The ZiPS Projections for the 2013 Chicago Cubs

2013 cubs zips projectionsEach year, Dan Szymborski creates one of the most respected sets of statistical projections – the ZiPS Projections – using fancy computer work, the particulars of which I reckon he wouldn’t be too keen on sharing. That said, the projections are annually among the best, and routinely spot surprises before they happen.

This year’s set of ZiPS Projections found a home at FanGraphs, and the projections for the 2013 Chicago Cubs went up late last week. It is a huge volume of information, and I highly recommend you take a look, just for the fun of it.

Among the highlights:

  • Jeff Samardzija projects to be the best starter on staff, putting up a 3.62 ERA, ahead of Matt Garza (3.68) and Edwin Jackson (3.91). His K/9 (9.16), WAR (3.1), and FIP (3.52) also project to lead the staff.
  • In total, the rotation looks pretty good, with all of Samardzija, Garza, Jackson, Scott Baker, and Carlos Villanueva projected to be average-to-above-average starters. Only Scott Feldman and Travis Wood fall below the mark slightly.
  • The bullpen projects to be pretty good as well, with Carlos Marmol (3.36 ERA, 12.74 K/9) and Kyuji Fujikawa (3.38, 10.12) projected to be well above average. James Russell and Shawn Camp project to be slightly better than average, as well as Arodys Vizcaino, who is projected as a reliever. Alberto Cabrera and Michael Bowden project to be just slightly below average.
  • The system doesn’t think too much of Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, former Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, or any of the non-roster invitee bullpen arms (with the exception of Hisanori Takahashi, who probably signed too recently to make the list).
  • On the positional side, the picture is much less rosy picture (which sounds about right). Only Anthony Rizzo (129 OPS+), Starlin Castro (109), Alfonso Soriano (105) and David DeJesus (101) project to be better than average.
  • The system seems to love Brett Jackson, however, as he’s projected to put up a slightly-below-average 95 OPS+, but a 2.3 WAR – equal to that of Darwin Barney. Clearly Jackson’s defense and base-running are well-liked.
  • Neither Luis Valbuena nor Ian Stewart come in for much love, and the worst projection for a positional player who actually has a chance of seeing the field? Tony Campana, with an ugly .262/.306/.314 line (he still steals 43 bases, though).
  • Anthony Rizzo porn: projected .279/.349/.503 with 31 homers, 32 doubles, and 109 RBI.

Like I said, the whole thing is worth a look. Dan offers some caveats at the end of the projections that are worth noting, as well, including the caution that the projections are not reflective of an allocation of playing time (that is to say, there are way more plate appearances and innings in the system than will actually be played – that’s so that he can offer a projection of each player, if they became a relative regular).

All told, the projection pegs the Cubs as a 73 to 77 win team, depending on how the playing time shakes out. That sounds about right to me, though, if I were betting on the roster as presently constructed, I’d take the low end of that scale. Keep in mind, if the Cubs are not competitive come late June, I see no reason why they won’t sell of a bit again, which could push the win total down further. I don’t expect another 100+ loss season, but I also don’t really expect .500.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

49 responses to “The ZiPS Projections for the 2013 Chicago Cubs”

  1. TWC

    Holy crap, I’d love to see that .279/.349/.503 line from Rizzo annually for the next decade.

    1. DarthHater

      First, I’d like to see it once.

    2. Miggy80

      What up T-DUB! Like my new hippie gravitar?

      1. TWC

        Cheers, Migs! I didn’t realize that the prison library has the internet — you lucky dog!

        1. Miggy80

          I got lucky there was a cubs fan on the parole board!

  2. jt

    seems about right. not much consideration for injury down time though.
    nice read however.

  3. dw8

    We should probably be a little careful with those Villanueva projections as a “starter”. Those projections include 14 starts out of 34 appearances and only 110 innings. He’s basically being projected as a swingman and not a full time starter.

    One should probably assume an increase in the DIPS categories if he winds up a full-time starter in 2013

  4. Idaho Razorback

    What’s Anthony Rizzo porn?

    1. Danny Ballgame

      Every time he swings a bat is Rizzoporn

      1. justinjabs

        I just love his “don’t give no *effs*” batting stance.

        1. Cyranojoe

          Something about it feels so very “Yankees”. And I mean that in a complimentary way — born to play baseball, utterly and fabulously cool and confident about it.

  5. DarthHater

    Because porn is exceptionally awesome? ;-)

  6. Timmy

    I’d say that 73 wins is on the optimistic side. They may not lose 100, but they’ll lose 90.

    1. baldtaxguy

      What statistical model are you using?

  7. hansman1982

    Well, here is about the best RHP lineup you could have:

    DeJesus
    Castro
    Rizzo
    Soriano
    Schierholtz
    Castillo
    Stewart
    Barney

    and my optimism goes right out the window.

    1. baseballet

      And imagine if Soriano gets injured…gulp

      1. Timmy

        There’s a good chance that it’ll take 4-6 years for the Cubs to even be a 500 team with our offensive stock.

      2. hansman1982

        and Bourn really doesn’t help us in the lineup.

        This team could really use a good 3rd baseman and high wOBAing RF or LF

        1. gocatsgo2003

          With the caveat that I can’t find any easily-accessed metric for “wOBA,” wouldn’t signing Bourn and shifting DeJesus to RF improve that lineup almost immediately? Bourn’s career splits are pretty heavy toward righties. Something like:

          Bourn
          Castro
          Rizzo
          Soriano
          DeJesus
          Castillo
          Stewart
          Barney
          P

          1. Cas-castro

            Not really, Dejesus’s bat plays better in CF.

            1. brickhouse

              Dejesus is not a good defensive CF. He would be better as a platoon in RF with him sitting against lefties.

              1. Cas-castro

                You can live with his glove and bat in CF. The glove is average for CF, above average in RF. His bat dictates he could be a starter on most teams in CF however he would be a 4th outfielder on most good teams. I completely agree with your assessment.

                1. Kyle

                  I’d be pretty shocked if DeJesus could play average CF defense for a full season.

            2. gocatsgo2003

              Agree completely. The problem is that we don’t REALLY have anyone on the roster whose bat plays very well in RF. DeJesus is probably the best, most reliable option we have over there as it seems Schierholtz is a better platoon candidate.

              PS — Sure would be nice if Soler were ready to go… that would solve a LOT of problems. Not saying that’s realistic in the slightest, but more as another element speaking to the fact that our horizon for excellence on the offensive side is probably further out than in defense and pitching.

          2. 2much2say

            That line up is weak. Dejesus in a power slot?
            Bourn Dejesus Castro Soriano Rizzo Stewart Castillo Barney P

            1. gocatsgo2003

              And I can come right back to say that putting Castro in a power slot makes no sense — his OPS+ in 429 PAs batting third is a whopping 68. Of course, DeJesus’ is 86 in 587 career PAs in the third spot.

              In combination, it tells you something we already know: we are more than a couple players away from fielding what I would call an “ideal” lineup.

              1. Jono

                Castro batting 3rd is much better than dejesus batting 5th

    2. Cedlandrum

      i might have just thrown up in my mouth a bit.

  8. Patrick G

    Question on Garza, wouldn’t it make sense to hold on to him until the trade deadline instead of trading in spring training. If we get a healthy Garza, his value would be higher then now coming off an injury. And if he reinjures his arm, his trade value will be 0, but his extension value will drop allowing us to get a good deal with him?

    1. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Actually Patrick it would make more sense in Spring Training. If a team holds a player all season, they are going to get compensated for the player in the following draft. So the team trading for him would have more incentive before the season. With that said, I think if the Cubs were to dangle him at the deadline, there would be less teams because the compensation pick isn’t there, but Cubs use that to their negotiation advantage. The team coming at them will immediately have to top that value. Then, you have teams bidding against each other with a chance to win. Long story short, we will have more teams bid on him before the season as opposed to the trade deadline.

    2. hansman1982

      At this point, unless Garza goes to a team he wants to play for long term (and gets an NTC (full/partial or Greinke style)) he is going to hit free agency. He knows that a healthy and productive 2013 equals a GIANT payday.

    3. Patrick G

      Good points it was just a thought that came to mind and didnt think of the benefits of the other options

  9. Chris

    A healthy Garza has more value to a trade partner before the season than halfway through, and thus would generate a more substantial return.

    Think about it as the team trading for him:
    A) Full season of control, plus draft pick compensation if he doesn’t stick around, or
    B) Half season of control, with no guarantees he’ll stick around after the season

    Which are you more willing to send quality Chicago’s way for?

    1. Rich H

      Or have him do a Extension before the trade even gets done like what Peavy got from the Sox a few years ago. That would be the best scenario for the Cubs. Trade him for maximum value because a 2 or 3 year contract is already worked out.

  10. cubmig

    All of the talk about how the 2013 Cubs will lose 77 to 90 games leaves little for us old fans to rejoice over. Snail progress. The wheels of improved-change move awfully slo..o..o..oo..oo..ow. A Cubs’ World Series wish dims and is at the mercy of “progress moves” yet to prove out.

    1. Norm

      Losing 77 games would give the Cubs 85 wins and would make for a rather enjoyable, exciting season.

  11. Kyle

    When I plug those into the projected playing time, I get 80-82.

    1. SirCub

      That’s if you put your replacement level team at 50 wins, I’m guessing. Zips, for whatever reason, uses 45 wins as its baseline (which puts the Cubs at 75-87).

      Also, Zips doesn’t just total a team’s WAR to determine their record. He projects it by looking at the projections of other teams in the division and league, taking strength of schedule into account, I believe. That should help bump the Cubs a bit.

  12. Leroy

    love me some Anthony Rizzo Porn. LOL thats awesome.

  13. Blublud

    This is why I not a big fan of these projection and the peripheral type stats.

    Let say I have a season where I have 200 hits in 650 PA.
    I have 30 three hit games. Out of those I have 6 four hit games and 2 five hit games that’s season. In 30 games in have 100 hits and in the other 132 games I have 100 hits.

    Now lets say I have 30 HRs. In my 30 big games I hit 15 HRs. In the other 132 games I hit 15 HRs.

    Lets split 100 RBIs the same way. 50 in the big games, 50 in the other.

    For the season I would be .308/30/100

    But the split might be

    30 game span
    150 AB .667/15/50

    132 game span
    500 AB .200/15/50

    In other words, my season line was good, but in reality, I was really only effective in less then 20% of the games.

    I know I may be on the extreme end here but is there a stat that measures consistency over the course of the season vs. Stats weighted from a few big games.

    1. SirCub

      That’s actually why peripheral stats and projections based on them are useful. Because over the course of a small sample (like, one season, or a month within a season), there will be a lot of fluctuations in player performance, due to nothing more than statistical noise.

      If you want to project a player’s future performance, its best not to look at their actual performance, which will be influenced by “hot” and “cold” stretches, where thay happened to have more groundballs find holes, and flyballs carry over the fence. Instead, by looking at their much more stable peripheral statistics (bb rate, k rate, gb rate, etc), you can have more confidence in what they will do in the future.

  14. Richard Nose

    Solid projection for LaHair.