It’s a fun world where a set of projections come out that peg the World Champion Chicago Cubs as “only” the fourth best team in baseball heading into 2017, and fans get to be all, “Whuuuuuuuuut?”
So it is with a mostly-returning Cubs team that not only won it all last year, not only won 103 regular season games last year, and not only statistically could have won about 5 to 10 more games than that. Without much in the way of roster losses, the Cubs figure to be excellent again in 2017, so of course fans assume the Cubs will project as the best team in baseball once again.
But that already wasn’t the case at FanGraphs, where the Cubs project to win 94 games – one fewer than the Dodgers. And it’s not the case at Baseball Prospectus, which just today released its PECOTA projections, where the Cubs wind up fourth (91 wins), behind the Dodgers (98), Astros (93), and Indians (92).
We will soon dig in on the individual teams, but I thought it worth the reminder today that, even on paper, this Cubs team does not necessarily project to be an all-time super team. The Dodgers have made some thoughtful additions this offseason, and also retained Rich Hill, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen. Given their incredible depth and frontline talent, I have to admit I’m really not surprised to see the Dodgers project out ahead of the Cubs. And the Astros and Indians have improved this offseason after excellent seasons in 2016, as well. I just have no gripe here.
What jumps out at me much more …
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) February 7, 2017
My word. That Cardinals projection.
As I said, we’ll soon dig into the particulars to see if we can explain just how things go so wrong for the Cardinals (the nightmarish defensive projection there in the last column doesn’t help). For now, I’ll say only that this is a Cardinals team that won 86 games last year, and statistically could have won several more games (Base Runs had them at 90 wins). With some aging, some minor roster losses, and some notable additions … did they really get that much worse? Sure, I recognize that they did not make a complete overhaul of the roster in order to “catch up” to the Cubs, but if you’re setting the over/under at 76, I’m taking waaaaay over.
In any case, if you buy the PECOTA projections, the Cubs have a whole lot of breathing room on paper in the NL Central.
And before you dismiss the projections, let me mention: PECOTA was the only system that I recall last year in the pre-season to very much buy into the Indians, whom they surprisingly had as the best team in the American League. The Cardinals and Pirates were projected for low-80s win totals, again, much to many folks’ surprise.
Check out this year’s projections for yourself, poke around, and see what you think.