Someone over at FanGraphs has some big love for the Cubs, and his name is Bradley Woodrum.
Woodrum just recently wrote a piece using a total team WAR calculator with data from the ZiPS projections to paint a picture the Cubs’ 2013 season using a myriad of stats and extraneous factors.
Nov 1, 2011; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs vice president of scouting Jason McLeod (left) , president of baseball operations Theo Epstein (middle) and new general manager Jed Hoyer (right) in attendance at a press conference at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The calculator itself is surprisingly accurate and would be difficult to use for most regular ball fans as it incorporates a lot of sabermetrics and relies on the user to make a few assumptions about certain stats. So, you would need to know what the baseline averages are for a lot of off-color stats and make assumptions about player’s defensive values etc.
Mr. Woodrum does a great job using realistic assumed metrics which keeps the projection fairly realistic.
I love when these baseball geniuses publish this kind of content about your team in particular as it adds a lot of insight to what would be an otherwise lofty projection. This type of column is priceless (in the good way) an can be read by clicking here. I highly recommend it but be warned, it’s not a light read.
For those who don’t want to read it, I’ll give you the jist. The Cubs are projected to win 77-79 games this year largely due to the recent signings of Edwin Jackson, Scott Hairston and others. Woodrum also has big praise for pitching with the calculated WAR jumping several points after the depth additions (Christian Villanueva, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa.) This seems a very significant leap compared to the 61-101 season the Cubs posted just last year, but there’s no doubt that the Cubs had fresh talent surface last season (Jeff Samardzija, Welington Castillo) and have since added strong pieces to the mix.
All of these factors calculate more wins for the Cubs, however subtle they may be.
Looking in to the metrics that Woodrum has used, you can see he projects the Cubs to “luck in” to a pile of wins to reach that magic 77-79 range. Pythagorian W-L had the Cubs still losing 90+ games last season and the same logic about luck applies here considering the amount of theoretical math that is required for these calculations, but it’s bad luck instead of good luck. By the same argument, any team that can win 79 games could win 85 depending on their luck (which is regarded as a pure stat in sabermetrics) so it really could go either way.
If you want my take on it (and I assume you do if you’re still reading) the Cubs will probably win 70-72 games at most. The addition of Scott Hairston (for his power hitting abilities) allows them to creep closer towards being a .500 team, but if the Cubs aren’t in contention come July, you can bet they’ll be sellers at the deadline. If the Cubs go in to sales mode, the total number of wins will drop with it, thus curbing the W-L record lower.
Will the Cubs make the post season? Considering there’s a meager 3% chance the Cubs hit 91 wins next year, it’s unlikely. Not impossible of course considering the Orioles and Athletic’s performance last season, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. The Cubs need to remain healthy and play consistent baseball in order to even crack the 72+ win range.
If there’s anything to take away from this calculator, it’s that it represents the significant leaps the team has made from last off season without breaking the bank. It’s a great indicator of the fantastic job that Theo and Jed have done shopping around the bargain bins of the MLB and churning out quality deals.
It’s a supreme lesson in “never say never”… The Cubs are quickly moving in the right direction.