24.4 to 36.6 fWAR over those years. they take you through his 32 year old season which is generally considered the end of a player's prime. If we already believe that he'll earn those first 3 years with around or above a 15 fWAR that means we need 9.4 to 21,6 over those last 5 years or and average of 1.8 to 4.3. Even those numbers are not far fetched, again barring catastophic injuries, over the entire term of the deal.

    So basically the Cubs are getting a player with a lifetime .353 OBP, who hits for contact and fits perfectly at or near the top of the order setting the table, along with Zobrist, for the big boppers. You're not asking him to drive in runs as much as much as you are asking him to score them. It's really hard to imagine a better fit than Heyward in this lineup. So am I worried that he's been overpaid? No, that's the absolute least of my concerns.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I like your answer better than mine.

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    The short answer is: No.

    Soler is still on the roster so comparing Heyward to Soler is comparing apples to oranges. Even if we assume that Heyward's defensive ability will be closer to "average" for CF he does address a couple of holes for our team. He is a good baserunner (can't have too many of those), he is a leader, he is still young, he is very good at drawing walks and making contact.

    Finally, we didn't pay that much for a RF. We paid for a reasonable likelihood of 5-6 WAR. For that we got a bargain price.

    In short, you are looking at the wrong numbers in my opinion. While RF is traditionally a 'power' position the fact is that we are reasonably likely to get unusually high power numbers from less-traditional positions.

  • WaitTilNextYear. . . The Cubs paid Heyward to play CF not right. He was both the best CFer AND RFer on the free agent market this year. I think you are the last guy that still cares about RBI as a stat. His WAR,wOBA and RC are the numbers you should focus on to better appreciate the value that Heyward brings.

  • Another important difference between 2015 and 2016: both the Reds and the Brewers will be in full rebuild mode for the entire season instead of just the last two or three months.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    Indeed-Reds look like a possible 100loss team this year. Votto will lead the league in IBB, since he has no one hitting behind him. Brew Crew has no ace SP and no true CFer.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    The division looks much weaker as a whole. Someone is going to have to explain to me why nobody is expecting the Pirates to slide some as they don't look anywhere near as strong to me after losing Walker and others. The Cardinals could still be sneaky good with health in the rotation but obviously Milwaukee and Cincy are in full rebuild. The entire NL looks weak to be honest. The Giants, Nats and D-Backs should be better but the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates and even the Mets seem to be weaker than they were to end the season. Like I said I'm not sleeping on the Cards, and with that pitching you can never discount the Mets but I'm not seeing a sleeper team anywhere and if last year was historically bad in the NL this year looks worse.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I know we like to talk about a 10-year run with the Cubs, but I really feel like 2016 and 2017 present great opportunities for the Cubs to finally end the drought. Based on the aggressive offseason, it looks like Cubs management feels the same way. And I disagree with you on the Cardinals: I see an aging team that lacks offense and is unlikely to reproduce the 2015 pitching "luck"; a team that arguably lost it's best everyday player and SP to its main rival. The team that worries mris the Giants, especially if they land a left fielder.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Oh I completely agree that 2016-2017 is window #1 of a larger contention window. It's the only one with certainty right now and the only one that we can even try to predict yet. I guess the best way to say it is that while they're in "win now" mode they're not in that mode in advance of a scorched earth policy to break down and start again.

    As far as the Cardinals every time it looks to me like they have a weaker team they turn around and win. I just never underestimate them. I still think they're in on Alex Gordon even if they don't say so and his numbers would replace Heyward's pretty closely. Molina might be the key there, if he's continues to have injury issues that might signal their fall. And yes, I'm with you on the Giants but I also fear the Nationals and that Mets rotation is still scary. I can't stand Dusty Baker but it's not coincidence that he almost always wins the first year he takes over.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Dbacks can be simialrly scary, there offense is on par with ours in many respects. Pitching depth behind there top 3 is shaky tho.

  • In reply to TC154:

    People mention the Cubs beating their Pythagorean by 7 games, I think.

    I just read the Cards beat theirs by 11 games with one of the beat all time historical performances regarding leaving runners on base as a pitching staff. Right now they are calling for the Cards to be a mid-80 win team.

    Can 90 win the NL Central?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Yes, I think 90-93 wins the Central. I think the Cubs look to be about a 95 win team +/- a few games. They're clearly the favorite and the Cardinals have serious challenges. My only concern, and I wouldn't even call it a worry, is that St. Louis has been down before and oftend finds a way. I have never been this confident in a Cubs team in my life, I just don't want to be cocky.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wasn't last year the year that St. Louis was down, but still found a way to win (a lot)?

    Like, that's the thing, and why, Matheney and the entire St. Louis operation (fans excluded) is so commendable for their work. Even in down years, they're really good.

  • Yet another key difference is the potential bench production. We'll have Baez and Coghlan replacing Herrera and Denorfia, which has to be worth more than a few extra runs.

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    In reply to TZCubs:

    It reminds me of Jed's comment earlier this off-season. Many fans want to fill out the batting order and starting pitching with the best players. A Front Office needs to fill out the ENTIRE roster. Since injuries are relatively common for major league players those bench guys are more valuable than they are in other sports.

  • Fast Hulk Schwarber had 17 bombs in 273 PAs. Double that number and it becomes 34 bomb. The Cubs O took a dramatic turn upward oncew Fast Hulk became a regular, and I can only see Schwarber, Bryant and Soler likel;y improving, especially considering they likely have Zobrist and Heyward in front of them.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I would put Russell and Baez in the probably improving mode too.

  • In reply to John57:

    Rizzo and Heyward haven't hit their hypothetical primes yet, either. Go Cubs!

  • My two worries regarding the Cubs offense are a) injuries to key players, and 2) the dreaded "Sophomore Slump".

    Not much can be done about a), but it seems that the Cubs did not have key injuries to their position players last year, and maybe this year will be payback for that. On b) I'm really hoping for improvement from the young players (especially see it happening with Russell and Baez), but concerned that scouting/pitching will expose the younger guys a bit in '16.

    If a) and b) don't hit, however, this offense could be an absolute juggernaut! Think Big Reds Machine, Red Sox/Yankees lineups in the early aughts, Pitcher-shredding, no-lineup-weakness-in-sight kind of stuff. Cubbie Power!

  • In reply to HefCA:

    #whoreallyneedsthedh

  • Fear the Goat!

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