Cubs projected to be better than the Cardinals and the White Sox

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Every year when Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections are published, baseball fans inevitably overexaggerate their meaning and get frustrated when their team isn’t rated how they believe they should be. With that said, the Chicago Cubs’ projections are about as close to our predictions as possible in that they also have no idea what this year will bring.

PECOTA has the Cubs winning 85 games this year which is a lukewarm but not unexpected projection. Yet, when looking at the graph of simulated win percentage for the NL Central, the top of the graph is remarkably flat for the North Siders indicating that this team has so many unknowns that it’s impossible to guess how they’ll perform until the season starts. Essentially, 85 wins is a definite maybe.

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PECOTA gives the Chicago Cubs a better projection than expected

Of course, the one aspect PECOTA hates about the Cubs is the pitching staff. While it projects Kyle Hendricks as the team’s most dependable starter (3.3 WARP) and Craig Kimbrel as the team’s go-to guy in the ninth with a bounce back year (0.8 WARP), almost everyone else is not in their good graces. Zach Davies and Alec Mills are tied as the team’s next two most valuable pitchers and, while not projected to be terrible, are a bit below what the team wants for their number two and three starters, respectively.

Perhaps most disappointing is Adbert Alzolay who is rated the team’s least valuable starter on the Opening Day rotation behind Trevor Williams. The young right-hander really needs to prove he’s ready to become a permanent fixture on the pitching staff and another down year could leave him lost in the shuffle. He performed well in a shortened season last year, but he needs to translate that over a full 162 games if the Cubs are going to compete this year.

On the flipside, the offense is projected for a stellar year after many of the team’s core dropped off in the shortened season. Everyone is expected to play at or above replacement level with Anthony Rizzo projected to have the most value. Even Nico Hoerner, who offered nothing of note on offense last year, received some love from PECOTA to the tune of 1.4 WARP.

Next. Cubs expect the core to step up on offense.. dark

Of course, all of this is pretty much meaningless. There’s such a wide range here that getting a read on what the Cubs will do is near impossible. Still, projection or not, it’s a rosier prediction than what I expected from PECOTA given the worrying state of the pitching staff. Perhaps if they’re really going to continue to spend, they’ll pick up another arm to make that rotation a tad less nightmarish.

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