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.



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