PECOTA projects Cubs to miss the playoffs


As catchers and pitchers are set to report in less than a month, now it’s the time that projections come out. Earlier this month FanGraphs ZIPs had its own set of projections for the Cubs, and yesterday it was time for PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ system that tries to predict how the season will unfold.

It has some surprises but it basically says the Cubs will have a winning record – although they will miss the playoffs by a mere game. They’re projected to end the year with an 82-80 record, good for sixth in the NL and second in the Division but only behind the St. Louis Cardinals who are expected to finish with an 89-73 record.

When it comes to the performance of some of the standout players, it’s clear that PECOTA was quite conservative with the youngster. Kris Bryant projects to have a great season for a rookie – with a triple slash line of .261/.351/.515 in 1/3 of the season – and Jorge Soler also looks like he’ll have a good season – with a .257/.316/.458 line of his own to go along with 24 HRs – but Javier Baez (25 HRs) isn’t expected to do much besides sending a few balls over the fence.

Both Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are projected to regress. Rizzo had an MVP-caliber season in 2014 but PECOTA projects him to have a 3.8 WARP and a .262/.343/.472 line and 26 HRs while Starlin Castro was heavily punished due to his 2013 campaign. The Dominican SS is projected to have a .277/.317/.397 line which is a downgrade compared to both his 2014 year and his career numbers overall.

Tommy LaStella is expected contribute with a .341 OBP, fourth in the team behind Rizzo, Bryant and Dexter Fowler (.343).

In terms of pitching, Kyle Hendricks received a strange prediction. While he has some solid numbers like a 3.11 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP, he’s projected to pitch only 68 innings in 8 starts. Jon Lester has a 3.28 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP and Jake Arrieta is expected to pitch to the tune of a 3.66 ERA so there’s some regression expected there.

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If you’re wondering about Edwin Jackson, he’s expected to be in the starting rotation but PECOTA isn’t considering a rebound season for him. He’s slated for a -0.7 WAR so if these numbers are any indication, Jackson isn’t expected to be much of a contributor this season.

The bullpen appears to be rather solid. Jason Motte and Pedro Strop are expected to have a good year while Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon are all expected to contribute on one way or another.

The PECOTA projections are always considered to be quite conservative so maybe the Cubs could win a few more games. Based on these numbers alone, if Kyle Hendricks and Kris Bryant receive more playing – something that’s completely bound to happen barring an injury or a terrible slump – then it’s not far-fetched to imagine the Cubs making the postseason once the regular season is over. Just remember this, PECOTA has no bias, no favor. It’s based strictly off the numbers. But no matter what, it’s a projected improvement for this team.

Next: Where does Jake Arrieta rank in the National League?