2014 Chicago Cubs: True Talent Level, Win Curves, and the Lack of Moves

In a recent FanGraphs piece about the Rangers losing Derek Holland for a considerable portion of the 2014 season, Jeff Sullivan wrote about marginal wins for teams like the Rangers – ones that are rather good, and project to be playoff contenders. His piece, as it relates to Holland and the Rangers is an interesting read, but I’d like to focus on two graphs he included, and discuss how they relate to the Cubs, both in the near and long-term.

In the first graph, Sullivan plots the odds that a given team will reach 90 wins (a reasonable playoff chance), given its “true talent level” – in other words, just because a team is truly an 85-win team, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually win 85 games. Sometimes teams get lucky, or unlucky. Here’s the graph (via FanGraphs):

Reading the graph, if you’ve constructed a roster with a true talent level of 90 wins, there’s actually a nearly 50% chance your team will fail to actually win 90+ games. There’s a small chance that you’ll win exactly 90 games, and then a nearly 50% chance your team will win more than 90 games. Makes sense, eh?

As it relates to the 2014 Chicago Cubs, whose “true talent level” is going to hew much more closely to the bottom end of that scale, we can see that there’s still a chance that the Cubs could win 90 games! Of course, that chance is something close to 5%, and if you believe the Cubs are only a 79/80-win team on paper heading into the season.

For the Cubs to have put themselves, in 2014, in a reasonable position for playoff contention, how high would they have had to climb? Is a 30% playoff chance worth what it would have taken to add 10 wins to the roster? That’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know what I think, given the complex relationship of near-term additions, long-term goals, and the financial restrictions the Cubs face. Assuming they would have actually signed with the Cubs, you’re looking at adding something like Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Jhonny Peralta (to play 3B) (four years, $53 million), and Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49 million) to get those 10 wins in 2014 … but you might be looking at some ugliness in the years thereafter, and a lot of tied up salary. And that’s just to get the Cubs a 30% chance of being a 90-win team in 2014, and that’s assuming you believe the current talent level is at least in the 76 win range (which is not a sure thing – with a similar roster (better in the first half), the Cubs win just 66 last year).

On the whole, that’s an incredibly steep hill to climb, and I’m once again reminded why discretion this offseason was the better part of valor.

The second graph Sullivan shares mostly underscores this point, while providing a different perspective (via FanGraphs):

The most valuable marginal wins take place when your team’s true talent level is already approaching 90 wins. If you’ve got a crappy team or a fantastic team, adding a win to true talent level barely increases the chances your team reaches 90 wins because you’re so far away or because you’re already a near lock to achieve 90 wins. This graph strongly supports the idea that, when your team finds itself below 80 wins of true talent level, spending significant money to add a few wins is not going to dramatically improve your odds of reaching playoff contention.

Sometimes, teams get lucky. I certainly hope the 2014 Cubs see positive regression from some key players, breakouts from others, and rapid prospect ascent. In that unlikely confluence of positives, maybe the Cubs fall into that 3/4/5% chance of reaching 90 wins. But do I think they should have spent considerable short-term resources to increase that chance to 20/30/40%? When it could, in the long run, diminish the odds in 2015/16/17, when the internally-developed true talent level is going to be much higher (and, thus, spending money on additional wins is much, much more valuable – as the graphs indicate)? I can’t say they should have.

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

234 responses to “2014 Chicago Cubs: True Talent Level, Win Curves, and the Lack of Moves”

  1. Baseball_Writes

    Brett – When did you suddenly become so passive?

    “But do I think they should have spent considerable short-term resources to increase that chance to 20/30/40%? When it could, in the long run, diminish the odds in 2015/16/17, when the internally-developed true talent level is going to be much higher (and, thus, spending money on additional wins is much, much more valuable – as the graphs indicate)? I can’t say they should have.”

    Repace, “I can’t say they should have” with, “that would be quite silly”. Much better.

  2. brickhouse

    It is very hard to make huge progress in 1 off season. The argument has always been signing player X or signing player Y won’t make enough difference to win this year. This argument has been made for the 2012, 2013 and now the 2014 team. If they had been making as much progress at the major league level as they did at the minor league level then you would have a competitive team this year with your farm system ranking lower.

  3. On The Farm

    Well, this was actually a very enjoyable piece. You could look at it as being a depressing piece, or have use it as a positive and remind yourself splurging would have done little for this club and once the first wave of prospect talent arrives, that would be the proper time to invest in assets to start making your team a true talent level of 90 wins.

    I realize things often sort themselves out when a team has a position crunch, but I think sitting back and figuring out where they are going to play Baez and Bryant will be big pieces for them to try and find out what holes need to be filled with a FA.

    1. Edwin

      What win level do you think the Cubs should get to in order to justify spending big in FA? 80?

      1. On The Farm

        80 would be ideal, but even if you are a touch below it, I would say go for it. If you are .500 team without the help of any FAs, that’s when you start pushing like crazy in your “window”.

        If we are talking 75, there probably needs to be a little more gamesmanship to who the club is adding.

      2. Voice of Reason

        Edwin:

        I don’t think you need a win level. I think it’s more on overall evaluation of the young talent and the belief that it is ready to go to the next level with some free agents or trades to add veteran punch to the line up!

        1. Drew7

          “I think it’s more [a]n overall evaluation of…”

          Which, in turn, would give you a projected win-level.

          1. Voice of Reason

            Win-level doesn’t necessarily play a factor.

            Three of our kids could blossom towards the end of an 80loss season…. say in 2 years…. and we might want to pull the trigger on free agents or some trades to take that next step.

            Again, win total would be irrelevant.

            1. Drew7

              We’re talking about a win-*projection*, not the previous year’s win total.

  4. GoCubsGo

    Interesting article. I think the Cubs can get into the marginal win category fairly quickly if baez and Bryant are who we need them to be and Castro and Rizzo take a step.

    I can see a 2015 light which is fun. I can see theo and jed being run out of town as well, but that’s not what I’d prefer.

  5. cubfanincardinalland

    How are they determining how many wins a team is bases on true talent level? Wouldn’t a lot of the variance really be based just on faulty projections and player grading?

    1. Edwin

      Depends what you mean by faulty projections.

  6. itzscott

    “Positive regression”…. either that’s an oxymoron or a fancy way of just saying “improvement”?

    1. Orval Overall

      That’s a very common reaction, but I think mostly because people hear “regression” (return to a prior level) and think of “degression” (descent to a lower level).

      “Positive degression” would be the oxymoron you’re thinking of.

      But I dislike the word too. When did it stop being fashionable to just say: “Bounce-back”?

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        The other thing is that probabilistic processes (e.g., everything in baseball) owes no debts. If you fall above expectations one year, then it is 50:50 that you will call above expectations the next year. Of course, if you fall far above expectations one year, then it is pretty probable that you will fall closer to expectation the next year even if you exceed. (Last years O’s did that as a team: they won many more games than they should have in 2012, but only 1-2 more than they should have in 2013.)

        But Brett’s main point is important: regression deals in absolute values, not positives or negatives. It you fall far below expectations in 2013, then if you do every thing exactly the same in 2014, then you probably will come much closer to expected outcome in 2014.

        1. hansman

          “The other thing is that probabilistic processes (e.g., everything in baseball) owes no debts.”

          I wonder if, when it was setting it’s charter, they put that clause in there just for the Cubs.

          Otherwise, they’d be out of business by their interest payments alone.

  7. Cerambam

    This will be as pointless as any comment I’ve made, but what do the cubs look like in 2015 if Bryant, Baez, Castro, Rizzo, and Olt all play exceedingly well (relative to their projections) in 2014. Of course it is unlikely, but if we really have 5 starters playing well how good are we?

    1. Cerambam

      My point is, given best(or just a good) case scenario how good is a team with those 5 producing? Our bullpen is shoring up, and there’s a lot of young back end pitchers emerging, but how much more does that team need?

  8. El Paso Cubs Fan

    This article was good and worth the read. However, the problem I see is that when Theo & Co. arrived we were told it would take a couple of bad years before being competative. THEY SAID to look at 2014. Now we’re being told MAYBE in 2015 the Cubs will be competative. I am 50 yrs old have been a Cubs fan my entire life, so I doubt anything could make me change. I am just getting tired of being told we can’t spend now because it won’t add any “value” and we can’t win now because we don’t have the needed pieces. At the rate the organizaion is going (and based on the repeated things they tell the fans), we’ll be lucky if we are FINALLY picking outside the top 10 in the draft, by 2020. Remind me, what was that about “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…………”?

    1. Jon

      “we were told it would take a couple of bad years before being competative”

      Actually….we were never told that….

    2. brainiac

      i agree, i find this argument, when made by the FO, to be another PR initiative deferment. they can literally make it forever, and probably will until owners tell them its safe to get out from behind their rocks.

      i also agree that you don’t want a team littered with 37 year olds, which is roughly when even the most durable athletes break down, at least with productivity levels. somehow i don’t think a couple 6-7 year contracts with top players who are currently 30 will hurt the mlb team.

      Brett: a post needs to be written that details all of the claims made both explicitly and implicitly with “the plan”, followed by a reader de-coding of what it all means. i have my ideas, as many of you know. and i’ll point out that regardless of what rhetorical flourish i use, i’m nearly at 100% right prediction rate for what the FO will or wont do. it’s actually pretty easy, cause they always do the same thing, followed by the same spin.

  9. Jon

    I’m waiting for the study on incremental improvements to a MLB roster and the effects on long term sustained success.

  10. Diehardthefirst

    Improvement may be late 2014 now that Renteria is here … If Castro buys into his message, Barney learns to switch hit Rizzo hits his weight plus 30 HR and Bonaficio is signed and steals 40 the Cubs could be fun to watch

    1. woody

      “Barney learns to switch hit” ????????????

      1. Diehardthefirst

        New hitting coach learned to switch hit

  11. Vic

    This is an excellent article. I find it encouraging based on the approach the FO is taking. It underscores that baseball is a probability business. Sustainable success depends on a robust farm system capable of producing a team that can approach 90 wins repeatedly. Then supplement with free agents. Unfortunately its a long process and does not guarantee a ring (just ask the Braves) but it does increase the probability of winning a World Series over time. Stay the course.

    1. Jon

      That article didn’t really provide any correlation between the FO’s approach(“several seasons of tanking”) and probability of long term success. All it did was indicate how well you are likely to perform, when you are “there”.

    2. Napercal

      Interesting you mention the Braves. They did sprinkle a few veterans into their team when they made their move in the early 90s. I am unaware of any team relying solely on the farm system to build a championship caliber team. It would be nice if Rizzo and Castro, and soon Baez and Bryant, didn’t bear the entire weight of the organization’s future on their shoulders. To the extent that any of them flame out, concern/criticism about the path chosen by Theo/Jed will increase. The players in the queue will certainly feel the pressure to perform in these circumstances. I really don’t see Schierholz and Valbuena as being the kind of guys to provide protection against this pattern. Someone like Granderson would have been a nice addition simply for this reason. The Cubs could easily carry his salary for the next four years without it causing a financial problem. The issue isn’t necessarily how many additional wins the Cubs have this season. It’s about building a team that can win consistently as the young guys move up. I know many think that’s b.s., but young players do need to learn how to prepare, how to deal with the media,etc. and most importantly how to win. The pressure on these young guys is going to be tremendous. It would be nice to have a veteran presence to help them deal with it.

  12. The Dude

    Great article, Brett! It definitely reinforces the slow and steady approach the Cubs have taken. Hopefully, they’ll take the correct risks when the time is right because the pressure is definitely mounting.

  13. ChrisCampo17

    So, what was the projection for the TB Rays entering the 2008 season? They obviously had some talent percolating up to the big club but were they expected to be any good? Looking at their roster in hindsight, they were stacked! Did anyone see them coming or did they just shock the world?

    1. terencemann

      BaseballProspectus.com predicted them to be the best team in baseball in 2008 following being the worst team in baseball in 2007. The statistical projections for the ’08 Rays were quite good. The pundits never saw it coming.

  14. Edwin

    Part of the risk of having a TTL too low is that without adding FA your team can be stuck in a perpetual state of never having enough TTL to justify spending in FA, and relying on a larger number of prospects hitting all at once to bring the team up to the 80 win level, or whatever level you want in order to start spending.

    I understand that the marginal value of wins 81-89 is much higher, but at some point you need to add wins 70-80 as well.

  15. Diehardthefirst

    Kessinger learned to switch hit and so can Barney

    1. Jon

      Kessinger was even worse than Barney, offensively.

      1. Diehardthefirst

        I believe they are equal but switch hitting extended his career .. And Cubs could carry him due to SS defense which is what I have been advocating for Barney for 2 years

        1. woody

          I personally like Barney. He has a great attitude and is a plus defender, but he belongs with a team that can afford his bat in the lineup. Probably an AL team. With the DH Barney would get better pitches to hit since there would be no picher hitting in the 9 spot. But seeing that he destined to be an 8 hole hitter an NL team is at a disadvantage having Barney and the pitcher giving up two outs most of the time. We already have a switch hitter in Alcantara who will be much cheaper than Barney for the foreseeable future. Best cas scenario is that Barney has a good first half and brings us a decent prospect. Seeing the depth and talent level we have with infielders there is no way Barney is our starter opening day 2015.

      2. DarthHater

        12295082343_654677516d.jpg

        1. Hee Seop Chode

          I love when you drop charts.

  16. Khross

    If only there was a way to factor in that magic called “team chemistry”. I my opinion, it has carried teams like the Cardinals through to post season that it makes me sick! BUT I believe that its there. Look at teams that try to “buy” their way to post seasons. It doesn’t always work. Of course, I guess thats where the graphs above come in.

    All that I feel we need are some good…not great…veteran presences on the team to help mold some of the younger players. These veterans could be hitting the back end of their careers but if they have the presence in the dugout/locker room/field and the “kids” see they as true role models it would greatly impact the team as a whole.

    I have no stats to back any of this up, just a long history of watching baseball.

    1. Khross

      Ugh…my typing sucks!

      Should have said:

      In my opinion, it has carried teams like the Cardinals through to post season so often that it makes me sick!

    2. Jon

      There is, it’s called “TWTW”

      1. Khross

        TWTW?? Sorry don’t know that one

        1. terencemann

          “The Will To Win”. It’s thrown around on sports talk a lot. On the internet, it’s usually used as a joke.

          1. Voice of Reason

            The one that drives me crazy is…

            “team chemistry”

            1. Khross

              Why would “team chemistry” drive you crazy? Just curious….not trolling or anything. It may not be quantifiable but it most certainly exists. Maybe it doesn’t usually have as much impact at the pro level, but I’ve seen it too many times to discount it.

              Eye of the Tiger baby!!

              1. Voice of Reason

                Teams that win are said to have “good chemistry” while teams that suck don’t have good chemistry.

                Of course you will have bad chemistry if you suck because the team will be negative…. and, if you’re winning, you will have great chemistry cause you’re all positive and happy.

                Moral: build a good team.

              2. hansman

                There have been so many teams that have done so many different things with so many different levels of “chemistry”.

                The best example being the 2004 Red Sox being “loose” and “un-affected by the curse” because they were drinking and partying in the clubhouse; yet the 2011 Red Sox were “uninspired” and “lacking in TWTW” because they were drinking and partying in the clubhouse.

                Chemistry is only applied after the fact. Hell, look at the Cubs the past two seasons, the clubhouse was a great environment, yet we stunk. Why? Because we didn’t have a greater level of talent then other teams.

    3. Edwin

      Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers, Cubs in 2007/2008, Phillies. The Cards ain’t cheap either, they’ve spent their share.

  17. cubs2003

    At this point, I think “The Plan” is far enough along that it’s pretty easy to see the FO is sticking to it. I’m a little surprised at the hardcore approach they’ve taken, but if it works then it works. I still wish they had a David DeJesus type signing or two this offseason. Proven, veteran, high character MLB players on short, but not just flippable contracts. I wouldn’t want to put all the pressure in the world on young players when they eventually come up.

    1. Voice of Reason

      They still have your David Dejesus type players:

      Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan, Nate Schierholtz….

      they’re all the same average to below average baseball players.

      I don’t know why you want them? They’re fourth or fifth outfielders on good teams.

      1. cubs2003

        I see those guys as borderline MLB’ers, with the exception of Schierholtz(when used properly). I wouldn’t put them in the same category as DeJesus. TB signed him to a pretty nice extension given his age, and that’s a pretty smart FO.

        1. Voice of Reason

          ok… comparisons:

          Dejesus: .279/.353 with 28hr and 524rbi in 1,277 games
          Sweeney: . 278/.336 with 20hr and 205rbi in 602 games

          Dude, they’re both average and totally comparable. Sweeney puts up better numbers if he plays as many games as Dejesus. Sweeney is 28 and Dejesus is 34.

          I can’t bare to look at others comparable to Dejesus. I tear up in pain.

          1. cubs2003

            I get what you’re saying. I’d still say .353 to .336 OBP shouldn’t be glossed over. I’m probably in the minority here, but I do think leadership skills provide some value. Especially for a young team.

          2. Drew7

            1) Dejesus has 88 HR’s, not 28.

            2) DDJ = .770 OPS
            RS = .721 OPS

            1. cubs2003

              Thanks. Can’t believe I missed that. A little slow on the uptake today. I’m fine with Sweeney on the roster, but him and DDJ aren’t all that similar IMO.

    2. Khross

      Agreed. You need some guys who have (forgive me) been there done that.

  18. BlameHendry

    No, signing Tanaka or another major-caliber FA wouldn’t have helped the Cubs chances of making the playoffs in 2014 very much, if at all. But it WOULD have made a pretty significant impact on their playoff chances in 2015 if they went out and added 1-2 more impact players the next offseason, adding pieces to the ones that could have been put in place this offseason. Combined, it makes a huge difference. And you just keep building from there. You have to start somewhere, otherwise every single season you’ll be sitting on your hands saying “signing these players wont improve our playoff chances, maybe we’ll do it next year” staring down the barrel of another 90+ loss season with even more fans walking away, and the vicious cycle continues.

    If Tanaka signed with the Cubs, yeah that’d be $23M wasted in 2014. But add another 1-2 impact FA’s next offseason and bring up a couple prospects, and we’d be extremely happy to have him on our team in 2016/2017, and it will be money relatively well spent. You gotta throw away a few dollars here and there to build a foundation.

    You can’t wait until these fabled prospects to start signing impact FAs. They’ll most likely crumble under the pressure. We got a strong farm system now and the wheels are in motion, but the FAs have to be here when they come up to ease their development. Supplement the FAs with prospects, not the other way around.

    1. Voice of Reason

      Tanaka was a great pass by the Cubs.

      The Cubs aren’t in position right now to spend $25 million dollars on a starter with no proven MLB track record. If they were a #2 starter away then I would probably say sign him. Again, you don’t have a proven history in the major leagues. Business owners don’t make that kind of investment unless absolutely necessary.

      1. Jon

        It’s really sad this “loser mentality and culture” has been accepted by fans. I’m not asking for a Pujols or Fielder signing, but there have been FA”s under the age of 30 that could have helped this roster among then…

        Darvish, Ryu, Tanaka, Puig, Cespedes, Bourn

        Just winning on “1 or 2″ of these guys and I think we are in a much better position for 2014. Yes, asking the FO in the 3rd largest market to “try harder” is a stretch, but I think it’s reasonable

        But no, we close our eyes, accept the plan of tanking and “giving up” as gospel, and move on hoping that maybe we win in 3-4 years.

        1. Luke

          I wanted Tanaka, Choo, and Abreu.

          The difference you’re seeing is that many of us who wanted some of those other players do not now complain at every conceivable opportunity that the Cubs don’t have them. It isn’t that we didn’t want them or that we’re happy the Cubs missed signing them, it’s that we choose not to wallow in that miss and are not constantly harping on that one topic.

          There are plenty of other things to talk about with the Cubs, both good and bad, without having to beat the same drum over and over again.

          That doesn’t mean we’re giving up, blinding ourselves, or (to preempt an argument that has been made by others around here) are lacking in objectivity or are just bad fans.

          We just don’t complain as much. That’s all.

          1. Jon

            It’s no more tired than the “Tananka would have been a huge mistake!!!!” VOR posts on a daily basis, hence why I replied to him.

            1. DarthHater

              Do you really want to defend yourself by saying you’re no worse than VOR? ;-)

              1. Voice of Reason

                I resemble that statement.

                1. DarthHater

                  Sorry, man. Couldn’t resist. At least nobody’s comparing any of you to me. :-P

                  1. Voice of Reason

                    Darth,

                    My problem is… not only am I smart, but I’m damn good looking, too.

                    It’s a curse and not a blessing.

                    1. DarthHater

                      All that and such an excess of modesty, too. Must be rough.

            2. Luke

              I’m attacking you, Jon. You just provided the vehicle to address a general point.

              I see the “Cubs fans just don’t care about winning” strawman come up frequently, particularly by people who don’t like how the offseason went.

              And, personally, I have yet to meet a Cubs fan who doesn’t want to win and has completely given up on that.

              1. DarthHater

                *ahem*

              2. Luke

                Wow… add a “not” in that first sentence. Second word actually.

                Thanks, Darth.

                1. hansman

                  It was better when you were attacking him.

            3. hansman

              So someone posts a daily diatribe about how Tanaka was a great miss and suddenly hoards of Cubs fans have no will to win?

          2. Diehardthefirst

            Yea but don’t think either Illinois senator would have the chutzpah to do what Schumer did thus leaving Tanaka at the dock for 6 mos to a year and eating 25 million

            1. DarthHater

              How’s that investigation of Schumer going?

              1. Diehardthefirst

                In due time.. There are so many ahead of his.. Need to take a number

                1. DarthHater

                  Yes, I forgot that in the quantum dimension of infinite typing monkeys, there is also an infinite amount of time…

        2. hansman

          “Bourn”

          Really?

          1. Jon

            Bourn wouldn’t be bad at 13/year and with his contract up in two years after this would be a great bridge to Almora., I especially wouldn’t mind him over Lake/Sweeney in CF. And all major projections have him better in 2014

            1. Voice of Reason

              Yes, because with Bourn we wouldn’t lose 104 games, we would lose 103!

              1. Jon

                Someday, the Cubs will win that “Most efficient Team” trophy you so desperately crave.

  19. Bilbo161

    Well I certainly do think the FO is doing this right. They seem to be going after the big names whose prime years fit into their expected timeline. They just are not winning the key guys over. Sanchez and Tanaka being the examples that come to mind first would have been real nice. I have no problem with the Cubs being picky. That being said I think the MLB team can be a .500 club this season but that doesn’t immediately make me think they should throw money at free agents that they don’t think fit their plans.

  20. pfk

    Everyone seems so down on the coming season. I’m not at all. In fact, I’m excited because this is the season where we start seeing things headed in a very positive direction at the MLB level. It won’t start until mid season but then we’ll start seeing the youth. I bet the Cubs are going to be very competitive come August and September. As one who has waited 60 years, these past couple of years have been well worth it because I know they are leading someplace incredibly good and exciting. I’m jazzed to watch it start to unfold this season. Actually, we will get a glimpse in Spring Training.

  21. Jon

    By most projections, we are looking at 95+ losses, and 1 of the big four will probably come up this year(Baez). One.

    Let’s not get too excited. Poor Javier probably hasn’t played on a team this bad since TBall.

    1. Luke

      He played on a pretty rough Low A team.

      I’d not be surprised to see Bryant make it up late in the year. Soler is also a possibility. I’ll be monitoring reports on him in spring training closely. I suspect he’s a bit further along than many are suspecting.

      1. Jon

        Didn’t the FO say they would like to see dominance for a full season at a level prior a big league promotion? Since this is both Soler’s and Bryants first attempt at AA I think a big league promotion would be a bit aggressive compared to those per-equistites.

        1. Luke

          They could get in a full season of Double A (should they both start there) and still make it up in September.

      2. Voice of Reason

        I’m almost certain Bryant will be up this year.

        He’s the most polished of the Big 4.

  22. Kyle

    “Is a 30% playoff chance worth what it would have taken to add 10 wins to the roster? ”

    Probably.

    Especially when you consider that the revenue benefits of winning don’t require you to actually get to 90 wins, and that the talent persists to the next season (with adjustments for aging, of course) and makes it easier for you to get there the next year.

    1. ClevelandCubsFan

      But put in the Cubs’ context, I’m going to tentative say, no, not worth it for a couple reason:

      1) The Cubs are already looking up at 2-3 90+ win teams. This means that the odds of 90 wins meaning a playoff trip are smaller for them than the average team that attempted to hit a 30% chance of 90.

      2) A corollary of this is that they are playing against stronger opponents, which diminishes the liklihood of hitting that 90. The Cubs’ 2014 schedule takes them through 2013′s best division and 2013′s best AL division for interleague play. They get the White Sox at least, I guess.

      3) While those players are available again next year, you have to admit there have really only been a handful–if that–of Free Agents that a team looking to make a move salivates over. Next year, there’s a ton. While it would help revenue to look like a 80-some-odd win team on paper, it probably wouldn’t make a huge impact on the budget, and those dollars can’t be unspent next year when the FA crop looks much better for our needs.

      I could see the argument the other way, but I think I’d still pass.

      That being said, I could see us on paper being an 81 team next year depending on development of the youngins. Splurging on 10 wins or so next off season could be a LOT of fun.

      1. Jon

        “A ton” is a bit overstating it.

        The position players are shit. There is a nice pitching class of Lester, Scherzer, Bailery Masterson and Shields..but we have to see who actually makes it to FA>

      2. Brocktoon

        No 90 win team has ever finished outside the top 5 in the NL.

        And as Jon alluded to, every single FA class looks better a year before it actually happens. Then surprise, half the guys of any worth don’t make it to FA.

      3. Kyle

        All reasonable, but I don’t think you’ll find that there are really all that many salivation-worthy FAs once it gets here. Extensions and the players getting a year older.

  23. Diehardthefirst

    Dasenzo rhymes with Bonaficio

  24. cubfanincardinalland

    The projections I have seen rate the cubs roster as a 30 war team. And that is with a 1 war right fielder, replacement level left fielder, and two 1 war starters. So lots of upside available. Can you not make the case that this just might be an 80 win team right now?

    1. Edwin

      Which projection are you looking at?

      1. cubfanincardinalland

        Zips on fangraphs for one.

    2. Brocktoon

      Just because you have a bunch of bad projections doesn’t mean the team has upside. It means the team is bad.

  25. addks

    Has anyone ever played in a National League Fantasy League before?

    1. Patrick W.

      Pretty sure lots of people have, or they wouldn’t exist. :)

  26. Napercal

    Quite frankly, while I think statistical analysis/sabermetrics is extremely important in evaluating individual talent. It is far less reliable in analyzing an overall team performance. In considering a 25 man roster there are far too many variables for a meaningful conclusions. See 1985 Cubs when entire starting rotation ended-up on the disabled list.

    1. Brocktoon

      What does the ’85 rotation have to do with evaluating a team? Only honks like Will Carroll think they can do anything with regards to predicting injuries.

  27. Blackhawks1963

    I’ve got a MBA and an undergrad degree in Finance, so have never been intimidated by sabermagicians, etc. But this is all I know about the 2014 Chicago Cubs National League Baseball Club…it’s going to largely suck. Objectively speaking, I think we duke it out with the woeful Milwaukee Brewers for the cellar of the NL Central and probably end up in the 72-90 range on the optimistic side, or 62-100 on the pessimistic side (especially if Fliporama Part III happens)

    The rotation is problematic. The lineup is probably going to be even more run challenged that 2012 and 2013, at least to start the season. The outfield is a collection of one 4th outfielder and five 5th outfielders. Jeesh.

    1. bbmoney

      I can totally see your lack of intimidation which is absolutely not the reason you resort to name calling.

  28. Jon

    Lately, what’s been with the chest puffing about people’s educational background / careers? Is this a new “thing”?

    1. brainiac

      it speaks to the new administrative logic of baseball evaluation. fans identify with and try to emulate middle management, not competition and athleticism. so how do we know that some blogger has the best plan for the team? they’re middle management and know how business works. though they clearly usually have no idea how baseball works as a sport.

  29. Vic

    Building on that point we find ourselves here evaluating decisions when we do not have all the information regardless of our business or baseball acumen.

    Its fun but not very realistic.

    If we were sitting in the room with access to all the information the FO has many times we might find ourselves agreeing with decisions with which we otherwise disagree.

    1. brainiac

      that’s probably true to a large extent, though i’d characterize the FO decisions of the past few offseasons as extremist on the side of parsimony. some people get off on saying no to everything or hording, but i don’t really see what that has to do with winning or having a classic ballpark.

  30. Medicos

    Isn’t it amazing how the addition of one player can make such a huge difference in the fortunes of a team that hadn’t been near 90-wins since 1992. The Pirates had been below .500 every year since 1992. Francisco Liriano joined Pittsburgh and the team’s record improved to 94-68 and including a spot in the 2013 playoffs. Liriano went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA and a WHIP of 1.22!!! Perhaps one of the Cubs pitching signees can achieve possible Cy Young status similar to what Liriano did last year.

    1. Drew7

      Starling Marte, Russell Martin, Garrett Cole, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli had a lot to do with that too. It certainly was not a 1-player turnaround.

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