The Chicago Cubs couldn’t care less about PECOTA. Suppose you’re unaware of what PECOTA does or doesn’t do. In that case, it is simply a projection system developed in the early 2000s by FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver and first made public at Baseball Prospectus. Each year PECOTA will analyze past performance for the most likely scenario in an upcoming season.
Thus far, in 2021, the Cubs are doing everything in their power to defy the projections. On a rocking Sunday night in Wrigleyville, Craig Kimbrel slammed the door on St. Louis for a three-game sweep of the insipid division rivals.
It was the latest mark in Kimbrel’s inspiring year and one that kept the Cubs in a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place atop the NL Central. In a year in which they were expected to fall flat, the Cubs are out to prove everyone wrong.
Chicago Cubs aren’t worrying about the pressure this season
The team has found success because they have not put pressure on their outcomes. They’ve played with ease and have not worried about the small things to a degree. They’ve also found incredible success with one of their usual areas of lack – the bullpen.
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Behind only crosstown rival Chicago White Sox by 0.2 WAR per FanGraphs, the Cubs relief core does have the highest strikeout rate across baseball with a 29.1 percent rate. They’ve had a slew of arms contribute in significant ways, including two prospects in Keegan Thompson and Cory Abbott.
In 22 1/3 innings, Thompson has a 2.01 ERA and a 26 percent strikeout rate. Abbott has a 2.70 ERA in 3 1/3 innings as he made a scoreless debut a week ago with two shutout innings.
The offense has been solid with a resurgence of a healthy Kris Bryant. He is putting MVP-level numbers up again and continues to show why he is one of the best players in baseball when healthy. Baseball Prospectus‘ offensive measure of Deserved Runs Created has the Cubs with seven players above average.
The production from guys such as Patrick Wisdom, who has eight home runs in 19 games, and a combination of Matt Duffy’s clutch factor and even Sergio Alcantara, has helped the team immensely. Add in the trio of Ian Happ, Joc Pederson and Jake Marisnick, who are playing near league-average, and there is a reason why the Cubs are a quiet 11 games over .500 and a first-place tie atop the N.L. Central.
Starting pitching has begun to improve at the perfect time. Zach Davies, who struggled at the start of the year, has a 2.60 ERA in his last ten games. Kyle Hendricks has been strong with six straight quality starts and a 2.93 ERA in that span.
As such, the Cubs are (at least so far) defying PECOTA. Each year is a new year, and projections, while similar based on recent production, are always projections. We are halfway through June, and so far, it’s sails up for the streaking ball club. Whether it is sustainable is one thing, but right now, things are looking great on the North Side of Chicago.