I kind of hate reading thoughts from guys like Jeff Samardzija about how important it is for the Cubs to get out to a fast start this year.
Why do I hate it? Because I know how much he wants it to be true; how much he wants the Cubs to succeed so that there’s no summer sell-off; how much he wants to see the fans pouring into Wrigley as the season goes along (“I’ve always said that it’s important in Chicago to start fast and really get those fans behind you and get that momentum going,” he told Patrick Mooney in that above article. “Because once you build that momentum in Chicago, it’s a hard thing to miss.”)
Ugh. It just makes me sad to know that it’s very unlikely to happen.
… that said, the Cubs are creeping up in the projections! You know, mostly because, relatively speaking, baseball is a vast wasteland of injuries, and the Cubs are pretty healthy.
PECOTA had the Cubs at 71 wins in its original projection, and now the Cubs have crept up to 73 wins. FanGraphs originally had the Cubs at 71 wins, but now has them all the way up at 75 wins. That’s just nine games behind the second Wild Card team (the Pirates, at 84 wins)!
FanGraphs hasn’t updated its playoff odds projection to account for the new projected win total, but even at the last update (which had the Cubs at 72 wins), their playoff odds had risen from 2.4% originally to 3.3%. At 75 wins, that number will be considerably higher.
Baseball Prospectus has released its playoff odds (updated March 19), and the Cubs are all the way up at 8.3%. Small number? Sure. But that’s within the realm of a thing that could happen, and makes certain ridiculed comments by a certain owner and front office seem reasonable.
Will it be enough to keep the Cubs competitive through June? So competitive that the front office believes the playoffs are sufficiently realistic that they don’t tear things apart? Probably not. I don’t want to sell you false hope here. But a few more Tommy Johns here and some underperformance there, and the rest of baseball could slink back toward the middle. If that happens and the Cubs get a little luck? You never know.
(h/t to BN’er Kyle for comments that led me to checking out the updated projections)