Chicago Cubs: PECOTA hitter-pitcher projections released

Craik Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Craik Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Every year, the Chicago Cubs and Baseball Prospectus releases their PECOTA projections, which have since been picked up by and mentioned on MLB Network.

PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, and BP has implemented an all-new formula for the numbers this year. On Thursday morning, they released their projections for hitters and pitchers. There are a couple of notable Cub pitchers – one that PECOTA is exceptionally high on, and one they are very low on.

PECOTA loves Craig Kimbrel to bounce back after last year’s rough season. PECOTA projects him to finish with 38 saves in 53 appearances, with a 2.87 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in 56 innings pitched. Last year, of course, Kimbrel signed with the Cubs in early June, and that may have played a part in his down season. Kimbrel finished the year with a 6.23 ERA in 23 appearances with just 13 saves.

Jon Lester is on the complete opposite side of PECOTA, projected for a 4.67 ERA with a 4.59 FIP across 26 starts. This should come as no surprise, given Lester has been on the downswing of his career for a few seasons now. He’s 36 and has started over 400 career games; he was bound to come down at some point.

Arbitrarily, Lester has won 190 career games. Wins don’t mean a darn thing in this day and age, but it would be cool to see him get to 200 wins in 2020.

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One guy PECOTA is exceptionally high on is a bit of an exciting name in Alec Mills. They have Mills worth 1.4 WAR over 52 games, making ten starts. He is projected for a 3.62 ERA with a 3.99 FIP over 94 innings.

Mills has a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster, maybe even as the fifth starter. For the first time since Lester put on a Cubs uniform, the rotation will be anchored by somebody not named Jon Lester. Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish should be the best pitchers for the 2020 Chicago Cubs, and by a fairly wide margin.

Former Cub Jorge Soler was listed in PECOTA’s “Top 10 hitters on the rise.” BP also released a “Top 14 hitters who will disappoint” list, and the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman and the Brewers’ Keston Hiura were listed on that list. Mills was listed on PECOTA’s “10 pitchers on the rise” list, as was Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff.

The Cubs lost Brandon Kintzler to the Marlins and long-time fan favorite Pedro Strop to the Reds. They have added pitchers such as Jharel Cotton, Ryan Tepera, Jeremy Jeffress, and Casey Sadler. All of those guys have seen Major League time in the past and have high spin rates. They also bought back Brandon Morrow on a minor league contract.

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The Chicago Cubs are going with the “low risk, high reward” theme in the bullpen. With all the work they have done with the pitch lab in Arizona, a couple of these guys have to pan out, right?