You don’t need an advanced forecasting system to tell you the Cubs are bad, but it’s a bit disheartening to have one of the team’s top talents singled out.
Last week, FanGraphs released their ZiPS projections, which were unkind to the Cubs, though there were signs of hope on an individual level. Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections, however, are somewhat more bearish, especially in regards to Jeff Samardzija.
You need a BP subscription to access PECOTA, so I won’t divulge too much information in this post, but here’s a few notable points:
✶ PECOTA thinks Samardzija is going to be the worst pitcher in the starting rotation with a 4.49 ERA and 0.1 WARP. For comparison, ZiPS projected Samardzija to lead the rotation in ERA (3.56) and wins above replacement (3.2), so this is quite a discrepancy. Samardzija’s true performance will probably fall somewhere in between, but the range of these projections is disconcerting.
✶ The Cubs are expected to finish 71-91. The anticipated results don’t include the recent addition of Jason Hammel, and if Samardzija outperforms his projections, the Cubs could be four or five wins better. Either way, it looks like the Cubs are destined for last in the NL Central again. Only the Astros (66 wins) and the Marlins (69) are projected to finish worse overall.
✶ PECOTA’s projections for Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are nearly identical to ZiPS, so it’s nice to see these forecasts are in agreement that both players could have a strong season.
✶ Ryan Sweeney is expected to have a very David DeJesus-like slash line of .273/.332/.398, which is exactly what the Cubs want.
✶ Like Samardzija, PECOTA isn’t a fan of James Russell (4.45 ERA, -0.1 WARP), but neither is ZiPS (3.92, 0.2 WAR).
✶ In regards to prospects we might see in the majors this year, PECOTA only allots 60+ plate appearances for Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, so there’s nothing significant worth reporting on that front.