FanGraphs ZiPS module is low on the Chicago Cubs entering the 2023 season
The Chicago Cubs have spent over $300MM in free agency this offseason and that has led to increased expectations for the team at the Major League level for the 2023 season. The activity of the Cubs' offseason has some believing that the team could challenge the St. Louis Cardinals at the top of the National League Central division but FanGraphs released their ZiPS module projected standing and they are not one of those believers.
2023 National League Central Standing Projections via FanGraphs ZiPS module
- St. Louis Cardinals, 91-71
- Milwaukee Brewers, 83-79
- Chicago Cubs, 78-84
- Cincinatti Reds, 70-92
- Pittsburgh Pirates, 68-94
Beyond having the Cubs finishing third in the National League Central Division, the FanGraphs ZiPS module places an 8.1% chance of the Cubs winning the division, a 9.7% chance of being one of the National League Wild Card teams, a 17.8% chance at making the postseason, and a 0.5% chance at winning the World Series.
"The Cubs are improved, but they’re still a team with holes to address. The addition of Jameson Taillon improves the middle of the rotation, but they still look to be behind the Cardinals and especially the Brewers there. And while the team is better with Dansby Swanson, it’s still missing a real high-end bat. They’re close enough to be interesting, but in accordance with the computer here: they’re clearly a big step behind the first two teams in the division."- Dan Syzmborski via FanGraphs
Entering the 2023 season, there is no question that the Cubs are not on the same level as the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs do not have the starting lineup nor the starting rotation that will be able to compete with the Cardinals.
As for the Brewers, it may be an exaggeration to say that the Cubs are "clearly a big step" behind their friends to the north. While there is no question that the Brewers still have one of the best starting rotations in the National League, their offense will be more of a question mark as the team traded away Hunter Renfroe. Catcher William Contreras will certainly assist in that department but not to the point where they are a clear level ahead of the Cubs.
Overall, the Cubs are still a team that is dependent on several "ifs" needing to happen before they are to be considered a legitimate contender in 2023. Among those "ifs" are center fielder Cody Bellinger taking a step closer to his 2019 National League MVP form as well as one of Justin Steele or Hayden Wesneski emerging as a top-end starting pitcher. If those things occur, then there is no question that the Cubs can outperform their ZiPS projection in 2023.